Hyundai has come a long way as a manufacturer. From being considered as a budget brand to being able to sell cars well above Rs 10 lakh in huge numbers is a testament to the quality of products the Korean manufacturer has delivered. The Elantra which was launched in 2012 was a surprise package too. Although selling just in three digits, it was for a while the best-selling sedan in its segment. That meant Hyundai was able to beat heavy weights such as Skoda, Volkswagen and Toyota at their own game. Now, four years down the line, the brand new Elantra has arrived and it looks even more impressive and promising than the car it replaces.
Although Hyundai claims the chassis to be all-new on the Elantra, the basic architecture is quite similar to the car it replaces. Proof of this is the wheelbase, which at 2700mm is exactly the same as before. But that’s where the similarities end. The new Elantra gets a more rigid structure thanks to Hyundai using 53 per cent advanced high-strength steel compared to 21 per cent from the previous model. This means overall body stiffness has gone up by 29.5 per cent and bending strength has gone up by 25.3 per cent too. On top of that, the new Elantra has adhesive application 40 times higher on the chassis, which should not only improve dynamics but also reduce NVH and vibrations.To improve on the old cars main weakness (ride and handling) Hyundai has also altered the rear suspension geometry. The rear shock absorbers and the coil springs sit more upright on the torsion beam axle. The new Elantra promises to be more spacious on the inside too. The new car is 40mm longer, 25mm wider than the car it replaces.
Where the exterior looks stylish, the interior of the new Elantra is dominated by straight lines. Still it looks interesting and thoroughly modern and the large 8-inch touchscreen is high set, which makes it easy to use on the move. The vertical vents beside it look unique (though not very attractive) and the air-con control housing looks very European. Overall quality is a huge step-up over the old car and all the touch points like the dash-top, armrest, steering and gearknob is either finished in soft plastics or leather. A special mention should be made of the large infotainment system too. The high-res screen and the quick acting touch makes it feel premium. The unit has both Android auto and Apple Carplay, which only adds to the overall experience.
Thanks to the new car’s larger dimensions, there’s a lot of space on the inside. There’s plenty of legroom for rear-seat passengers and the rear bench itself is comfortable, with decent thigh support and a flattish floor. However, the rising shoulder line impedes visibility from the back seat and the all-black interior doesn’t give you a very airy feeling too. Also the sloping roofline eats into the rear headroom and anyone above 5 foot 11 inch will find headroom to be a bit too compromised. The cabin though is very practical with loads of bottle and cup holders present for both front and reat seats. The boot at 458litres is not particularly big and is just about enough for your family’s weekend luggage.
As ever with Hyundai, the Elantra is very well equipped, and apart from the new touchscreen, you’ll find things like auto headlamps, keyless entry and go, cruise control, electric drivers seat, front seat ventilation, six airbags, ESP and of course, Bluetooth.
The petrol Elantra automatic is powered by a new 1999cc naturally aspirated petrol motor which is good for 152bhp. The motor is quite smooth and its free revving nature helps you make good progress. Although it is a bit weak at lower revs, the torque converter does a good job of masking this. There is a nice step-up in power past 3000rpm and the motor really gets in its stride past 5000rpm all the way to the redline. This lends the motor a nice linear power delivery, which makes it relaxing to drive. The big news is the automatic gearbox though, it is a heavily reworked version of the six-speed torque converter found on the old car. You also get ‘Eco’ ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ modes which alters the way the gearbox behaves. While driving in ‘Eco’ mode, the gearbox upshifts early, maintaining a relatively low engine speed in a bid to improve fuel economy. A dab on the throttle gets it moving quite nicely, and when driven like this, it is quite adept at mixing in with other traffic. In ‘Normal’ mode the gearbox responds to your right foot even better and this makes it ideal for highway usage. The ‘Sport’ mode feels perfect for spirited driving as the gearbox is light on its feet, as it downshifts near the redline even at the slightest dab on the throttle. But for normal use this mode doesn’t work too well as the gearbox also tends to get confused and keeps the engine too high up in the rev range. The engine does get a bit noisy post 4000rpm, but never to the point of being unbearable. Other than that, this motor is quite refined and driving the Elantra is a soothing experience thanks to its great its sound insulation. We tested the Elantra petrol A/T and found it covered the 0-100kmph in a decent 10.7seconds. Although good on its own, it is quite a bit slower than the Skoda Octavia 1.8Tsi.
The Elantra CRDI, on the other hand, has the same 1.6-litre diesel unit as the old car. The Elantra’s engine makes 126bhp of power and 260Nm of torque from a low 1900rpm. Unlike the petrol, the diesel doesn’t get the updated gearbox so it feels noticeably slower to shift and respond. On first impressions, the Elantra diesel auto doesn’t feel all that quick as it accelerates in an extremely linear and relaxed manner. In slower traffic, it feels stress-free to drive thanks to the auto-box which eliminates some of the throttle lag present in the manual version. On the highway, the Elantra cruises nicely too and there’s more than adequate power for overtaking. The Elantra is much quicker than it feels. It goes from 0-100kph in just 11.04sec, which is around the same as the old car. Another strong point of the Elantra diesel is its fantastic engine refinement. Except for some vibrations at idle, the engine is extremely quiet and it maintains its composure even when worked hard.
But where the Elantra has improved the most is in terms of its ride. Over any surface, at speed, the Elantra felt unfazed and the refined suspension simply goes about its job, keeping you isolated from the biggest of potholes. It’s only at low speeds that you feel some stiffness and the sharp bumps do jar you a bit. But here too we are being picky rather than critical. We drove the car on the East coast road, off Chennai. With hardly any corners to speak of, it was difficult to assess its handling prowess. But first impressions are pretty positive. The steering felt surprisingly direct and the Elantra felt rock steady at high speeds too. Hyundai, thanks to the improved chassis, has definitely taken big steps in this respect. On the downside the brake pedal feel is a bit wooden and a more linear feel would have been welcomed.