You can forget the old Elantra because this new one is nothing like it. This new, fifth-generation Elantra (codename: MD) is two generations ahead of the old car, so while the old Elantra was rather bland and forgettable, this one is anything but. It gets Hyundai’s ‘fluidic’ styling, interiors that are more suited to its D-segment status, a seriously long equipment list and a whole host of engine and transmission options. But is it all show and not much substance? We went to Udaipur to find out.
On the face of it, Hyundai Cars has got all the bases covered. In fact, the Elantra has everything that made the Verna the runaway success it has been. The appeal is apparent the moment you lay eyes on it - the Elantra looks sharp, the stance is sporty and you can see Hyundai’s current styling cues spattered all over the razor-blade body. There’s more than a hint of Verna about the nose and lots of Sonata at the rear.
At 4530mm, it is the shortest car in its segment and it looks it too – stand next to one and you’ll see it looks quite compact and doesn’t have the sheer size or presence of its rivals. The tight styling doesn’t help its cause here and this might be a turn-off-for some. However, at 2700mm, the Elantra has the longest wheelbase among its peers and this is crucial. The chauffeur-driven will surely appreciate the acres of legroom this unusually long wheelbase liberates. They will also appreciate the supportive seat base and the flat-ish floor that makes it more comfortable for the middle passenger. They might find the seatback a tad too reclined but it’s not too bad. more serious an issue comes from the swooping roofline that eats into headroom and also from the small windows that don’t give rear passengers the same sense of openness they would get in, say, a corolla.
No such problems up front though. The Elantra’s dashboard layout is at least as stylish as its exteriors, with a dominant V-shaped centre console and sporty deep-dish dials. There’s not much to complain about with the fit and finish and the 10-way powered driver’s seat allows you to find the perfect driving position easily. In fact, one of the highlights of the Elantra is its long equipment list – there’s dual-zone climate control, cooled front seats (they really helped in Rajasthan’s heat), a reversing camera, keyless entry and go, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and USB and aux-in ports. This top-end Elantra SX makes some of its rivals look seriously under-equipped. Hyundai hasn’t stinted on safety features either – the SX gets six airbags, ABS, ESP and even Vehicle Stability Management. The VSM is linked to the electrically assisted power steering and has the ability to make small steering corrections if it senses the car is going out of control.
Under the hood, the Elantra comes with two engine options – Elantra 148bhp 1.6-litre petrol and the 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel from the Verna. Both can be specified with a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, so the Elantra, spec-wise at least, takes on everything from the diesel Toyota Corolla to the VW Jetta. We drove the Petrol automatic and the Manual diesel, and frankly, the petrol motor with the auto isn’t impressive. The engine is powerful enough but isn’t as refined or enthusiastic as the specs would lead you to believe. Sure, the more you rev it the more shove there is, but it sounds strained and isn’t a willing participant when you’re pushing it. Also letting it down is the automatic gearbox, which up shifts at the earliest possible moment and then constantly hunts through the gears every time you move your foot. It’s not much fun even in tip-tronic mode and is nowhere as sophisticated as its twin-clutch rivals from Germany. The redeeming feature of this engine-gearbox combo Is its long-legged cruising ability (thanks to a tall-ish sixth gear). It will also appeal to people who simply want an easy, stress-free city commute.
The diesel with the manual gearbox is a far more appealing combination. It is smooth, quiet and performance is satisfying thanks to the 26.5kgm of torque. Its 10.99sec 0-100kph time is quicker than its rivals the Fluence and Corolla but, as expected, the more powerful Cruze, Laura and Jetta will run away from it. Peak torque comes in at 1900rpm, so there is some measure of turbo lag, the engine isn’t as free-revving as the 2.0-litre motors in the Jetta and the Laura and power tails off once you cross 4000rpm. It feels best when you use the slick light-action gearshift and light, progressive clutch to upshift early.
The suspension is MacPherson struts up front and a cost-effective and space-saving non-independent torsion beam at the rear (the old Elantra had independent rear suspension). Our test route had mostly smooth roads, but it was rather evident that the rear suspension is set up for comfort. There was some pitching over undulations, but this apart the ride is pretty sorted and the Elantra displays good straight-line stability. It isn’t a particularly exciting car to drive though – the steering feel is artificial and though it weighs up at speed, that isn’t enough. Grip levels are good, but nowhere near the limpet-like grip you get from a VW Jetta. It’s a car that prefers to be coaxed through corners. Still, this car’s ride and handling envelope should satisfy all but hardcore driving enthusiasts.
In the end, the new Elantra creates all the right first impressions with its sharp looks, smart interiors and long equipment list. It may not be the most exciting car to drive, but there’s still plenty about it to quicken your pulse. Hyundai hasn’t announced prices yet, but expect it to be pegged in the RS 12 to 16 lakh bracket. We’re pretty sure Hyundai has another winner on its hands.
Source: Autocar August 2012