Remember the old Elantra? If you don’t, we don’t blame you-despite a strong diesel engine, its unimpressive looks and old-school feel made it fade away from the Indian market four years after it was introduced. Fast forward to today and Hyundai is giving the executive segment another shot with this, the new Elantra. And it’s not hard to understand why. The new model may be two generations ahead but it’s much more of a leap forward than you would expect. If anything, it’s a sign of how far Hyundai’s product development has come.
Now Hyundai Knows it is entering a tough segment where demand has all but evaporated and even claimed high-profile casualties like the Honda Civil. Still, buoyed by the success of the Verna. Hyundai clearly wants to stretch the Fluidic envelope a bit. It’s why Elantra is back for a second shot.
They are not taking any chances though. With no less than two engines, two transmission options and seven variants, Hyundai is carpet-bombing the segment. Prices range from Rs. 12.51 lakh for the base manual petrol all the way to Rs 15.58 lakh, and this means there’s an Elantra variant mounting a serious challenge on everything from the Renault Fluence at the lower end of the segment of the Volkswagen Jetta at the top. Hyundai has also thrown a lot of equipment into the base versions to further sweeten the deal.
There’s no doubt that the Elantra creates a good first impression, but is it as good when you dig deeper? We’ve tested the diesel and petrol manual and the petrol automatic to answer that very question.
DESIGN & ENGINEERING
It’s hard to believe that the old Elantra was made by the same company the makes the new one, and is solid proof of the huge strides Hyundai has made with design. Gone is the comical styling that typified Hyudais of yore and in comes Hyundai’s new Fluidic shape. All the bulges and creases are so well proportioned that, viewed from any angle, the Elantra look fantastic. The nose of the car has a strong family resemblance to the smaller Verna. It looks very similar in profile too, and the strong shoulder line that rises from the front bumper to the tail-light looks sporty and purposeful. The tapering roofline that flows into the chunky tail only adds to the coupe-like effect. In fact, from the rear, there’s a strong resemblance to the Sonata as well. Neat creases and beautifully detailed tail-light further embellish the Elantra’s style quotient. At 4530mm, it is the shortest car in its segment and doesn’t have the sheer size or presence of its rivals. But it scores where it counts – the 2700mm wheelbase is the longest in the class and this is crucial in a segment where rear-seat space is at least as important as in the front.
Hyundai has really upped the quality stake in the recent past and the Elantra impresses with great cabin design, tight panel gaps and convincingly good materials. However, it still doesn’t exude that feeling of solidity that European cars like the Skoda Laura or the VW Jetta do, and the door shut has a hollow feel to it. Despite all the equipment that’s packed into it, the 1.6 diesel Elantra tips the scales at 1329kg, its 1.8-litre petrol-engine sibling weighing 70kg less.
Under its tightly stretched body, the new Elantra comes with independent front suspension but, unlike the old car, the rear is more conventionally sprung with a non-independent torsion beam. Though not as sophisticated as an independent setup, this design does help save weight and space. The Elantra also comes with host of safety features, like six airbags, ABS and Vehicle Stability Management. The VSM also has the ability to make small steering corrections if it thinks the car is getting out of shape.
The Elantra’s shapely design carries over to the interiors as well. The door pads are well sculpted and so is the multi-layered dash, replete with redges and curves that flow into the centre console, The steering wheel looks and feels great, while the instrumentation is clear and easy to read. Even the fit and finish is really good and the cabin will live up to D-segment buyers’ expectations. In some places, Hyundai has gone a bit overboard with its styling and compromised functions for form. This is most evident on the hourglass-shaped centre console, where the air-con- and music system buttons are scrunched up in a small area.
Thanks to the long wheelbase, there’s a lot of space on the inside. Rear seat passengers will be surprised by the acres of legroom on offer and the rear bench itself is comfortable, with good thigh support and a fattish floor. But the protruding centre armrest makes sitting in the middle uncomfortable and it’s best to stick with two passengers in the back Also, the seat-back is bit too reclined and the swooping roofline eats into headroom, The rising shoulder line may look great from the outside, but it impedes outward visibility from the back seat and it doesn’t give you the sense of space you would get in, say, a Corolla or a Jetta. Like with most Hyundai, the back seat is set on the low side, so getting in and out takes a bit more effort.
No such problems at the front, though, and thanks to the supportive and wide seats, even long journey are comfortable. The 10-way powered driver’s seat makes finding the perfect driving position easy too.
There’s been no cutting back on features – even the base variants get front airbags, ABS, parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, USB and aux-in ports for the audio system, electric mirror adjustment, Bluetooth connectivity and remote locking. Middle ‘S’ versions add a reversing camera, electric folding mirrors, and keyless entry and go. Top-end SX versions get cruise control, a powered driver’s seat, automatic headlamps, Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) and cooled front seats.
ENGINE, GEARBOX & PERFORMANCE
The Elantra comes with a fresh 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. This twin-cam, four-valve-per-head motor is well speceed and develops 148bhp at a peaky 6500rpm. Max torque comes at a high 4700rpm. The petrol Elantra is quite responsive off the line and has superb part-throttle response, which is very useful in slow-moving traffic. But use more than half-throttle and you instantly notice the lack of mid-range punch. Once past 4000rpm, The motor starts pulling well all the way to its 6800rpm redline, but it still isn’t a very effortless motor and you have to work it hard to make it perform. The dash to 100kph is dispatched in a quick 10.45 seconds and in-gear acceleration is more than adequate as well. The gearshift has a long throw and, though light and easy to use, doesn’t have the crispness we would have liked. What impressed us is this new engine’s refinement, and it is incredibly silent at low revs and idle.
We also drove the petrol car with the automatic gearbox, which works well most of the time, but felt a bit indecisive occasionally. You can opt to use the tip-tronic function to give you greater control over the gearbox and driving in this ‘manual’ mode is actually more pleasing. It is particularly good in stop-start traffic and it has a nice spring in its step. Still, progress is quite unhurried and it’s best to drive it at a relaxed pace. It managed to set decent times, with 100kph coming up in 12.07 seconds and a top speed of 191kph, which is quite acceptable for an auto.
The diesel Elantra, on the other hands, used the same 126bhp, variable-geometry turbo (VGT) engine as the Verna, but the overall gearing is shorter. So, despite the Elantra’s higher kerb weight, it is quicker off the line. It takes. 10.2 seconds to reach 100kph and reaches its top speed of 191kph rather easily. The shorter gear ratios also help Elantra respond faster to taps on the throttle.
That said, there is a fair bit of turbo lag below 2000rpm and it’s best to downshift to keep the engine on the boil. Driving in town is not as effortless as we would have liked, as this small motor simply doesn’t have the low-end grunt of the Laura or Jetta. Once the turbo kick in there is a strong surge and the Elantra picks up speed quite rapidly. In our 0-100kph tests, the Elantra managed to keep up with the more powerful Cruze and Jetta. Out on the highway, the strong mid-range makes the diesel an able cruiser. Since you’re usually in the meat of the powerband at cruising speeds, it responds quite well to throttle inputs to make overtaking easy and easy and fairly effortless. The Elantra diesel’s relatively low gearing, however, doesn’t make cruising as relaxed as say in the Cruze or even the Jetta and it doesn’t have the broad torque spread of its 2.0-litre rivals. As a result, you use the six-speed gearbox a bit more frequently.
RIDE & HANDLING
The lightness of the Elantra’s controls is immediately apparent and, clearly, like most Hyundai, this car too has been designed with ease of operation as a priority. The clutch pedal’s lack of resistance takes some getting used to, but the generously assisted electric power steering and the light gearshift make the Elantra as easy companion in the urban environment.
The Hyundai’s soft suspension does a good job of dealing with speedbreakers and potholes and hence appears well up to the task of dealing with Indian roads. But, as you pick up the pace, you begin to notice inconsistency in the damping. Over patchy roads, the Elantra’s rear tends to bob, especially when loaded, and this can get uncomfortable. There is some body roll too. The light steering, which is a boon in the city, has an inconsistent feel around the straight-ahead position, and there’s an unevenness in the assistance that can be disconcerting. The diesel has noticeably stiffer damping in the front and gives a more secure feeling. Turn-in is sharper and the car doesn’t get as unsettled over bumps. It must be said that the Elantra in general handles and rides much better than the Hyundais we are used to – it is definitely a step forward from the sloppy manners of the Verna. Despite these improvements, though, it still is no Jetta, or Laura. The Elantra doesn’t have the ultimate stability or sheer body controls of the Europeans and there’s always an unsettled edge to it when you’re going fast. The brakes could be better too; despite having discs at all four corners, they don’t have the bite or feel we have come to expect from cars like these.
The Elantra’s relatively light weight has a big role to play here. In the city cycle, the petrol manual delivered 9.8kpl and the diesel manual managed 12.8kpl. The Elantra’s smaller 1.6-litre diesel gave us an impressive 17kpl on the highway despite it’s short gearing. The petrol car too wasn’t bad at 14kpl. We had the petrol automatic for too short a time to evaluate its fuel efficiency.
Feature packed, stylish saloon that’s good value too.
Like all Hyundais os late, the Elantra woos you with its good looks, long list of features and, in this case, competitive price. The engines have adequate performance, refinement is good, and the cabin is spacious – all important factors in this class of car – and it’s easy to drive, especially in traffic. If there is a drawback, it’s the impression that it doesn’t look like a full-size executive car and that it could pass off as only a slightly grown-up Verna. Also, enthusiasts might be disappointed with the driving experience, which isn’t very inspiring. Still, considering how good the rest of the car is, we think Hyundai has a winner on its hands.
Cabin has adequate space, but rear headroom tight.
Figures are on par for this class for diesel, petrol and petrol auto.
Refinement on both diesel and petrols is more than reasonable.
Very well equipped and priced competitively. Good value.
Even base variants get ABS and two airbags.
Pliant at low speeds, but gets unsettled as you go faster.
Nimble in the city, but definitely not for enthusiasts.
BUILD & QUALITY 7/10
Fit and finish good, but doesn’t have solid build of Europeans.