With the all-new Elantra, Hyundai is taking a fresh crack at the tiny executive sedan segment, which is currently dominated by the Toyota Corolla and the Skoda Octavia. It’s a segment most of other manufacturers have given up on because of small volumes. Hyundai doesn’t seem to think so. Though the sales numbers maybe small, the Elantra is an important brand builder for the Korean company.
The car is about to be launched in India next month at an estimated Rs 17 lakh, and here’s what it’s all about.
At first glance, I miss the flowing lines and stance of the earlier Elantra. But the new car is attractive in its own right, and looks like an evolution of the last one.
Up front, the strong ‘V’ of the bonnet and headlights perfectly converge into an upright, Audi-like hexagonal grille. The new front-end also makes the car look more compact, despite it actually being longer than before. The rear too looks quite attractive, especially with the LED inserts in the tail-lights.
The new Elantra’s suspension has been improved for a better ride, and now, there’s also a ‘Drive Mode’ system that has three settings — Normal, Eco and Sport. This system alters the car’s steering and the engine’s responsiveness, depending on the mode you choose.
Six-airbags come as standard in most markets, and there are a host of driver aids and safety systems — a blind spot detection system and radar-based cruise control, to name a few. But what exactly we’ll get on the India-spec car, however, isn’t clear yet.
Setting off from rest in the new Elantra is a smooth affair and it surprisingly offers a better driving experience than many of its Japanese competitors. The cabin is now more silent, a fact that’s evident at highway speeds.
It feels stable and solid at speed and there is no nervousness. The Elantra tucks into corners quite effortlessly and even the brakes deliver a confidence-inspiring bite.
Yes, the steering is quite lifeless and doesn’t give you enough feedback from the road but for most purposes, it’s pretty direct and accurate.
Even the ride is pretty good; the Elantra sponges up surface imperfections quite easily. It, however, isn’t as good over the bigger potholes. For the Indian market, a beefier, stiffer suspension is expected.
What was lacking on the Elantra , was a bit of performance. This motor isn’t impressive when driven enthusiastically. Also, the six-speed automatic is slow when downshifting. However, the good news is that Hyundai plans on bringing a peppier 149hp 2.0-litre engine to India – and this is likely to come with a nicer twin-clutch auto gearbox.
As on most Hyundais, the cabin’s built to a very high standard, and is lavishly equipped. The electric front seats are wide, large and supportive, and even get a memory function, and so, you can get comfortable in the driver’s seat in a jiffy. At the rear, although you’re sat a bit low, there’s a fair amount of legroom. What could be an issue for taller passengers, is the headroom, owing to the sloping roof.
While the earlier Elantra’s interior had a fairly outlandish design, this new car is almost Germanic, both in its attention to detail and form. The instrument panel, centre console and steering wheel look neat and the fit, finish and build is nearly as good as on Skoda or VW cars. Even functionality is great. You get ventilated seats as on the earlier car, and the Elantra gets another unique feature; Hyundai’s Smart Trunk system. Stand next to the boot for a bit with just the key in your pocket, and it will flash its tail-lights twice at you and open up.
In all, Hyundai’s new Elantra is a big step forward over the earlier car. The new design is sure to attract many potential buyers, the cabin is well built and comfortable and the Hyundai, with its new engine for India, is likely to be fun to drive as well.
Yes, it’s up against established cars like the Skoda Octavia and the Toyota Corolla. But as a package, the new Elantra is likely to be a much more competitive executive sedan and a more compelling buy.