HYUNDAI ELANTRA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price (manual): $20,590
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.9 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.4 l/100km
Priced from a little over $20,000, the Hyundai Elantra Active sits as the entry point to the Elantra range. It’s the sedan-bodied partner to Hyundai’s strong-selling i30 SX, and one of the larger contenders in the small car segment.
If you’re looking at the medium segment Volkswagen Jetta for instance, you might also look at the Elantra - that’s near where it sits for dimensions and interior space (just 13mm narrower, and 214mm shorter).
With a long feature list, respectable handling and power, and a price point that won’t break the bank, the Elantra is, on the face of it, good value buying.
Quality: Compared with the previous generation Elantra, the interior of the new model is considerably improved: it’s well-built, and nicely styled and finished.
Some of the hard cabin plastics around the centre console feel a bit ordinary, but they’re offset by the soft-touch dash and matte-silver trim highlights.
The fabric upholstery seems durable, however we found it put out a particularly strong chemical odour in our new test car.
Comfort: The cloth-upholstered and manually-adjusted front seats are firmly padded but give good support under the thighs and across the shoulders. There’s a tilt-reach adjustable steering column and the manual gearshift falls easily to hand.
Placement of the centre air-outlets could be better though. They’re mounted quite low in the dash, and the driver’s side vent is effectively blocked by the the steering wheel.
Back seat comfort is good and more than adequate for two adults. Getting in and out is hindered slightly by the Elantra’s sloping roofline though, which also limits headroom for tall passengers.
Equipment: Standard features on the entry-level Elantra Active include air-conditioning, cruise control, trip-computer, power windows, power mirrors, a six-speaker stereo system with single-CD player and USB/aux inputs and Bluetooth integration.
15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps are standard, as is a full-size spare.
Storage: The Elantra’s boot can swallow up to 420 litres of luggage, and its dimensions are generous (handy for larger cases). The 60/40 split rear seatbacks fold down to increase carrying capacity, but don’t fold flush with the boot floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Power peaks at 110kW, while maximum torque of 178Nm is available from 4800rpm. We found it quite perky matched to the six-speed manual, however the throttle pedal is very sensitive and takes some getting used to.
The manual transmission itself has a good spread of ratios and its light clutch makes it easy to operate in traffic. The shifter throw is very light, but also a little notchy, which some won’t like.
There’s a respectable amount of grunt in the midrange, making overtaking and slotting into holes in the traffic relatively swift and painless. (The Elantra’s low weight is responsible for some of the verve.)
It’s quite happy to be lugged around the suburbs in fifth or sixth gear, even up mild inclines. It’s only when loaded up with passengers or cargo that you need to drop down a ratio or two.
Refinement: The 1.8 litre engine gets very buzzy at high revs, and, at highway speeds, road noise can also intrude, especially on coarser asphalt.
Suspension: With 15-inch wheels and taller sidewalls, the base-spec Elantra has more inherent compliance than the flagship Elantra Premium we tested previously.
The Premium’s ride-quality bordered on too stiff; much of that firmness attributed to its 17-inch alloys and low profile tyres. No such issue on the Active though, although there is a slight jitteriness over smaller bumps.
That aside, it handles remarkably well for a budget-priced small sedan, due in no small part to the extensive amount of local development done on the Elantra’s suspension tune.
The electric power steering was also calibrated to local preferences and conditions and has a nice weight to it, although there’s some vagueness around centre.
Braking: The brake pedal is firm and responsive and, with all-disc hardware, provides good stopping power.
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: 5 years/unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Service costs vary, consult your local dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Kia Cerato S sedan ($19,390) - It’s markedly cheaper and has got a more powerful 2.0 litre motor with 115kW and 194Nm, plus its interior is both spacious and pleasant.
The Elantra however has a slight edge for driveability and handling dynamics. (see Cerato reviews)
Holden Cruze CD 1.8 petrol sedan ($20,990) - It’s about line-ball with the Elantra for power, torque and features, but doesn’t handle quite so sharply and feels slightly slower.
However spend $1250 more on the Cruze for the 1.4 litre turbo engine, and the tables are turned. (see Cruze reviews)
Mazda3 Neo sedan ($20,330) - Slightly torquier than the Hyundai, the 2012 Mazda3 Neo is also slightly cheaper thanks to recent price cuts. The Mazda is a cracking drive but Bluetooth is still absent from the feature list. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Hyundai’s Elantra has a long feature list, is surprisingly fun to drive, and not too bad to look at either.
We would like to see some more suspension refinements, especially in the way it deals with small corrugations, and the shifter linkage would benefit from a more precise mechanism.
But, don’t let those niggles deter you. The Elantra Active is well-sorted, well priced, and well worth a close look if you’re in the market for a slightly bigger small sedan.