ANYONE SNUBBING THE 2016 HYUNDAI ELANTRA AS "JUST ANOTHER SMALL APPLIANCE" IS DOING THEMSELVES A DISSERVICE.
Assertive styling, impressive interior, loads of features, decent dynamics, all given a boost, and all add up to a very good car and very solid value for your money.
It may not be perfect in every area - it doesn't have the sporty dynamics of the Focus, nor the interior feel of the Volkswagen Jetta - but for the totality of the package, the generous feature-list, the quality trims and zesty engine, the new Elantra sets the mark to beat among small sedans.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $26,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 112kW/192Nm 2.0 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km | Tested: 7.3 l/100km
For now Hyundai’s Elantra range features two models, the entry level Active, or the more up-spec Elite tested here. A more powerful and sporty Elantra SR is set to arrive later this year.
The Elite packs in plenty of standard features with auto lights and wipers, leather seats, keyless entry and start, and extra chrome for a civilised and stylish look.
There have been some small changes with the new model, including a slightly smaller boot and fuel economy that's fractionally worse.
But, on the flipside, better handling, a more spacious interior, and more power and torque means the benefits outweigh those disadvantages.
- Standard equipment: Leather seat trim, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, heated power folding mirrors, cruise control, multi-function trip computer with TFT instrument cluster display, keyless entry and start, hands-free boot opening, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, USB and Aux inputs with iPod compatibility, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, six-speaker audio, Apple CarPlay
- Cargo volume: 458 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seats with boot release levers
The up-spec Elantra Elite is very smartly styled and finished inside its doors. It takes its cues from the larger Sonata and Genesis, and leaves the fussy styling of the previous model behind.
Compared to the entry-level Active model, the Elite features smart leather trim (in optional beige here, but also available in black), lots of alloy-look interior highlights, piano black in the centre stack and a sliding centre armrest.
Dual-zone climate control up front, with rear face-level vents in the centre console for the rear help make things more comfortable - and Hyundai’s auto windscreen demist feature is a clever addition during cool weather.
With smartphone connectivity the new ‘must have’ feature, Hyundai provides a 7.0-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and Google Now voice activation, with Android Auto set to arrive via a software update later this year.
While that level of connectivity is right on the money, there are two glaring problems.
The first is that Apple users can’t customise a route, or select areas they’d like to avoid (like tollways or tunnels), something that a traditional Sat Nav system (and Google Maps) can do.
The second is that the low-quality microphone in the Elantra makes voice-entry almost impossible. After composing a garbled text message my phone prompted “would you like to send it?” I replied “Yes,” and was greeted with “Sorry, ‘Hello’ isn’t in your contacts.”
So, is the problem the car, or Siri? Actually a bit of both, Siri is a bit of a dimwit (we all know that) but even on phone calls via Bluetooth callers couldn’t clearly understand me, making the system next to useless.
That aside, the roomy cabin won’t trigger many complaints.
I would prefer some extra support in the lumbar region, but, otherwise, for comfort and space, the Elantra is well-and-truly fit for purpose.
These small sedans are really not all that small, and the Elantra is able to seat four with ease and even squeeze in a fifth passenger without complaint.
Storage in the centre console, glovebox, and door pockets is pretty generous, although there’s only one seatback map pocket and there’s no phone-sized place to put your phone when it’s plugged in.
Few will complain about the amount of space in the boot. There’s 458 litres back there, along with split-folding rear seats, but it’s worth noting that the previous model was a touch larger owing to a more compact suspension design.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 112kW/192Nm 2.0 litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 280mm ventilated front discs, 262mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted, turning circle: 10.6m
Here’s one unexpected thing about the 2016 Elantra: it isn’t a sports car by any measure, yet Hyundai has made it one of the best handlers in its segment.
That’s because Hyundai’s local suspension tuning program understands Aussie roads and the result is a car nicely calibrated for a smooth and comfortable ride.
And it's not just set up for city driving, it has no trouble dealing with rougher rural roads. It also has the handling smarts to deal with a bit of a fang on a winding road.
With sure-footed cornering grip, and stable handling, the Elantra up among the best in the segment and outshines some.
Over bumpy roads, dispatching speed humps, or dealing with surface changes, the Elantra is about as comfortable as you’ll find. Always composed and never hard-edged.
Steering moves away from Hyundai’s three-mode Flex-Steer system. There’s now just one level of steering assistance, offering a fairly light wheel with just a hint of vagueness, but about right for wheeling around tight city carparks and quite ok on the open road.
Unfortunately, noise suppression isn’t as good as it might be. We took a bit of a rural tour, heading from the heart of Melbourne and into rural North Eastern Victoria.
On coarser road surfaces, the cabin seems to amplify road noise with an ever-present dull roar that has voices raised to maintain conversation, or the radio up just a bit too loud to be comfortable.
My passenger for the trip, a Mazda3 owner, thought the Elantra was louder on the road than her car, and road noise is one of the Mazda’s biggest sticking points.
Under the bonnet the Elantra’s 2.0 litre engine provides 112kW of power at 6200rpm and 192Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Elite specification is available solely with a six-speed automatic.
The engine itself is both quiet and smooth. In and around town, it’s also quite eager - perhaps not what you’d call rapid, but up to the task with one or two passengers and never out of step with fast-paced traffic.
The gearbox is a smart unit for city driving, it’s smooth shifting nature means barely perceptible gear changes for milling about town.
On the highway it could be a touch more alert for kicking down, but it will adapt to your driving and will mostly have the right gear underfoot when a burst of speed is called for.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - The Elantra scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2016.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain), load-limiting pretensioners for front seatbelts, 2x rear ISOFIX and 3x top tether child seat mounting points, rear parking sensors, rear view camera.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With a spacious interior, and generous standard equipment the Toyota Corolla sedan is an appealing option, but for those chasing interior room above all else it would be hard to go past the Skoda Octavia, which also packs a ‘hidden’ liftback into its sedan-like form.
Value oriented buyers might like to do a deal on the Holden Cruze, whereas, for driver enjoyment, the Mazda3 sedan holds the aces.
Of the value-buys in this segment, the best handling, and one of the better buys overall, is the Ford Focus sedan - though it's quite a bit dearer than the Elantra Elite in comparable Titianium trim. It is certainly underappreciated by buyers in this segment.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Hyundai’s usual brand hallmarks are present, including a five-year warranty, capped-price servicing, and reasonable pricing.
The Elantra also backs that with a quality interior offering plenty of space, high levels of comfort, and a full feature list.
We'd like the voice control functions to work better, but few will be disappointed by the feel of robust quality at the Elantra Elite's price.
And, rounding it out, the Elantra's comfortable ride and surprising dynamic ability make this small sedan (and not so small!) convincing buying.
The Elantra has what it takes to tackle family duties, or for anyone downsizing from a larger car looking for a smart, solidly-built and adept package. Yes, it sets the mark to beat.
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