A newfound driving maturity makes the Elantra one of Hyundai’s more convincing offerings. But it comes with compromises.
WHAT IS IT?
This Elantra begins the sixth generation of Hyundai’s longest running model. It is a sedan that competes with some of the small-car heavy hitters.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
The Hyundai Elantra is all new, from the engine and chassis to the interior and body. It’s the first newcomer for Hyundai in 2016, and it precedes the arrival of a new Hyundai i30 hatchback by at least a year.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
What it lacks in visual spark, the Elantra makes up for with a good driving experience and plenty of consumer-friendly sensibility.
PLUS: Refined and relatively quiet; perky engine; plenty of space; decent value.
MINUS: Bland interior; mild suspension booming; auto transmissions lacks sporty smarts; no AEB.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT MAY be Hyundai's biggest selling model globally, but the Elantra is up against it in Australia, where four-door sedans are being swallowed steadily by SUVs.
On paper, the sixth generation Elantra does not look to be a shaker-and-mover. Fuel use has increased, the boot is smaller, and prices have edged up.
The reality is more appealing, starting with a crisper design that places the emphasis on the sloping roof line rather than on that apparent turn-off for buyers, the boot.
The step from a 1.8 to a 2.0-litre engine brings a modest increase in peak outputs – 2kW and 12Nm - but a more meaningful kick along to mid-rev flexibility, thanks to an emphasis on accessing that torque. This is a noticeably more willing engine, and one that shifts the compact body nicely in suburban driving, albeit with fuel use up by 0.5 litres per 100km for the manual (to 7.1L/100km), and a modest 0.1L/100km (to 7.2L/100km) for the auto.
Open it up and it approaches 6000rpm before slurring the change into second. Peak revs increase in higher gears to the point where you can eke 6500rpm out of it. The sound is a vocal companion but without the thrashiness of previous small Hyundais.
The six-speed auto (a manual is available only on the entry Active) is not particularly smart in on-off-throttle driving, constantly keen to change up rather than hold a cog. Without a sports mode or shift paddles, it limits your self-control options to the gear lever.
Refinement has made a big leap, eschewing the rawness of the previous Elantra - and its i30 hardback sibling - for a more hushed in-cabin experience.
There's a newfound maturity to the dynamics, too. Put that down to the stiffer chassis: the amount of ultra-high tensile steel has more than doubled, now making up 53 percent of the body, in turn helping push torsional rigidity up some 30 percent. The suspension, which was tuned extensively in Australia, has also been redesigned for better control, something instantly obvious on the challenging Tasmanian roads of the media drive.
Yet there's some suppleness to soak up the uglies, albeit with some gentle leaning when shifting directions.
The tyres - 16s on the Active and 17s on the Elite – are well suited to the relaxed nature of the car, delivering respectable grip but ultimately squealing at punishment. The steering has a reassuring meatiness to it, but initial accuracy is dulled by the profile of the tyres - more so on Active with its 16s.
Inside, there’s a mass of grained plastics and fake silver streaks for what is a bland look. Fortunately, the more convincing silver streak around the touchscreen adds a dash of flair, as does a centre stack that’s tilted towards the driver.
It translates to great functionality. The touchscreen has logical menus, anchored by five main menu buttons and two audio knobs just below it. Most owners will likely choose the Apple CarPlay function, giving hands-free operation for everything from maps and audio to phone calls and messages.
There’s brilliant adjustability to the front seats, ensuring tall drivers are blessed with legroom. The rear, though, loses points for headroom, which tapers off with the sweep of the roof. The middle rear seat, too, is a temporary affair thanks to its narrowness. But the rear air vents are a plus.
Equipment levels help offset the modest price rises. The entry Active is $500 more, at $21,490 (or $23,790 for the auto), but gets alloys, 7.0-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and a full-sized spare. Apple CarPlay is also part of the deal, while Android Auto arrives as a software update late in the year.
The Elite ($26,490 as an auto only) throws in some leather, rain-sensing wipers, smart key entry, dual-zone climate and 17-inch alloys.
Those prices, though, are above the discount deals that have seen Hyundai command more small car share recently. The challenge for the Elantra is repeating that in a declining segment.
Model: Hyundai Elantra Elite
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl
Max power: 112kW @ 6200rpm
Max torque: 192Nm @ 4500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Kerb weight: 1355kg
Price: From $26,490
On sale: Now