Hmmm… When was the last time we reviewed the Hyundai Elantra Active? That would, in fact, be the review I wrote, not much more than six months ago. Happens a lot at CarAdvice, where we churn through so many new cars, it’s easy to forget what you reviewed and when.
In any case, there’s been an update since then, and here we are. On that occasion, the outgoing model scored a not inconsiderable 8.4 overall – a very solid score in any segment. Headlining those changes are the addition of new variants, but crucially the availability of active safety technology.
Announced back in December 2018, you can read the pricing and specification guide for the full breakdown, but styling and new trim levels are the most obvious changes. Four Elantra trim grades are now available, with two mass market and two performance models comprising the range.
The Active we’ve tested here is the second model up the tree after the entry-level Go, which comes standard with a manual transmission and starts from $21,490 before on-road costs.
Our test Active starts from $25,990 before on-road costs – smack bang in the middle of that fierce battleground for the budget-conscious.
Standard equipment highlights include: an 8.0-inch central touchscreen with satellite navigation including 10 years of free mapping updates, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+, rear-view camera, 3.5-inch driver display, six airbags, tinted windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear-parking sensors, power folding exterior mirrors with LED side indicators, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, and an eight-speaker Infinity audio system.
First up, this new Active is the first Elantra available locally with the 8.0-inch touchscreen and satellite navigation as standard. As is the case with Hyundai product, you can use the proprietary satellite navigation even with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connected too.
We’d recommend forking out for the additional SmartSense pack (available with an automatic transmission only) for $1700. This adds active safety tech including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, driver-attention monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
Yes, $1700 is a significant enough addition cost-wise to notice, but the kit that it brings is good safety technology, especially for younger drivers. And, while this tech is a cost option, one of the letdowns for the previous model was that it wasn’t available at all.
I wrote back in October that this segment is a tough one – and it’s no less competitive now. Think Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf.
There’s plenty for buyers to choose from, covering style, substance, price and standard equipment. Hyundai’s value for money, warranty and running costs add up to a compelling proposition, though.
Under the bonnet you’ll find Hyundai’s familiar MPi 2.0-litre petrol engine, which generates an adequate 112kW at 6200rpm and 192Nm at 4700rpm. If you don’t like the cost of 95RON and 98RON, this engine will run on 91RON or even E10 – not that I would ever put E10 in anything I own.
Against an ADR claim in the low sevens, we saw an indicated return of 10.1L/100km – not too bad given most of our testing was around town in stop/start traffic.
As always, Hyundai’s infotainment is easy to use, clear and concise. Controlling the proprietary system is intuitive and we found CarPlay to work faultlessly also. I love the fact that you don’t have to deal with your smartphone navigation overriding the factory system if you’d rather it didn’t, and the eight-speaker audio system pumps out decent sound quality too.
While I often prefer my smartphone’s navigation, the fact that you aren’t forced to use it is a positive for me.
Bluetooth is likewise crystal clear and reliable for those of you preferring a wireless connection, and there is more than enough clever storage to keep a large smartphone out of the way and not flopping around the centre console or a cupholder.
In fact, space is a visible feature of the Elantra’s cabin – as it has been for some time. There’s ample storage space for all the usual smaller items, but there’s occupant space that makes something of a mockery of what you’d expect from a small car.
Front seats, second row, there’s easily enough room to transport four tall adults, and the cabin ambience is great when you do want to have a conversation with those occupants.
Second-row occupants get more than enough head – and shoulder – room, and the seat itself is also comfortable. The door pockets are useful, as is the console bin, and the glovebox can hide decently sized valuables.
Around town, I love the physical size of the Elantra in terms of getting into and out of congested streets, carparks and shopping centres. That is made easier by the visibility, tight turning circle and sharp steering that’s beautifully weighted at low speed.
While Australians are increasingly buying larger cars – and SUVs specifically – a quick run through town in the Elantra will hammer home the reality that a smaller car can be so much more enjoyable.
The engine is smooth and the six-speed gearbox effective, and while it’s no powerhouse, it works well enough around town. It’s the same experience we had late last year driving the previous model in every sense. The driving experience is comfortable, quiet and insulated, unless you’re pinging the engine right up at redline, but you don’t need to, so that’s not a big deal.
Once again, the local ride and handling tune is excellent, and the Elantra performs really well on our pockmarked roads. It strikes just the right balance for me between that tight, tied-down feeling you would like day-to-day, but also with the requisite bump absorption that our average roads require.
I reckon nailing that balance between ride and handling is one of the real dark arts in automotive engineering, and Hyundai's Australian engineering team gets it right every time.
The Hyundai Elantra is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/100,000km warranty and benefits from a capped-price servicing plan as well. On the safety front, it gets the full five-star ANCAP rating as you’d expect.
Would I buy the Elantra? Absolutely. Would I buy it in Active trim grade? I actually think this might be the sweet spot in the range, so yes, I would, but I’d also opt for the extra safety kit as mentioned above.
It’s an impressive entrant in a crowded and competitive segment. Hyundai’s warranty and servicing programme is worthy of note, as is its reputation for reliability and build quality.
I’ve written it here so many times before, but don’t just rush out to buy an SUV like everyone else does. Have a look at segments that offer compelling value for money like the Elantra.
The driving experience will almost certainly be more enjoyable into the bargain. In fact, I think I wrote exactly that at the end of my last Elantra review.
UPDATE: The new 2021 i30 Sedan – which replaces the Elantra naming here – is now on sale in Australia. See our pricing story here, and watch for our review on Friday.