In many ways, the new Hyundai Elantra is the Korean car-maker’s most significant model globally. To put it in context, you need to understand that the Neo Fluidic Elantra takes on the big guns, viz. the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic, in that most competitive market of them all – North America. It’s a battle that Hyundai desperately wants to win, and so has thrown in all the delectable ingredients, including premium styling, a feature-rich cabin and wide variety of powertrain options. The same recipe for success applies in India too, and for our market, Hyundai has gone one step further, offering the new Elantra with a 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine. This is the model we drove, with a manual transmission, in the highest-spec SX trim.
The new Elantra is available in a total of seven variants, three petrol and four diesel, with automatic transmission being offered on the highest-spec SX trim for both petrol and diesel.
Design & Engineering
Hyundai has cottoned on early to the fact that car buyers are swayed by looks and styling. It’s a valid point of view, and if any average Joe in a car dealership tells you otherwise, don’t believe him. To my eyes, the Neo Fluidic Elantra is the best exponent of Hyundai’s eye-catching design language, in proportion and in detail. The swooping curves and sharp ridges that define Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic’ design are well executed. The new Sonata, which was launched before the Elantra, doesn’t quite carry it off with the same élan, and that’s because the details do not match the proportions. With the Elantra, Hyundai’s design team has got this car’s styling almost perfect. The 2,700 mm wheelbase avoids large overhangs, with a 4,530 mm overall length proving this fact. This car has a wide stance too, and on the road proves to be truly eye-catching, whether parked beside a kerb or on the move.
To put this fact in context, Volkswagen’s Jetta appears almost anonymous when stacked against the smaller Vento or the larger Passat. Not so in Hyundai’s case, with all three sedans from the Verna to the Elantra to the Sonata all boasting their own unique character.
The new Hyundai Elantra has heated ORVMs and parking sensors on all variants. Anti-pinch windows are an added safety feature.
The Elantra doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to its construction, with a conventional monocoque chassis, McPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear axle. The Elantra has gas-filled shock absorbers at all four corners, which helps with body control, but more on that later.
autojunction.in was the first to predict that Hyundai would use the 1.6 diesel engine from the Verna, and our crystal ball gazing has held to be true. The new Elantra also has the option of a 1.8-litre petrol engine, but we suspect that it won’t be the more popular choice of the two. Six-speed manual and 6-speed automatic gearboxes are offered with both petrol and diesel engines, although the automatics are offered in the range-topping SX trim only.
Interiors & Comfort
Step inside the new Hyundai Elantra, and you instantly know this is a Hyundai. The Fluidic theme continues in the cabin, with a swooping dashboard and heavily stylised centre console. The blue backlighting, dual-tone beige and dark brown cabin and the faux metal inserts are all Hyundai signature design cues. It does appear overdone, but in no way can Hyundai be accused of making boring interiors. We suspect this surfeit of detail and wide range of features also appeals to buyers, who liken it to being expensive and premium.
The front seats of the new Elantra are spacious and comfortable, and the SX version we drove had a ten-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support as well, making it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The SX variants also get leather upholstery and ventilated seats, which we put to good use in the humid weather.
The steering adjusts for both reach and rake, and so the flexibility offered will suit drivers of varying stature. That said, the deep dashboard will pose a challenge for shorter drivers. The thick A-pillar and large mirrors also cause a reasonably large blind spot, which is disconcerting in tight traffic in urban conditions.
Rear seat is plush, but you sit low in the cabin. Rear AC vents add to comfort.
The Elantra’s rear seat, which is far more important in India, is plush but you tend to sit low. Combined with the rising beltline, it lends a hemmed-in feeling for rear passengers. The reclined back rest and soft cushioning adds to the feeling of plushness, but you will feel the need to get out and stretch on longer drives. The rear AC vents and the built-in remote control in the flip-down arm-rest are for the fat cats who will prefer to be chauffer driven rather than take the wheel of the new Elantra.
Clockwise from top left: Rear-view camera is offered on top-end SX variant; manua varaints get shift indicator; full-suite audio connectivity with remote in rear armrest ensures optimum comfort and convenience.
Performance & Handling
The 1.6-litre CRDi diesel powerplant sends its power to the Elantra’s front wheels, driving through a 6-speed manual gearbox. This engine is exactly the same as the one which powers the Verna, putting out 128 PS of power and 260 Nm of torque. It’s the torque which is of particular interest here, providing the Elantra with strong mid-range performance and overtaking prowess. Hyundai has balanced the clutch action nicely as well, and while there is a slight heaviness in the take-up, it is a progressive and tactile experience while doing so. The gearbox has long throws however, and this spoils the experience somewhat. You can’t go snick-snick in the Elantra the same way you might a Honda Civic, which has the best gearshift in this class. But we didn’t miss any shifts, even while doing acceleration runs, so overall we can say we’re happy. We had a brief drive in the automatic version as well, and while you enjoy the convenience of the automatic transmission, it does not respond with the same verve that we’re used to now thanks to dual-clutch direct-shift gearboxes. The torque converter conventional automatic tech in the Elantra is very smooth, but the overriding electronics have been tuned more for smoothness and fuel efficiency than for quick performance.
The balance between ride and handling is a critical indicator of a car’s engineering, and the new Hyundai Elantra acquits itself adequately in this regard, if not scoring very high marks. That’s because there’s a choppiness to the ride at speed, which takes away from ride comfort and confidence behind the wheel simultaneously. The Elantra is not a car which you want to hustle around corners, nor is it especially plush-riding either, and so we must dock it some points. Body control is significantly better than the smaller Verna though, even though this is a bigger car.
There’s a curious sensation over rough terrain or on roads with camber changes, suggesting the suspension damping is insufficient, while the longer springs and softer spring rates give it a ‘loose’ feel and grip.
The brakes however are very strong and confidence inspiring, and the ABS works really well. We drove the Elantra over a wet-dry spell for a couple of days, and were extremely pleased with the car’s braking performance.
Sip, sip, sip is the mantra of our times, and given the way fuel prices are zooming northward, fuel efficiency often becomes the primary consideration when saying ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to a new car purchase. Our test, which combined city and highway traffic, plus some acceleration runs, yielded a real-world figure of 13.8 km/l, which is very good. With a light foot and generous use of sixth gear on the highway, it may be possible to wring twenty kilometres out of every litre of diesel.
One big positive of a car being built to the exacting demands of the North American market is the effect on safety and safety systems. In the new Hyundai Elantra, you get ABS with EBD and two front airbags as standard on all variants. The SX variant gets electronic stability program (ESP) and side and curtain airbags too, making for one very safe car.
No matter what anybody says, the ultimate verdict is always delivered by the market, and in Hyundai’s case, the Elantra has proven to be a winner, with a substantial order book, following on from the success of the smaller Verna mid-size sedan. The executive sedan market is getting increasingly crowded, and despite being a late entry to the segment, Hyundai has zoomed ahead of the competition, overtaking even the mighty Toyota Corolla Altis.
And you can see why.
The new Hyundai Elantra is available in a total of 7 variants, spanning a wide price range from Rs 12.9 lakhs to Rs 16.3 lakhs, ex-showroom, Kolkata. The 1.6 SX MT we drove retails for Rs 15.3 lakh, ex-showroom (the AT is a lakh rupees more). For the money, you get a stylish car with all the modern appointments you could hope for, a feature-rich cabin with all the toys and good fuel efficiency. Hyundai’s widespread service network adds to the peace of mind factor too. The Elantra isn’t perfect, and there are arguably better engineered cars to choose from within the segment, but like I said right at the start, I suspect it will be the appealing styling which will ultimately swing customers in favour of the new Elantra. Hyundai is truly a car company on the move in India, and the winners it has been placing in each segment could see it challenge Maruti for the top spot very soon.