HYUNDAI ELANTRA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.1 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.9 l/100 km
Hyundai, the ‘big’ Korean, is on the march: every new model is comprehensively improved over the last. And there is no sign it’s going to be slowing down.
The latest, its new Elantra sedan, is such a step-up from the outgoing model you have to wonder that they could have come from the same company..
Generously proportioned, and with an equipment list to match, it’s a small car that’s almost large enough to be mid-sizer.
Like the base-model Active we tested earlier, the up-specced Elantra Elite looks the goods - so we put it to the test to find out.
Quality: Inside, the edgy style is complemented by a soft touch dash, appealing metallic highlights and proper front door pulls. However, not everything exactly matches in tone and texture and the door trims are hard-surfaced and scratch prone.
Build was flawless on our test car; even rough gravel roads and cobblestones couldn't shake out a squeak or rattle.
Comfort: Some drivers may find the steering wheel too low, but it tilts and telescopes. The front seats look well bolstered but aren’t especially grippy once you’re seated.
The rear bench offers stacks of legroom and the sculptured outboard seats are very accommodating. The centre seat though is second-class and headroom is quite tight under the sloping roofline.
One of the biggest compromises to comfort comes from the swoopy dash. The low-mounted centre vents direct air to the driver’s left hand more than to the face.
Equipment: Standard features on the Elantra Elite include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity plus iPod input, cruise control, trip-computer, dual-zone climate-control, fog lamps, auto-on headlamps and wipers, proximity key with keyless start, rear parking sensors, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Storage: There are storage spaces galore in the Elantra with huge door-bins as well as a cupholder suitable for everything from energy drinks to large coffee cups.
The Elantra’s boot measures 420 litres and offers a generously useful space. The 60/40 split rear seat folds from within the boot but doesn’t lie flush with the floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With 110kW of power and 178Nm of torque, the Elantra’s direct injected 1.8 litre engine sits somewhere in the middle of the pack among small car offerings.
Pulling away from the lights quickly or punting up hill has the engine digging deep - it feels a little light-on for torque until high the rev range. That said, it’s not an issue around town and in normal driving where there’s more than enough grunt for the job.
The smooth shifting six-speed auto is mostly unobtrusive in the way it goes about things, although it will ‘hunt’ through ratios and often second-guess itself on gradients. (Hyundai may need to tweak the mapping.) Smooth roads and city driving saw it behaving flawlessly though.
Refinement: The Kumho Solus tyres can muster up a racket on all but the smoothest highway tarmac, and worse on secondary surfaces. While there was barely a murmur from them around town, long highway stints can become a bit of a chore (which brings our ‘on road’ rating down for the more expensive Elite badge).
Wind-noise over the lozenge-shaped bodywork was hard to pick, so nothing out of place there. Push the engine hard and the strain begins to show aurally from just below 4000rpm and above. It sounds a little coarse although vibrations are minimal.
Suspension: Hyundai has heard the call of Australian motorists and put the Elantra through a localisation program to fine-tune the suspension to our conditions.
Uniquely tuned springs and dampers provide a stable feeling on road, but big hits and diagonal ripples can upset the balance noticeably and the ride is firm.
Steering is also tuned for Australia, but the electric power-steering set-up is still finger light even at speed and delivers minimal feedback.
Braking: The Elantra’s four-wheel disc system works well and with reasonable pedal feel (with ABS and traction control assisting performance). However, we found them wilting after just a few repeated ‘panic’ stops.
ANCAP rating: Five stars.
Safety features: Six airbags, including front, front side and full-length curtain airbags help protect occupants from injury. Each seat is equipped with three-point seatbelts, with the front two also fitted with pretensioners and load limiters.
Stability control, traction contral, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all integrated under Hyundai’s standard Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Service costs vary, consult your local dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Focus Trend ($26,790) - Ford’s European influence really stands out in the Focus sedan, it feels more substantial inside and out and is a super drive.
Equipment levels are generous, engine output is higher, but boot space is down slightly. (see Focus reviews)
Mazda3 SP20 SkyActiv ($27,990) - Mazda’s renewed 3 with fuel saving SkyActiv technology sees refinement boosted and economy improved while still maintaining its fun-to-drive persona.
Nearly perfectly matched in price and equipment, but the Mazda still has the edge (see Mazda3 reviews)
Renault Fluence Privilege ($29,990) - A little ungainly to look at, and not quite the stunning drive Renault is renowned for, but a well-equipped offering with plenty of rear seat and boot space and attractive warranty and financing options. (see Fluence reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The greatly improved Elantra Elite sedan will certainly grab sales from some of the more established players in the segment.
While there are better drives, few offer so much equipment and such broad appeal in such an accessible package as the Elantra.
In Elite configuration, its price is getting ‘up there’ - it’s heading towards $30k on road - but, some refinement issues aside, it is one to consider if you’re in the market for a small sedan with a little more elbow-room than most.