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  • Attractive styling (inside and out); lots of interior space; large boot, rival-beating features list; comfortable ride; good value for money
  • 1.8-litre engine can be noisy and lacks torque; transmission too eager to hunt for lower gears; functionality lacking in some areas; light steering, handling not as good as some rivals

7 / 10

2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review

The Hyundai Elantra is another one of those small cars that is more mid-size when it comes to interior space and luggage capacity.

Launched in Australia in June 2011, the fifth-generation Hyundai Elantra is the Korean carmaker’s sedan entrant in the high-volume and highly competitive small car ring that includes heavyweights such as the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Holden Cruze and even the Volkswagen Jetta.

It’s aimed at i30 buyers that prefer a boot to a hatch, in the same way that Jetta targets Volkswagen Golf buyers who want a boot. Or at least that’s the premise.

Despite the highly creditable competition, though, Elantra’s sleek, low-slung design remains one of the standout lookers in the segment.

There have been few changes to Elantra apart from a minor spec update in March 2012, which saw all three variants (Active, Elite and Premium) gain a new five-inch colour touch screen audio system along with chrome interior door handles (Elite and Premium variants only).

Aerodynamic windshield wipers were also added across the range to reduce wind noise and improve the look.

Those expecting a more substantial update will need to wait until 2014, when the Hyundai Elantra will most likely go under the knife for a mid-life makeover, given Hyundai’s history of updating a model some three years into its lifecycle. Until then, though, it’s fluidic sculpture style with swoopy lines and eye-catching creases should remain contemporary among key rivals.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review

Boasting generous levels of kit in comparison with some rivals, the Elantra range is also well priced – from the entry-level Active with six-speed manual transmission (optional six-speed auto is available) at $20,590 (before on-road costs), to the range-topping Premium we tested here, with standard six-speed automatic, and priced from $28,990.

The mid-spec Elite carries a $23,590 price tag and also gets a standard six-speed auto.

The top-shelf Premium model is exceptionally well equipped for a vehicle in this class, with standard inventory such as rear-view camera with rear parking sensors, keyless entry with proximity key and push button start, electrochromatic rear view mirror and auto sensing headlights and wipers.

Additional creature comforts include an electric sunroof, dual-zone climate control, electrically-operated driver’s seat, front seat heating; partial leather trim and Bluetooth phone and music streaming rounding out the key features.

About the only thing missing from Elantra’s well-stocked interior is satellite navigation – it’s not even an option, but expect the technology to make it onto the standard kit list for the updated version.

Inside, Elantra is a mixed bag. While there’s plenty to like such as the funky styling, comfortable seats and generous space – it’s the ergonomics and functionality that perhaps need a tad more attention.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review

Take the heating and cooling vents; they’re too small and are set too low to provide proper relief on those all-too-frequent summer scorchers – as tested.

Similarly, the switchgear for the air-conditioning control module, particularly the temperature-set buttons, aren’t all that easy to read from the driver’s seat, as they’re partially shadowed by the large plastic overhang above.

On the plus side there’s a leather-wrapped steering wheel (although the leather isn’t tactile enough) that provides audio, cruise and trip functions, along with a decent sound system that pairs-up well with Bluetooth streaming devices.

Storage spaces are aplenty inside Elantra, which gets numerous cubbyholes and a boot capacity of 420 litres including a full-size spare wheel. Load space can be expanded through the 60/40 split rear seat backs, but flexibility is compromised by not folding completely flat.

The Hyundai Elantra is also well equipped on the safety front, too, with a full suite of active and passive driver aids backing-up its full five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Generally speaking, it’s a comfy ride, with the Elantra’s soft suspension better able to deal with patchwork roads and potholes.

The downside is that there’s more body roll than desired, but there’s little affect on the car’s handling and composure through corners – even when pushed.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review

The Elantra employs electric power steering and while it’s comfortably weighted for easy parking and effortless cruising, the steering itself, can feel artificial and decidedly numb at more moderate speeds.

Elantra’s ‘Nu’ 110kW/178Nm 1.8-litre engine isn’t the most powerful unit in class, offering less torque than most key rivals, so performance is more adequate than zippy around town.

The six-speed automatic transmission is calibrated for the best possible fuel economy, so there’s always an urgency to climb into sixth gear as quickly as possible – and it does so relatively smoothly, at least under a gentle throttle.

Under slightly heavier throttle loads, though, the transmission is far too eager to hunt for lower gears to compensate for the lack of torque, so things can get a tad noisy at times, despite decent levels of noise insulation built in to this car.

So, the Elantra tends to work harder than expected around the city, which also affects fuel economy in a negative way.

We averaged 8.8L/100km during our road test, which is more than the Hyundai’s official combined figure of 7.1L/100km but better than the solely urban figure of 9.4L/100km.

Despite being almost 19 months old and still awaiting its first update, Hyundai’s Elantra remains a compelling value-for-money proposition in any of its three trim levels.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
2013 Hyundai Elantra Review

Its eye-catching design, mid-size cabin space and extensive features list make it difficult to ignore in the small car space.

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2013 Hyundai Elantra Review
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  • F1orce

    I’m surprised this car doesn’t come with the now ubiquitous Hyundai panoramic roof..

    Perhaps facelift?

    • MisterZed

      The new Pulsar doesn’t even come with any kind of sunroof.

      • Henry Toussaint

        Yes it does, the Top TI model has it!

      • Fhg

        When sunroofs are optional, almost no one ever gets it. On cars where they are included, many people never open them. In fact most Australian’s don’t/won’t drive with the windows open with many just running ac non-stop.

        • Golfschwein

          Not me! I’ve had three cars with sunroofs, the last being my recently departed Golf. Between 18 and 32 degrees, it was almost always open, with all windows down. An absolute treat, especially on a warm night.

          But yes, I admit I’m the exception and not the rule, as I know folks who have expressed surprise when I wind down their back windows. They say nobody’s ever opened them before!

          • Hung Low

            Did you have the Pet Shop Boys cranked right up into distortion levels as well?

          • Mike

            Windows are made to be rolled down! lol
            Love a nice breeze.

          • Sumpguard

            I had the glass roof in my previous two vehicles and whilst it was fine while driving around with the aircon aimed above my head to remove the heat coming in through the glass ,when the car was parked in the sun during the day the interior got too hot.

                I’d have been lucky to have used the roof on my Sportage a dozen times in two years and only at night. This time around I didn’t bother.

        • Golfmother

          Love the roof , especially at night when its cold , winter days fantastic , summer keep it shut , music , i like fung high’s personal collection of  maria carey cause shes the pits .

          • 451

            if you had an EOS the roof wouldn’t open.

        • Sam

           Yep, I bought a new corolla and kept it for 10 years and never turned the aircon off once.  Driving in brisbane city traffic with the windows down is torture.

  • MisterZed

    The mid-spec Elite is actually $25,590 for the auto.

    • DAVIDZ

      just like the i45, another orphan

  • Hung Low

    Probably the best example of the exterior design language but needs a better engine.

    • Car lover

      I agree. Personally I think this is a stunningly good looking car for the $ and probably Hyundai’s best exterior work. A slightly bigger engine would make this a no brainier.

    • Guest

      I agree too except it doesn’t need a bigger engine as long as it’s reliable, safe, good looking, very fast and can take over those old boring lemons.

      • Golfmother

        Winner with the public service sector , dont take a risk .

  • peddy.d

    the car’s ECU might have been updated since i bought my Elantra in 2011 but in my car the car won’t shift to sixth as quickly as it can, you have to wait until the car has reached a speed of at least 70km/hr. Yeah the steering is a bit artificial and ride is choppy sometimes but 17 months since purchasing I still think it’s a great car, couldn’t be any happier!

    • Hung Low

      The gearbox learns your driving style and accordingly behaves, a change in driving style or environment can change this.

  • Save It For The Track

    If this needs a better engine, what does Corolla, 1.8l cruze, and 2.0l non sky active mazda3 need then? All with less (or very close mazda3 only 4Nm ahead, and down on power) torque than this, and certainly less power. Not a fan, but just saying. Seems, that pretty much the only vehicles in the segment with more torque are of a larger capacity, or smaller with a snail attached….

    • Zaccy16

      its becuase hyundais engine figures don’t equate to real world driving (all fuel economy renforced by this test) and the nu engine produces its low torque figure at a very high unrefined 4700 rpm

      • Bigdaddy

        After one year and 10,000km of owning an Active model all is sweet. We consistently get 7.5-8.0 L/100km of mainly urban driving. Personally love the look of the car and everything is as tight as the day it left the dealership. Very satisfied owner.

    • Hung Low

      It’s the power delivery that counts, not the advertised figures. The Corolla unit is boring but lugs around quite decently unlike the Cruze or this. I found the older 2.0 unit to be much more tractable than this new engine.

      • F1orce

        Yeah the previous Elantra with the 2.0L engine was surprisingly a better drive than this new one..

        • Henry Toussaint

          I have a 2009 Elantra, The engine produced more torque, But the Handling was a bit worse.

  • Zaccy16

    19 months old is not that old at all and it already looks dated, specially the wheels, the handling needs to be fixed, suspension too too soft perfect for yanks and steering normal hyundai numb, the interior is a laughing stock, way way behind the i30 even and all main rivals, those air vents are a joke and  the miss matched screens look rubbish

    • Robin_Graves

      Look at all you lemon veedud fanbois squirming after peter schreyer’s announcement. Nothing wrong with the steering or handling for 99.99% in this market and vent position is hardly a talking point when you drive a polio which is notorious for lunching engines and gearboxes.

      • Alien Probe

        Hey Grave, My 2004 Golf has broke down again, this time the alternator failed at 81,000 Kms, looks like I have to find $500 to $1,000 every six months to fix something. I have had the car since new at it has been maintained within an inch of its life.  All I have to say is… NEVER AGAIN A VW!

    • Martin

      Wow yet more things I agree with you about Zaacy16. I had a rental Elantra for work with 1,200km on the clock and I was really disappointed with it, and for exactly everything you listed off.

  • owner

    We’ve had an Elite since launch – the other half’s daily.  Avg fuel is approx 8.8 L/100 mainly urban.

    If you enjoy your driving, look elsewhere.  Pros: Cheap, well equipped, reliable, good interior room, good warranty.Cons: Not enough torque, engine is noisy and unrefined under anything more than moderate load, steering feel and handling are numb.

    • 451

      your “cons” could’ve been avoided by not buying the thing in the first place. people like you buy it and complain about what you just complained about. ridiculous. did you buy it on eBay and get it delivered or what?

      • Hhhh

        I don’t drive it. Its the wifies. Yes, it would be ridiculous if It was my car, but that’s not the case.

  • Don Quay

    Regardless of the merits or otherwise of their cars, do Hyundai have too many models in overlapping markets? 

    The i20/Accent in one segment, this Elantra and the i30 in another and none offer a lot of differentiation. As Anthony says, an i30 with a boot. Judging by the sales figures there isn’t much of a market for that and it seems the i20 runs out of the showroom compared to the Accent too. 

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if Hyundai gave the Elantra and the Accent the flick in the short term like they did with the i45. They can concentrate their sales and marketing on the better selling models, which would be a more effective use of the budget. 

    Too bad if you’ve already bought one, your resale would sink, but then you would never buy one with the expectation of a good resale later.

    • Netwalker

      This is NOT an i30 with a boot.
      i30 is much better car especially interior/equipment designed for Europe.This one was designed for yanks.
      I wish they produce i30 with the boot as I prefer sedans but they did not so far.
      Looking forward to new Cerato then.

      • F1orce

        Guess what genius the cerato aka ‘Forte’ is made mainly to suite the North American market.

        • netwalker

          Yes. I know. Still hoping it is going to be better than Elantra

    • Guest

      In marketing terms, it’s called sales cannibalization ie, i20 vs Accent, i30 vs Elantra, i40 vs i45. The orphans can be terrible value for owners when they look to replace them.
      Had a bad ownership experience with Hyundai, the resale residual are so ridiculous, I couldn’t get a good price to replace with another car. The 2010 hailstorm, I managed to get rid of it via write-off. The Hyundai dealers also don’t support their own brand offering knock-down values for Hyundai trade-ins while expecting no discounts for their new cars. One principal dealer even had the gall to admit his own brand had very poor resale value. How confident can one get with buying a Hyundai – none!

      • netwalker

        Yeah. One of Hyuindai staff said to me in private that he would not buy this car

  • Ploughman’s Lunch

    No sat nag = No Sale

    • Tony

      Hyundai = No Sale

      • Alien Probe

        Ha, Ha, Ha!

  • Henry

    Rented this car in Tas last year and what an awful car to drive.

    Poor handling, suspension and dynamic need to be fixed.

    Parked the car in sloping road side parking and unable to move the car our after rain due to poor tyres on slippery surface. The worst experience in driving.

    I’ll definitely go with Mazda 3 or civic for a better dynamic car in daily driving.

  • Notthestig

    God, I hated my week in a new one last month.

    Went on a long drive and the drivers seat was so bad it took a week after returning it for recovery.

    The air vents cooling your knees is plain stupid.

    That touchscreen is woeful. Can’t see it in sunlight and the text is too small to read. Terrible UI. Sound was OK but everything about operation (no pause on iPod control is just another annoyance).

    Silver and elements of dash reflect in your eyes if the sun is out.

    Should I go on ? Summary is that there are far nicer

    • Elantra

      Rubbish! Go to specsaver and get your eyes sorted out! I have the Premium Elantra and I’ve been driving it for 5 months now & it’s completely opposite from what you described.

      • 451

        or Lumosity dot com “i do it to stay sharrrrrp”

      • Jenn13

        Totally agree with you the Premium its fantastic had it since 2011.Put a spoiler on the back as it seemed to need something there, and couldn’t of been happier .Dam sexy looking car that goes well If i had one complaint it would be the back passenger windows are a little small but i guess that’s the design and anyway I’m the driver . Overall very happy.

  • regg

    is it just me but the front air vents look far too low??

    • Elantra

      Which is good so no one can see the skeletons  underneath lol


    Damn that interior is ugly…

    • Henry Toussaint

      At least it’s more stylish than the plain dash in the Octavia…

  • HMS

    All I see is, all these people out there complaining about how crappy these are.
    Don’t like it, don’t drive it, even better, don’t buy it.