24 Apr 2019

Hyundai Elantra Active 2019 Sedan Review

Angular new styling heralds a successful makeover
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It’s hard to believe that the Hyundai Elantra has been with us for 28 years (and six generations) now, or that it used to be called ‘Lantra’ in Australia due to a naming clash with the long-buried Mitsubishi Magna Elante.

That’s probably because it has long been overshadowed by its hatchback sibling, the i30. The Elantra sedan achieves barely 15 per cent of total i30 hatchback sales, though if Hyundai grouped Elantra and i30 together, their combined volume would eclipse the Toyota Corolla’s 2019 sales. But the Koreans aren’t giving up on the Elantra just yet.

Less than three years into the current generation’s model cycle, the Elantra has spent a longer-than-usual period under the plastic surgeon’s knife – receiving a completely new nose and tail, a refreshed interior, revised suspension, mechanical improvements and a revamped model line-up. But is that going to be enough to tempt Aussies away from their love of small hatchbacks?

Is the Hyundai Elantra Active right for me?

Some people like sedans. They just do. And it’s for those people that small sedans like the Elantra exist.

It may not have the Ikea-hauling potential of an i30, but the Elantra can ultimately carry more than its hatchback sibling (if you’re a good boot packer!). And this Active version has just about everything anyone could want in an affordable mainstream sedan … except for genuine styling pizazz.

Even then, optional dealer-fitted 18-inch alloys would go some way to gifting the Elantra Active some visual glamour.

What does the 2019 Hyundai Elantra Active cost?

The facelifted Elantra Active has gained so much additional equipment, it’s no longer the entry-level car. That honour goes to the new Elantra Go (currently $20,990 drive-away for a six-speed manual), with the auto-only Active ($25,990, not including on-road costs) now filling the mid-level position formerly occupied by the Elantra Elite, beneath the turbocharged Elantra Sport and Sport Premium (which replace the SR).

Our test car featured Hyundai’s optional Smart Sense safety pack (for $1700), which brings autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with collision warning and pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. It’s a no-brainer addition, along with metallic paint (for $495).

That takes our Elantra Active to $28,185 before on-road costs.

What is the Hyundai Elantra Active's interior like?

You better like charcoal hues in your Elantra Active cabin because it’s a one-colour-fits-all proposition, though some fresh details do their best to lift the ambience beyond rental-car drab.

The MY19 gets a great-to-hold new steering wheel, funky chequered-flag patterns inside beautifully clear analogue instrument dials, and a restyled centre stack with new ventilation dials, piano-black trim and aluminium highlights on the air-vent blades.

Even with carry-over honeycomb-patterned seat upholstery from the previous model, it lifts the Active’s mood and enhances its youthfulness immensely.

How mcuh space does the Hyundai Elantra Active Sedan have?

There’s room to spread out in the Elantra, with pleasing front seat comfort and a rear seat (with centre armrest) that’s much more supportive than the flawed set-up in its Kia Cerato cousin. Decent boot too – 458 litres, plus fold-down rear backrests to expand that capacity – though there are small sedans that out-measure the Elantra’s cargo capacity, Cerato included (502 litres).  

Unfortunately, the Elantra’s interior continues to fall down in all the expected areas such as bottle storage (the door pockets are only designed for 600ml examples, though you can squeeze in a one-litre if you’re determined) and seat adjustment (only the driver gets a height crank handle, while both front buckets get inferior lever-adjust backrest rake).

What's the Hyundai Elantra Active's tech like?

A shedload better than it used to be, thanks to the inclusion of an Infinity stereo with external amplifier and eight speakers. The MY19 Active might still look a bit ‘senior’ but its meaty audio set-up is primed for a pumping. In an era of virtually unlimited access to music, it’s a terrific companion.

You get a large 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, as well as embedded navigation, Suna live traffic updates, DAB+ digital radio and Bluetooth audio streaming. You also get a single USB slot, an AUX port and two 12-volt outlets.

How reliable is the 2019 Hyundai Elantra Active?

Based on the age and the relative simplicity of the Elantra Active’s drivetrain – as well as its widespread use across the Hyundai-Kia kingdom – there’s little reason not to expect a long service life from its mechanicals. Look after the Elantra and she’ll be around to watch the sea levels rise with you.

How safe is the Hyundai Elantra Active?

About par for the course for a small sedan, with the added benefit of all those active-safety aids if you tick the $1700 Smart Sense pack – in particular autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with collision warning and pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert.

According to ANCAP’s independent crash testing, the Elantra scored five stars back in 2016, though because it wasn’t tested to the latest standard, its crash-test performance can’t be broken down into individual categories.

What is the Hyundai Elantra Active's warranty like?

Hyundai’s standard warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres, in conjunction with roadside assistance that extends to 10 years if you get your car serviced by a Hyundai dealer according to the schedule. Paint and body corrosion are covered by the regular warranty.

What are the on-going costs for the Hyundai Elantra Active Sedan?

The recommended service interval for the 2.0-litre Elantra is 12 months or 15,000km. All services except the four-year/60,000km one ($364) are quoted at a very affordable $263. The Elantra’s five-year servicing total comes to $1416.

According to The Red Book, the projected three-year retained value of an Elantra Active auto is 55.0 per cent. That’s a few points below a Toyota Corolla sedan and some distance behind an equivalent Mazda 3 or Subaru Impreza.

Is the 2019 Hyundai Elantra Active value for money?

If you value the key features the Active brings, then yes … though this particular car would only really start to tweak our buttons if it were $28,185 drive-away.

Adding on-road costs to this car’s $28K RRP would put a ‘3’ in front of the Elantra Active’s sticker price and that’s probably a step too far given its relatively modest rolling stock and interior furnishings. Yet there’s an honesty to the Elantra Active that’s refreshing.

If you look at it from the perspective of doing most things surprisingly well, while squeezing a generous amount of space and stuff into a relatively compact sedan, then you could call that value.

What's under the Hyundai Elantra Active's bonnet?

The MY19 Elantra may look fresh and relatively modern on the outside but under its bonnet hides the same 112kW/192Nm 2.0-litre multi-point fuel-injected four-cylinder engine that’s been serving time in lower-end Hyundais for many years – not the more powerful direct-injection version from the i30 hatch.

And yet there’s not a whole lot to dislike here. Tied to a well-calibrated six-speed automatic (the only transmission available in Active spec), the Elantra’s ageing engine has never sounded more refined or performed so competently. It’s much better suited to this application than the heavier Tucson SUV. And if you flick the gearlever to the right, there’s even a Sport mode that neatly sharpens transmission and accelerator response without making the Elantra feel manic.

How much fuel does the Hyundai Elantra Active Sedan use?

The only real downside is fuel economy, which at 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle is, at best, 15 per cent thirstier than its chief rivals, and more than 40 per cent thirstier than a 2.0-litre Mazda 3 auto sedan (5.7L/100km).

What is it like to drive the Hyundai Elantra Active?

The previous Elantra Active was an utterly unremarkable car to drive, and downright disappointing in a bunch of dynamic areas, but this pointy-headlight update has noticeably lifted its game.

Hyundai Australia revised both the steering and suspension hardware for the MY19 Elantra, while altering the rear spring rate and retuning the dampers front and rear. A revised rear torsion-beam with new bushings also contributes to what Hyundai says is a “slightly more dynamic package, with a little bit more character and maturity.”

There’s now greater suppleness to the Elantra’s ride, greater cohesion to its handling balance and sweeter steering response. Not only does the sporty new steering wheel feel good in your hands, there’s keener turn-in thanks to a faster steering rack with just 2.4 turns from lock to lock. That’s warm-hatch brisk from Hyundai’s humble sedan.

Indeed, looks can be deceptive here because the Australian-tuned Elantra Active has enough dynamic ability to make light work of a challenging road. Ultimately, the only real let-down is its engine. The more you ask of it, the faster its age and lack of genuine poke are exposed.

How does the 2019 Hyundai Elantra Active compare to the competition?

In terms of the room it offers, its core equipment level and the competence of its driving dynamics, the Elantra Active is a surprisingly good thing. Having a quality stereo, auto-folding mirrors and the available safety tech is top stuff in the mid- to high-20s price range.

The Elantra doesn’t really hit the mark when it comes to visual sparkle – especially its underdone wheels – and its key rivals boast more sophisticated, more muscular and more efficient engines than the Elantra’s old slogger. But there’s a pleasing cohesion to the way everything operates that lifts the Elantra Active to a genuinely capable level.

TMR's Verdict:

Unless your idea of a big night is binge-watching Grace and Frankie, the Elantra Active is never going to get your pulse racing. But that’s underselling the likeability of this good-natured sedan.

Even without taking into account the 2019 version’s enhanced riches, it’s a better car than Hyundai’s larger (and soon-to-be-replaced) Sonata, yet it’s those fresh features that make the new Elantra Active so appealing. Pleasant to sit in and pleasant to drive, it brings a fresh face to motoring pragmatism and proves that playing it safe doesn’t need to equal stultifying boredom.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Active price and specifications

Price: From $25,990, not including on-road costs

Engine: 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder

Power: 112kW at 6200rpm

Torque: 192Nm at 4700rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

Fuel use: 7.4L/100km

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