When it came to making a choice about buying a new car for SCM everyday use, the drivetrain and suspension were irrelevant.

Over the past decade, I have watched with interest as new-car platforms have become increasingly digital. More features and benefits related to safety are standard with each new generation.

For my daily driver, “fun” and “excitement” are not terms I use. If I want to have a “fun” driving experience, I’ll take one of my “fun” classic cars and go on a “fun” two-lane road.

Running Bradley across town to the nearest drive-through Taco Bell for three crunchy Gorditas and a strawberry slushy is not exactly the same as being on the Colorado Grand.

Any new car has performance and handling that wildly overshadows that of most of the vintage cars I have owned. (The Citroën Mehari with its 603-cc air-cooled two-cylinder engine comes to mind.)

My 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT was still serving me like a faithful Labrador. It was fresh from its 30,000-mile service ($700). However, it was lacking in modern safety features.

I looked with envy upon cars that had front and rear emergency braking assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot alerts. Having a large center screen with Apple Car Play standard was a bonus as well. After all, I just spent $2,000 having CarPlay installed in my 2004 Mercedes AMG SL 55 so that I could ditch the CD-ROM based nav system that was standard when the car was new.

Too often these days I am passed on the freeway by distracted drivers who hover in my blind spot and ignore my lane-changing turn signals.

While cruising around online, I came across a review and some photos of the all-new Hyundai Elantra. Bradley and I liked the bold front-end styling and the folded origami-style creases in the panels.

More important, however, was that on the top-of-the-line Limited Edition, every safety feature I wanted was standard. Collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise and more.

Further, it had a two-screen digital dashboard and built-in Car Play, along with a contact pad for charging your phone.

This was a long way from installing an auxiliary USB port in my 1965 Volvo 122S and using Velcro to mount a JBL Bluetooth speaker to the dash. Or using a suction-cup holder to affix an iPad to the windshield for navigation.

The buying process was not as simple as it could have been. I looked up the trade-in value of my 35,000-mile 2013 Elantra GT. The number that came back was $9,000.

I didn’t care about a test-drive. I knew that the base engine and suspension would meet all my needs.

When selecting a model and equipment package, the Hyundai website and brochure could not have been more confusing.

Despite having only three models and two option packages, I became lost in a sea of indecision.

After some preliminary emails, I decided to buy my car from a Ron Tonkin Hyundai dealership in Gresham, Oregon. This was out of loyalty to the Tonkins. Even though his family has sold the business (except for the Ferrari dealership), Ron gave me a start in the new-car world when he recruited me to run his GT store and become his Ferrari salesman.

Eric Canty was our affable and well-informed salesperson at the dealership. After we figured out that the model we wanted was the Limited (which has all the option packages included), we settled down to negotiate the deal.

The cash price we arrived at was $25,500. After discounts and the trade, we ended owing $16,996. We financed it at 3.55% through Hyundai to get another $500 rebate. My monthly payment will be around $300. (By comparison we just spent $2,000 having the 1971 Jaguar “tweaked.”)

There was only one “High Noon” moment. The GM decided that due to some scrapes on my trade he was going to decrease its value. We ended up $634 apart. I thanked him for his time and told him that unless he increased the valuation of the trade, I would just take my phone out and start shopping with the other dealers who had contacted me with Elantras for sale.

He increased the allowance.

This will be a good deal for them as they will most likely net several thousand dollars on the GT. When I sold cars for Tonkin, the real money was in used cars. All dealers pay about the same for new cars. But every used car trade-in is negotiated separately. If you’re planning to buy used cars, you may contact a used car review company to determine the vehicle you need.

We were all happy with the way things worked out.

For a $300 a month, I have a new car, freshly introduced this year. It has all the safety and convenience features I wanted. Bradley immediately declared the wireless charging pad for the iPhone was his and he registered as the second driver on the iphone app that talked to the car. He can use his phone to unlock it and start it. Not something he was used to on his Bug Eye Sprite. 

Now, when I have to drive in thoroughly unpleasant modern traffic, I have a car that is equipped to deal with it.

In most cases, driving a classic car in modern traffic, through the city or on the highway, is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

I am not claiming the Elantra is a sports car or a performance machine, or that I plan on tossing it through turns con brio on Oregon’s challenging two-lane roads. I won’t be turning off the traction control and cutting donuts in a parking lot.

So far, the biggest surprise was the adaptive cupholders. They adjust from a measly 16-oz to a 32-oz Big Gulp. We learned this at the first Taco Bell we went to and Bradley christened the car by eating in it – a family tradition.

Our cars and our driving environments are continuing to evolve. For very little money, especially compared to the cost of the care and feeding of our classic cars, I now have a car that matches the driving environment I am most often in.  


  1. Sorry to hear there is that much traffic where you live. The only bonus from COVID is NYC traffic is the lightest since I started driving in 1966.

  2. …seems perfect for the insanity of the portland roadways and unconscious drivers these days

  3. Sounds and looks like a good choice.Best of luck to you and copilot!!

  4. I still like the negotiation in person when buying a new car. Maybe it comes from being in sales for most of my careers. We decided on a new Acura after considering our options to replace our immaculant 11 year old , trusty as a Golden Retriever, Honda Pilot. I believe our timing couldn’t have been better as the dealers were like ghost towns when we started to shop. After all the dealing, when they learned I was a car guy they through in a cool $80 factory racing team button down shirt.

  5. We wrote off our Aging 2008 Xterra with 200,000 miles on her. After deciding to not go for a tow vehicle we went for the lowest model Murano with AWD.
    Heated seats and wheel…moonroof and kick to open the hatch. Way more gimics than expected and our difference was about yours..$15k plus taxes. Super happy with all the new cars we test drove. Amazing city stuff out there.

  6. Hi Keith,

    Opposites sometime attract. Why in the world would you want all this crap? We’re opposites I guess.
    “I looked with envy upon cars that had front and rear emergency braking assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot alerts.” Don’t forget the incessant and mind numbing “fasten seat belt” noise. When we bought our 2018 Tiguan I tried to avoid all the unnecessary “bells and whistles and annoying noises” I could. I CAN DRIVE MY CAR WITHOUT WHAT THE OVER 55 CROWD LIKES!!!

    I would agree with the statement below. But after almost 60 years of driving I stay off the Interstates as much as possible. My advice…avoid gunfights!
    “In most cases, driving a classic car in modern traffic, through the city or on the highway, is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.”

    Thanks and good luck.

    A Big Fan

  7. Vincent McLaughlin

    did you consider a suv.
    suppose to be easier to get into and out of
    sit up higher etc.

  8. Paul Richard Stabin

    Economic considerations met practicality and you chose well. Drive it in good health.
    Since I no longer own, nor have room for, gems like my ’67 MGB, ’85 Saab 900 Turbo, ’69 BMW 1600, ’83 280ZX or, ’02 MR2-S, the car I chose to keep my wife’s ’02 SC430 company was an ‘ 18 Civic Type R. Newer CTR’s have a few extra safety features. Point is I get a world class canyon carver and a practical four door hatchback taking up just one space in my humble two car garage. For a lot less money – only $24K – my “17 SI was also a blast to drive…and had excellent blind spot monitoring. Neither of these Hondas are as raw and direct, or perhaps as stylish as the classics listed above. But as you point out, they are otherwise better in every way. And at least they come exclusively with a manual transmission. Never settle.