The all-new Elantra is a huge step up from its predecessor
The all-new Elantra is a huge step up from the previous model. The last car Hyundai launched in Australia was the i45 sedan. At the time, some of the motoring press in Australia said the suspension tune on that car wasn’t up to par for pliant travel on the poorly maintained roads in this country. That sent the handling engineers at Hyundai back to the R&D centre to thoroughly re-examine its suspension tuning process specifically for the Australian market.
The good news is Hyundai has absolutely nailed it with the new Hyundai Elantra, with all the suspension testing and tuning carried out in Australia. After a couple of hundred kilometres driving all three trim levels and both transmission options, I'm pleased to report the ride and handling has been well and truly sorted on the Elantra, to the point where it’s up there with anything from Europe in the same segment and price point.
That said, I was not overly confident hopping into the automatic version, which is standard fitment in both the mid-range Elite and top-spec Premium models. Automatic 'boxes mated to small displacement four-cylinder engines tend to be a bit uninspiring, but not this one. The six gear ratios mean this engine doesn’t have to rev its guts out to get you moving along at a reasonable speed, and the ratios are quite well spaced. It’s a sporty enough drive that if you find a nice stretch of windy road, go ahead and use the sequential shift mode, which allows the driver to hold on to the gear ratios a little longer before shifting up, should you wish to.
The main point to consider here is that Hyundai designs and builds its own transmissions, and clearly puts enormous effort into this area. It shows through with both these gearboxes, as they are unusually refined for this segment.
There’s an interesting Gear Shift Indicator in the manual variant between the two main instrument dials, which indicates the gear that you should be in for maximum fuel efficiency; handy if you like saving a few extra dollars each week at the petrol bowser.
The same goes for the steering feel and response. Right from dead centre there’s plenty of weight and a very direct response through the steering wheel making tight twisty sections more fun than you can imagine. That meaty feel is also evident when travelling at 110km/h on the freeway, where there's still plenty of weight through the tiller. Again, it’s comparable to the German offerings in this segment, and inspires similar driver confidence. Put that down to the calibration of the Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS).
Hyundai is calling the Elantra 'The Big Small Car' and refreshingly, this isn’t just marketing spin. Big is right, despite being officially classified in the small car segment. There’s a huge amount of open space inside the cabin. Front and back, there is easily enough room for the over-six-foot club, tested and proven with a 6’3” colleague. Plenty of legroom too; heaps up front and unusually so for rear seat passengers.
The seats themselves are nicely bolstered and very easy on your back during longer stints behind the wheel. Fabric upholstery can be so-so when it comes to look and feel, but even in the base model Active the fabric is soft and patterned, for a decent look.
The centre console and dash layout in the new Elantra is very smart and beyond a contemporary look. There’s a lot of attention to detail inside here with plenty of ‘cool’ switchgear with metallic and piano black accents and soft touch materials used throughout.
Stepping up to the mid-spec Elantra Elite adds a premium steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, push-button start with proximity key, rear park assist, front fog lamps, tinted glass, luggage net and 16-inch alloys.
Safety-wise, it doesn’t get any better than a five-star safety rating from ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) whose job it is to carry out a series of crash tests on selected cars to determine the level of occupant safety and then rate the car out of five.
In the all-new Elantra, Hyundai has produced a very strong proposition for Australian new-car buyers. This is a small car that offers big car features with performance, handling and ride as good as the Euro offerings at a much reduced price point.
[gallery order="DESC" columns="4" orderby="title"]