HYUNDAI'S ELANTRA IS THE BRAND'S BIGGEST SELLER WORLDWIDE. However, thanks to Hyundai Australia’s two-pronged small car range, it plays second fiddle here to the more popular i30 hatch.
The Elantra is still an important model though. So, without a revolutionary change, Hyundai has tweaked the formula, given the new Elantra sedan styling inspired by the larger Sonata, and adjusted the line-up to send it into battle against the Corolla and Mazda3 sedans.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Active manual $21,490 (plus on-roads)
Active automatic $23,790 (plus on-roads)
Elite automatic $26,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 112kW/192Nm 2.0 4cyl petrol | 6sp manual, 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.2 l/100km | tested: 7.7 l/100km (automatic)
From four models previously, down to just two (with a third arriving later this year) the Hyundai Elantra launches with the entry-level Active, and mid-spec Elite.
Both sedans, and both featuring a slightly larger engine than before - a 2.0 litre in place of the previous 1.8 litre - but with only moderate power and torque gains.
Both also come stacked to the brim with standard features like Apple CarPlay (and an update to Android Auto later this year), a reversing camera, and alloy wheels.
And, yet again, Hyundai Australia has worked on its own suspension tune. While not by any stretch can it be described as "hot handling", this local development gives the small sedan the kind of ride Aussie buyers prefer.
A small price rise (just $500) sees the Elantra Active manual start from $21,490, with the Active automatic starting at $23,790. The auto-only leather-lined Elite starts at $26,490, $400 less than before.
- Active: 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
- Elite: Dual-zone climate control, leather seat trim, rain sensing wipers, proximity key entry and start with smart bootlid opening, leather seat trim, power-folding mirrors, piano black interior trims, 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
There are obvious links between the new Elantra and the larger Sonata, with the small sedan taking its design cues from Hyundai’s newest models.
That means a simple, uncluttered interior presentation, high-placed infotainment screen, and grouped layouts for things like climate, audio, and drive-system controls.
The materials used throughout are of a high quality; the dash features a soft-touch finish (but the door trims do without), while the plastics used from top-to-bottom are sturdy, well finished, and have a high-quality look to them.
Active offers fabric seats, and manual air-conditioning, while Elite adds leather seat-trim, a premium steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, piano black interior finishes, and more.
The front seats are low-set, adding to the feeling of interior spaciousness, but perhaps a little disconcerting for buyers used to a more commanding driving position. Certainly it makes way for extra headroom, and, despite the Elantra’s flowing roof line, there’s plenty of noggin-space up front.
In the rear seats there’s generous legroom, with wide opening rear doors, but the sweep of the roof and the C-pillar mens less headroom, while the curved beltline robs a little sideways visibility.
Elite buyers also get rear face-level air vents to help cool rear-seat occupants, the Active makes do with under-seat ventilation.
Boot space has dropped slightly compared to the outgoing model with 458 litres available, compared to the old model's 485 litres, owing to the repositioned rear suspension (more about that below). The Elite also comes with a standard luggage net for the boot.
Both the glovebox and centre console are generously proportioned, with a sliding armrest atop the centre console in the Elite.
Both variants also feature front and rear door-pockets with bottle holders, and an open centre-bin handy for holding your smartphone while it’s plugged into either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (which will be added via a software update later this year).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 112kW/192Nm 2.0 litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder
- Transmission: Six-speed manual (Active) six-speed automatic (Active and Elite), 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
Always keen to extol the virtues of its Australian suspension tuning program, Hyundai has yet again delivered a unique package that feels naturally at home on Australian roads.
By introducing the Elantra to the Australian motoring press in Tasmania, including a quick section of the Targa Tasmania course, Hyundai picked some Australia’s very best driving roads to put it through its paces.
Why do such a thing? To prove just how composed the Elantra is on the wide variety of surfaces Australian drivers encounter - from glass-smooth arrow-straight highways, to torn-up tarmac and corrugated gravel.
The result of that Australian suspension engineering is an impressive ride and confident road holding, just right for this kind of small sedan. Whether dealing with large undulations or small amplitude ripples, the Elantra does a very good job of maintaining composure while keeping a secure grip on the surface below.
Again, it's no sports car, but it feels 'pretty right'.
One of the key changes for the 2016 model is upright dampers for the rear suspension, allowing for more accurate damper reactions and helping to produce the settled feel at the rear. However, while it improves the handling and roadholding characteristics, it’s also the main contributor to the slightly smaller boot.
The three-mode Flex-Steer system of the previous model is gone, but the single calibration for the electric power-steering strikes a nice balance of high-speed stability and low-speed comfort.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 112kW of power at 6200rpm and 192Nm of torque at 4000rpm, just 2kW and 14Nm more than the outgoing model, but with peak torque available sooner.
That’s entirely in line with what you’d expect of a vehicle from this segment. The engine, in fact, is a good match to the feel of the car, and goes about things quietly and calmly unless pushed to the redline.
The Elantra feels right at home in urban driving, thanks to an eager throttle tip-in just off idle, and has a nicely balanced zest away from the lights. On the highway, however, while it can feel a little more relaxed, it is still up to the task if you need to call on those torque reserves when overtaking or when travelling with a load up.
The six-speed automatic was the only drivetrain available at launch, and it is expected to be the preferred option for 85 percent of buyers. It keeps its wits about it in town, but on the open road the kickdown response feels a little tardy.
Road noise too is beautifully managed with tyre noise kept to a minimum. Down below you will find either Kumho or Hankook tyres, with 16-inch alloys on the Active and 17-inch items for the Elite.
ANCAP rating: The Elantra has yet to be tested by ANCAP
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
While Australians generally prefer small hatches there is no shortage of sedan choices in the shape of the spacious Toyota Corolla, the sharp handling Mazda3, the ageing Holden Cruze, the refreshed Ford Focus, or the well equipped Kia Cerato, to name just a few.
And, to be honest, we're spoiled here with that list. Each is competent, and generally good buying, but the Mazda3 and Focus perhaps stand a little ahead of the pack.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
This new Hyundai Elantra is yet another shining example of how Hyundai’s products have matured. To drive, the Elantra feels settled, secure, and in Elite spec, just a little bit luxurious.
Buyers looking to downsize without taking a backwards-step will feel right at home with this car. The back seat is still generous, the boot is hardly short on space, and the equipment levels are in tune with modern expectations.
It's a quiet achiever, it doesn't scream for attention, but does everything you'll ask of it with a steady composure.
And it backs that up with sensible ownership benefits, like a five-year warranty and capped-price servicing, for long-term peace of mind.
Hyundai's Elantra an easy recommendation; do have a look.
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