THE ELANTRA IS NOT THE STRONGEST SELLER IN HYUNDAI’S TWO-PRONGED SMALL CAR RANGE, BUT THAT’S NO DISCREDIT TO ITS CAPABILITIES.
In Australia, the i30 hatchback is Hyundai’s shining light. But globally the Elantra is the stronger seller.
With a generously proportioned interior and all-important smartphone connectivity, the Elantra should do well here too.
This new model is certainly better-styled, better value - and a better car - than its predecessor.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $ 23,790 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 112kW/192Nm 2.0 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km | Tested: 8.4 l/100km
While not priced in the basement for small sedans, the $23,790 Hyundai Elantra automatic has positioned itself to be all about value, and not just driveaway deals.
There’s a more highly-specced and more expensive Elite available also, but the Active is hardly a bare-bones base model.
Thanks to crucial inclusions, like the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible 7.0-inch touchscreen, there is quite a bit of technology packed in behind that price.
Standard equipment: Manual air-conditioning, cloth seat trim, dusk-sensing headlights, heated mirrors, multi-function trip computer, cruise control, power windows, tilt and reach adjustable steering, 16-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
Although it may not be lavish, the interior of the Elantra is comfortable, serviceable and logical in its layout.
There’s a clear connection between the dash design of the Elantra and the larger Sonata. Clear horizontal lines, and grouped controls ensure that.
The black fabric seat-trim seems robust enough to handle daily punishment, and is comfy enough to cause no concerns.
Up front the Elantra is surprisingly spacious, with enough interior width to feel like a medium sedan, and there is plenty of seat travel.
Rear seat passengers won’t feel short-changed either, and unless the front seats are completely rearward, there’s room for lanky legs in the rear.
Headroom isn’t too bad, however the sloping rear-door aperture does need to be ducked under if you’re on the taller side.
While the infotainment system itself covers the basics like radio, and MP3 playback via USB or Bluetooth connectivity, its when you plug a smartphone in and take advantage of CarPlay and Android Auto that the system comes into its own.
Taking your phones apps, like Spotify, Maps, and Messages, and projecting them on the 7.0-inch touchscreen, (or in the case of messages, reading them to you) opens up a world of options that might otherwise be missing in an entry-level package.
At 458 litres the boot is big enough to challenge cars from the class above, although keen train spotters will note that the overall size is slightly smaller than before.
There's still a hugely useable space, plus split-folding backrests to load larger items if need be. Stow-away spots around the cabin for keys, wallets, and phones are plentiful as well.
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
The beating heart of the Elantra range is a 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine, providing 112kW of power at 6200rpm and 192Nm of torque at 4000rpm.
Larger than the engine it replaces in the previous model, but not a whole lot more powerful, it comes with a useful boost to torque. For day-to-day commuting, this engine is flexible, happy to pull smoothly without a shower of revs, and and zippy enough; it will keep at the head of traffic when a quick burst called for.
The impression from behind the wheel is that the Elantra is more set up for relaxing, quiet cruising rather than having an edge for performance. It's certainly quick enough - an honest down-to-earth package.
Below, while comfortable, the suspension is quite capable of dealing with rougher city streets and secondary country roads. As with the bulk of Hyundai’s range, the Elantra has been given a comprehensive Australian-developed suspension tuning package.
That means that instead of Euro-firmness, the Elantra rides out speed humps and potholes nicely, and still feels well-connected when cornering.
When paired with the six-speed automatic (such as we're testing here), the Elantra shifts gears smoothly, is programmed to respond well in city driving, with the right gear generally always underfoot.
Out of town, the combination of low engine rpm at highway cruising speeds means the Elantra needs a sharp poke on the throttle to elicit a kickdown for overtaking.
It’s also not quite as hushed for highway miles as it could be - while wind noise is low, road roar from the tyres becomes a little too intrusive at highway speeds.
We were also reasonably happy with the Elantra’s fuel usage - our runs were mostly urban, with a few quick out of town jaunts, and although we didn’t match Hyundai’s claimed 7.2 l/100km, our own 8.4 l/100km wasn’t too bad.
There are small cars that do better on fuel, sure - but keep in mind that the Elantra, despite it’s official small classification, has grown in proportions and is as big as some medium cars of just a decade ago.
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
Buyers looking to drive their dollar further might look towards the Holden Cruze or Mitsubishi Lancer, but, in automatic guise, the savings are small compared to the Elantra. Each is getting long in the tooth too with dated interiors and dog-eared driving dynamics.
Sister-company, Kia, has given the Cerato range a recent freshen up keeping it competitive with a very generous opening gambit on price, and free automatic.
The Ford Focus is largely underrated in this market. It deserves to sell better than it does, with a zesty drivetrain, really nice handling and strong standard equipment.
Then there’s the Toyota Corolla - a name synonymous will small cars in Australia, and a very good proposition to boot. An updated model is expected to land in Australia soon, so runout deals could be hard to resist.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
There’s a certain solidity to the Elantra that buyers are sure to find reassuring.
It isn’t overly complex, drives well, is handsome to look at, is free of surprises, and provides a reassuring warranty.
It’s a sensible decision, and although it may not be the very cheapest small sedan available in Australia, it is good value for money.
As a mild-mannered small car, the Elantra certainly doesn’t disappoint, and it’s that 'everyman' approach that should make it a popular choice in Australia’s new car market.
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