If the Hyundai Elantra shared the i30 name with its hatchback sibling, the Korean pairing would be the biggest-selling model in the country.
But the Elantra is very much a separate entity to i30 – they share different life-cycles, for example: this 2016 Hyundai Elantra is an all-new model, where the next-gen i30 is still the best part of a year away.
Enough about the i30… The Elantra – now more than ever – stands on its own two feet, with this sixth-generation version of the small sedan evolving into a more mature, thoughtful and refined offering.
That means it’s good enough to fight against the big names in the segment, including the Mazda 3 – which was the biggest-selling small sedan in 2015 in Australia – and the Toyota Corolla sedan.
In fact, we think that in Elite specification the new Hyundai Elantra could be the best small sedan in the class.
You’d expect good value for money if that were to be the case, and the Elantra doesn’t disappoint in that regard.
For that spend you get a long list of standard equipment, including black – or tan, if that’s your thing – leather trim, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a digital speedometer, 17-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized spare and LED daytime running lights.
Further, there’s push-button start with smart key entry – including entry buttons on the front doors and an automated boot release system that can pop the lid for you if you stand behind the car with the key (in your pocket or handbag). That’s great for when you’ve got your hands full.
Infotainment comes by way of a 7.0-inch media touchscreen, which is the conduit to the Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, or USB media playback. It also doubles as the monitor for the car’s standard reverse-view camera – and it has rear parking sensors, too.
The Hyundai’s screen also has Apple’s CarPlay connectivity system, where the screen mirrors familiar menu options. There’s also an extended voice control system, so you can talk to it like you would to your old mate Siri.
What you miss out on, though, is satellite-navigation. It’s clear Hyundai figures buyers will use their connected smartphone for mapping. Fair call, we’d say, but it’s bad news if you’re an Android user – for now, at least, as Android Auto will be added at no cost later in 2016 by way of a software upgrade.
As for other safety equipment, the Elantra has six airbags – dual front, front side and full-length curtain coverage – and electronic stability control. But unlike the Mazda 3, there’s no additional active safety equipment available (the Mazda 3 has a safety pack for $1500 that adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and autonomous city braking).
There are dual ISOFIX rear seat anchor points, and three top-tether child seat anchors, too. And unlike many competitor small cars, the Elantra Elite has rear-seat air-vents.
Being a Hyundai it comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and capped-price servicing for the life of the car, with maintenance due every 12 months or 15,000km. The average cost over, say, five years/75,000km is low, too, at $269 per year. And if you get your Hyundai serviced at the company’s nominated workshops, you get 10 years of free roadside assistance thrown in, too.
If you haven’t got the picture yet, it clearly offers a lot of value for money – but the interior may not be to all tastes, despite the fact that it is well appointed and well finished.
The cabin finishes are quite bland, mirroring the larger Sonata with a dashboard that’s dominated by silvery-grey and black finishes, and the centre console is broad and flat.
That said, everything is logically positioned, and it only takes about 10 seconds to familiarise yourself with the controls upon sitting in the driver’s seat.
Further, there is a mass of storage options, including large door pockets front and rear, cup-holders and loose item caddies up front, and a flip-down arm-rest with cup-holders in the rear. The Hyundai has its USB inputs in front of the gearshifter, which is a bit of a pain if you own one of the bigger smartphones.
The Hyundai has better leg and shoulder room than many cars in this class, not to mention the one above, but headroom is a little tight for taller adults. The flat rear seat means fitting three across the back is simpler than you’d think.
The boot of the Elantra is surprisingly big at 458 litres, which is more copious than both the Mazda 3 sedan and the Toyota Corolla sedan. You can easily fit a large suitcase and pram alongside each other, and the boot opening is broad, which makes for easy loading.
As for the drive experience – it furthers the Elantra’s case as one of the better-mannered vehicles in the class, too.
Under the bonnet of the Elantra is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 112kW of power at 6200rpm and 192Nm of torque at 4000rpm. The old engine had 110kW/178Nm, and the new one still lacks some of the modern fuel-saving elements such as direct injection and engine stop-start.
It’s teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission – without paddleshifters, if that matters to you – and drive is sent to the front wheels.
It’s a perky drivetrain, much more responsive than, say, a Corolla or a 3. The throttle response feels much more urgent, and it has a liveliness as it builds revs.
The engine revs smoothly and unlike many competitors the transmission doesn’t default to the highest gear possible at the soonest convenience to save fuel. As a result, it holds gears longer, allowing you to use more the engine’s available torque, and shifts at 4000rpm aren’t uncommon.
If you’re driving the Hyundai hard, though, its automatic isn’t quite as responsive or snappy as it should be. The manual mode is slow to react, particularly when downshifting.
The Elantra claims fuel use of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres, where we saw 8.7L/100km on test, and our driving included urban lapping, highway cruising and twisty road punishment.
The soft damping of the Hyundai means it feels a little bit rolly in corners, with some noticeable body lean. It certainly isn’t insecure in its handling, as it manages bends with plenty of grip available and the tyres (225/45 Hankook Ventus Prime 2) bite down relatively well when you change directions.
The Elantra’s steering is quick and reacts well, though in the straight-ahead position it is a little twitchy, require constant little adjustments at highway speeds. It can also be a little heavy at times – for example, when you’re pulling off the highway it doesn’t change weighting very fast, so you may approach a tight exit bend and need more effort than you’d expect.
As for urban driving, the steering is light enough to make parking moves a cinch, and the suspension deals with little bumps in the road surface very well. It also absorbs big bumps like potholes or speedhumps with ease.
What this all adds up to is a car that is not only good enough to fight with the bigger name small sedans in the segment, but one that, in many ways, sets new benchmarks, while falling just short of nailing every single criteria on the list.
Click the Photos tab above for more images of the 2016 Hyundai Elantra Elite.