In 2016, I decided to trade in my manual Alfa Romeo for an automatic, as my wife wasn't too comfortable with manual transmissions. We were looking for something in the vicinity of $30–$40K, not a hatchback (wife doesn't like them) and with a bit of poke.
After much contemplation, we ended up with an A3, a base WRX and the recently launched Elantra SR. The reviews for the Elantra had recently been published, and were largely positive in their appraisal due to the Elantra's value proposition and locally tuned suspension.
After a test drive and bargaining 10 per cent off the RRP (the car was only 1–2 weeks old at the time), five years complimentary servicing and SR-branded mats, we opted for a black Elantra SR Turbo, DCT with the standard black interior.
Cost of ownership
Almost 1.5 years and 20,000km later, we've had absolutely no issues with the car whatsoever. Real-world economy sits around 8–9L/100km primarily composed of metro commuting with intermittent spirited driving, while we see 5.5–6.5L/100km when cruising on highways.
Despite having five years of complimentary services, based on the invoices a standard service at our local Hyundai dealership would cost $200–$280. The only downside of the five-year warranty is that the servicing intervals are 12 months/10,000km. Given we drive approximately 15,000km per annum, we find ourselves checking in the car every eight months.
Although difficult to determine, based on the prices I've observed I'd expect the car to depreciate by around 40 per cent at the three-year mark ($18–$20K) with 30–40,000km on the odometer, which is pretty reasonable.
Neither poor nor class leading. For $30K give or take, I'm pretty content. Highlights include the flat-bottomed leather steering wheel with paddle shifters and relatively comfortable seats. The driver's seat is electrically adjustable with lumbar support, and both front seats have heating, while the rear has its own set of air vents.
The back is spacious for a car of its size, and although not an issue for my occupants or I, rear passengers over 6ft would definitely be wanting more head room due to the sloping roof line.
Seats are the standard vinyl-like leather that's been pretty durable over the 18-odd months. There's been no noticeable wear or fading, with my only gripe being some minor creasing on the bottom of one or two of the seats.
Although lacking any navigation system, CarPlay (Apple/Android) comes standard and makes up for any UI/UX deficiencies. The speakers aren't bad or world-beating, and most of the plastics are quite hard (cheap) with only some soft-touch materials scattered around the cabin. There are plenty of storage spots and two USB charging ports.
I quite like the look of the car – it reminds me a bit of an S3 from its rear profile. It's sporty and athletic without being too aggressive. My only concerns are the lack of a rear wiper and that the paint seems to be quite 'thin'. Compared with other cars owned, I feel the paint can be scratched with relative ease and the layer isn't as thick, with light scratches exposing the base layer.
Performance and Handling
The DCT is quite good. I find it better suited than the CVT unit found in our ’16 Subaru Forester. In Eco mode it shifts rapidly to keep revs low, while in Sport mode it can hang at 2500rpm for a few seconds while waiting for further input. Shifts are sharp in auto, with minor lag noticed when opting for manual mode and/or taking off from the line. Some mild hesitation with the DCT is also observed when slow to rapid acceleration is required as the unit downshifts.
The engine is spritely. I've never driven any moderately powered cars (2.4-litre ES Lancer, 1.4-litre turbo Alfa and a range of SUVs), so I find 150kW and circa 265Nm quite suitable as a place to start. Matched with the DCT, we clock 0–100km/h in 6.5–7.2 seconds (condition dependent), primarily limited by turbo lag and the likelihood of axle tramp if you go hard in first gear. Throttle response and power bands could definitely be improved with a basic tune, while the exhaust note is nothing to rave about.
The ride is pretty compliant on the standard 17-inch rims and tyres. Most peg the tyres as a relative weak spot, but I haven't seen anything wrong with them. Perhaps better tyres (and/or an LSD) would help mitigate some of the axle tramp under heavy acceleration in first gear (or in the wet). The suspension set-up is strong, as pointed out in all of the professional reviews surrounding the car's release, while some mild body roll can definitely be noticed under heavy cornering.
The car has your basic features/aids such as blind spot monitoring, airbags, cruise control, reversing camera, and front and rear proximity sensors (audio). The car also beeps when reversing if a car or pedestrian is passing behind you.
For some, it would be lacking adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane assist and stop/start technology. I don't care too much for these and manually disable them on our Subaru as I find them a hindrance.
Would I recommend this car? 100 per cent! You'll struggle to find a new, equivalently spec'd car in this price range. The design, performance, features and low running costs make for an exceptional value proposition for anyone looking at a small-medium 'warm' sedan.
As good as it is, there's room for improvement with some of the interior (plastics/speakers/rear head room), exterior components (paint/no rear wiper) and general characteristics (tyres/axle tramp). Reports from the USA suggest that a basic tune may also significantly improve the throttle response and power curve. The car is also missing safety features/driver aids that may matter to some, but not others.
The temptation to modify the car is strong, albeit limited to overseas vendors (who are going pretty hard in the Kia/Hyundai mod scene). Instead, I'm planning on selling later this year and looking into the Stinger, Megane Trophy (when released) or 2018 Mustang.