To introduce the  all new 2017 Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai invited a group of writers to San Diego to drive the car. The trip offered a unique opportunity to explore greater San Diego county, and test out the latest technology and safety in the value priced sedan.

Driving in San Diego

Hyundai Elantra on the beach in San Diego

When Hyundai invited me to test drive its new Elantra sedan in California, I first pictured the quintessential parking lot that is the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles, a six lane (in each direction) mass of concrete that doesn’t let you really put a car through its paces.

But we were in Imperial Beach, south of San Diego, where roads are empty and scenery is stunning.

We spent the day driving the winding roads of Ramona, part of San Diego, California where wineries and orange groves abound.

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The 2017 Elantra was the perfect vehicle for this drive, since it features lane-departure warning with lane assist. This is an advanced safety feature that can be turned off it you don’t like ceding control of your steering wheel. I don’t mind the corrective pull of the wheel that keeps you on the straight and narrow.

I shared driving duties with someone who hates having the steering take over, so she shut off this feature. But that’s what makes this car great for a couple; one person can drive the way she wants, and the other can have the car he (or she) wants.

Hyundai Elantra

We got silly in an orange grove. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

Orange You Glad We Took This Drive?

We stopped for oranges, not wine, since we were, well, driving, and the trunk had plenty of room for the sacks of blood oranges I scooped up. At a Farmer’s Market in Imperial Beach, I also got Meyer lemons (spectacular in cocktails and used in salads from the vegetarian cookbook classic, The Greens Cookbook) and Femminello St. Teresa lemons, the specialty lemons used to make limoncello.

Our first part of the day was spent tooling along fairly empty freeways, where we could test the pep of the 4 cylinder engine. We also found out how quiet the interior of the car is: Hyundai adding noise reducing foam and thicker glass to cut down on engine and road noise. We were then able to enjoy the new Clari-Fi audio system, designed by Harmon, which adds clarity back to compressed media.

Hyundai Elantra

The 2016 Hyundai Elantra on our curvy drive. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

Since we were in a loaded car with every available extra, the Elantra had Sirius XM satellite radio, and even with the sunroof fully open, we could hear our tunes clearly. My drive partner and I, who come from cold climates (New York and New Hampshire respectively) had to soak up every bit of sunshine.

We stopped at Flinn Springs County Park where, if we hadn’t had lunch plans, we could have picnicked. There are lots of tables, along with a playground, a stream and ball fields. You have to pay $2 to park, but this is an idyllic place to take photos of the kids And there are clean restrooms with water fountains to boot.

Lunch was at Mt Woodson Castle, a stone castle built in 1921 as a private residence. It is now a wedding and event venue, with a golf club. It is not open to the general public for lunch, so we felt quite special pulling up here; I would have felt even more like a star with an Apple Watch, which I could have used to start my Elantra-for-a-day.

Hyundai Elantra

Mt. Woodson Castle. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

But here’s the amazing thing. The stylish sedan, which is roomy enough for a couple of adults in the back seat (three might be a stretch) was fully loaded for only $27,000. That is the top of the line model, with all the safety technology and goodies like hands free trunk opening; you can get a pretty sweet basic model for a whole lot less.

Whether you are driving in a state like California, with strict emissions controls, or a less environmentally advanced area, you can feel virtuous about getting 38 mpg on the highway (29 mpg in the city, 33 combined) and saving money on gas no matter what the price.

Our home base in Imperial Beach was the Pier South Resort, part of the Autograph Collection, right on the beach. In fact, we first got to see the new Hyundais at sunset, on the sand; this is one of those beaches where lifeguards drive trucks onto the beach. Imperial Beach has a long pier, with a seafood restaurant at the very end, and a playground next to the hotel. The hotel also has a destination restaurant, SEA 180, which makes a mean lobster roll. East coasters are often rather provincial about their lobster rolls, but this one was a perfect example of the classic roll, stuffed with fresh lobster and served with a cole slaw that had shredded Brussels sprouts.

Just across the street from our hotel, IB Street Tacos had delicious simple tacos to go, which we ate on the beach. The vegetarian portobello taco had guacamole, arugula, black beans and corn, for just $3, though you really need two tacos to make a meal. We also indulged in amazing cupcakes from Babycakes Bake Shop. There were so many chocolate choices it was hard to choose; there are also classics like Red Velvet and Tres Leches.

Note: I was a guest of Hyundai, which took care of my travel and accommodations; opinions expressed are my own.