The Elantra is a smallish mid-size sedan from the gigantic South Korean automaker Hyundai. Despite not being promoted as such, it can very much be thought of as a sedan version of the i30, at least insofar as raw space and practicality are concerned.
For this generation, both cars are indeed quite closely related, but the Elantra definitely has the longer history with the marque. While the i30’s roots only go as far back as 2007, the Elantra’s stretches to 1990, back to an era where Hyundai was a much less experienced automaker, still borrowing tech from Mitsubishi to stay competitive.
Today, after six generations, the Elantra is also the not-too-distant equivalent of the Kia Cerato. In Australia, buyers can select from several grades of Elantra that differ based on preference. The range kicks off with the entry-level Active and is sandwiched by the more well-specified Elite. At the top of the pack, though, is the sportier SR Turbo with its sharper dynamics and gutsier engine.
It follows the Fluidic 2.0 design language, and with that, it’s fair to say that this is the most modern-looking exec sedan in the market today. We won’t blame you if you find some design cues similar to that of modern Audis. - Top Gear India
The current Elantra 6 actually borrows quite a few design cues from its immediate predecessor, but crucially toning down the company’s Fluidic Sculpture design language for uniformity with Hyundai’s its newest generation of cars.
It is a safely - even predictably - styled small sedan, but one that’s undeniably pleasing to look at. Up front we have a pair of slim headlights flanking Hyundai’s signature trapezoidal grille and mean looking side intakes just ahead of the front wheels, it often does look more expensive than its roughly $22k start price leads on.
Even in base form it receives a set of 16-inch alloys, which gets upgraded to 17-inchers in its most expensive permutation, as well as a sunroof and Xenon headlamps, all of which work well to elevate that important perceived value.
Engine and Drivetrain
“You’ll need to keep that turbo spooling though, because everything happens between 3,000 and 6,000 RPM, where the engine suddenly runs out of puff. There’s absolutely no point in ringing this [T-GDi] engine all the way to its 7,000 RPM redline, because all it’ll do is make your ears bleed.” - Jalopnik
Two engines are available for the Elantra, a hierarchy that begins oddly with the smaller of the two capacities. Under the bonnet of the entry-level Active and mid-spec Elite is a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated Nu MPi four-cylinder. It’s a familiar motor to the Hyundai and Kia family at large, and here it produces a healthy 112kW and 192Nm.
So long as you’re not in a furious rush, the 2.0-litre should sit well within most tolerances. But in those rarer moments that you’ll demand more from it, its maximum torque is shelved up at 4,700rpm, so accessing it requires some finesse. Otherwise, it’s a smooth performer even at high revs while returning decent fuel economy.
The SR Turbo, though, receives another familiar engine from the South Korean stable: it’s 1.6-litre T-GDi turbocharged four-pot - the same motor that powers other Hyundai cars like the Veloster Turbo, i30 SR, and Tucson Elite.
Like those surrogates, the unit here produces an identical 150kW and 265Nm which does well to bring out the extra character that Hyundai’s Australian vehicle dynamics team managed to extract from the Elantra SR Turbo. Even in more sedate driving situations, using that peak torque from a much more reachable 1,500rpm yields a big boost in manoeuvrability, not needing for the engine speed to catch up to that sweet spot.
Each Elantra comes with a choice of manual (6-speeds) or automatic transmissions, but where the 2.0-litre engine is mated to a more conventional 6-speed torque converter, the SR Turbo’s motor swaps that out for a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that promises quicker shifts and improved fuel economy. It’s not as lightning quick as the DCTs from Volkswagen, for example, but at least it has a solid reliability record.
“…thanks to a new independent suspension arrangement that takes up more room under the rear of the car, the spare is now a space saver and not a full size unit [SR Turbo].” - CarsGuide
We already know Hyundai can both design and execute upon a spacious, good-looking, and well-built interior, and the Elantra is yet another example of this. In contrast to its closest rivals, there’s very little to split hairs about.
Everything is logically - if too conventionally - laid out and given a pleasant looking finish that nearly fully corresponds to how they feel to the touch. The spread of soft, textured material is wide and well chosen too, as the harder, more brittle plastics only become evident after you stretch into uncomfortable positions.
Things take a twist toward the premium-ish if the leather upholstery is selected. The standard seats themselves are comfortable and adequately supportive, but if you’re planning on turning the Elantra’s wheels in anger, the black on red-accented trim with more heavily bolstered front seats on the Elantra SR Turbo are much better suited.
Space in the rear isn’t class-leading but isn’t pokey by any means, and the Elantra adds more length between the wheelbase over the i30 that contributes to an airier cabin. However, its lower roofline does mean that taller occupants will need some adjustment to feel entirely comfortable, an issue that a vertically endowed driver or front passenger thankfully avoids.
Things do unequivocally improve when you open the boot, however, as a very handy 458-litres of room is just waiting to be filled with what ever cargo you’ll choose to carry, from useful to pointless. And the noise insulation between the engine and boot cavities are well filtered from reaching occupants, making clear the added emphasis on refinement over its predecessor.
Behind The Wheel
“The dynamic ability of the Elantra is a measure of the work done locally by Hyundai’s chassis engineers, since it rides so well in addition to cornering with the best of them.” - Motoring.com.au
Even if you don’t opt for the clearly more performance-oriented and rather entertaining SR Turbo, you may be surprised to learn that even the entry and mid-range Active and Elite variants are decently competent in the bends.
Now, though the obvious lack of the SR Turbo’s extra grunt, retuned front suspension and independent rear suspension make a collectively substantial difference to the poise and playfulness with which it negotiates an enticing stack of corners, the care taken to ensure that even the base Elantra is a decent steer should not be overlooked.
Its respective engine pairings seem quite well-judged too. The naturally aspirated 2.0-litre isn’t quick or particularly gutsy compared to the 1.6 T-GDi, but neither the Elite nor the Active (sans the suspension tweaks) would necessarily even know what to do with the extra pace even if it had it, and there is still a pleasant satisfaction to revving the engine past 3,500rpm (which it will gladly oblige) to extract anything meaningful surge.
Safety and Technology
“The Elantra performed well in crash testing and is another sound addition to Hyundai’s fleet which sits well with its competitors in the small passenger vehicle market,” - ANCAP
With a 5-star ANCAP rating that applies to all variants, there’s really not all that much to be concerned about with the Elantra in the event of a collision. Sure, at this price point in 2017, you’ll have to forego features like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), but at least you’ll get the very handy Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Keep Assist on the SR Turbo.
Every Elantra, even the entry-level Active, does receive 6 airbags, rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera that relays its feed to the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with support for Apple CarPlay. There’s also standard passive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers from the mid-tier Elite and up.
Summing up the Elantra then, isn’t all that hard. It’s a conservative but nonetheless all-round good car for the kind of folk that just want an easy car to live with. Once they’ve established how easily (and affordably) it can fit into their lives, most will hopefully get to appreciate how competent it is as a whole.
It looks decent, is well equipped, safe, fairly frugal, easy to to drive, and at times, can surprise at how well it can launch you out of a corner - and that’s just referring to the standard car. Step up to the SR Turbo and there’s more fun to be had, all from what is still quite an unassuming package.
CarsGuide - 8/10 - “The Elantra SR Turbo isn't meant to be this much fun, surely. Despite its modest outputs and relatively demure demeanor, the SR Turbo's dynamic abilities far surpassed our expectations.”
Motoring.com.au - “The nameplate has been around for a while, but the Hyundai Elantra has long been the bridesmaid, never the bride. But as we learned from a recent comparison, pitting the Elantra against the very capable and well regarded Mazda3, the new Elantra is not taking any prisoners…”
Jalopnik - “Hyundai has definitely gone a long way with their little compact, and it feels great to see them actually kicking ass with this thing. The value alone makes it worth considering,”
Top Gear India - 7/10 - “Dynamically, a big improvement over the last one. Comes with a long feature list and looks good, too.”
CarAdvice - 8/10 - “Is the new Elantra the class-leader Hyundai hopes it to be? It's certainly up there. If you want a spacious, comfortable and well-made little sedan that can actually handle if you need it to, it's a sharp bet.”