It was the start of a fantastic roadtrip just before the loud bang. The sun was on the horizon, I’d just grabbed some breakfast and a little outside Pune, a dog jumped out from behind a bush and I hit it. Hard. There was a loud noise, a lot of water spray and a howling dog that picked itself up and ran away. Damages to the car included a cracked bumper, a broken windshield washer reservoir (it sits just behind the bumper), a broken foglamp and inner wheel arch cladding. Not the ideal start to the Christmas break, but then again, the dog survived — a tribute to the Elantra’s animal/pedestrian friendliness?
The rest of the 3600km round trip to Kerala was uneventful and I’m quite impressed with the big strides Hyundai has made with the Elantra as a highway car. It’s the kind of car that allows you to consume long distances without too much effort. The quiet, smooth diesel engine and tall sixth gear allow you to glide at highway speeds for hours on end. Most importantly though, the ride is flat and the car grips well. This assists you in maintaining respectable average speeds — important when you have to cover the 1000km from Mumbai to Bangalore before nightfall.
The road also aided my trip. The NH4 is mostly four-lane with lots of six-lane bits, little traffic once you’re out of Maharashtra and in a state of good repair, so you can really gobble up the distance if you’re in an able car.
The Elantra's low beam doesn’t have enough spread or throw. You need to keep switching to high beam.
The Elantra is an able car, just that the front seats lack a bit of shoulder support. So more than 300km at a stretch warrants you to step out and flex a bit.
Bangalore’s heavy traffic had my left leg aching. The clutch has become quite heavy over the 20,000km we’ve had the car and the way it engages at slow speeds means the Elantra isn’t the easiest to drive smoothly in traffic. Still, I’m none too worse for wear (excluding a minor back ache), having covered the 1002km from Santacruz in Mumbai to the Domlur Layout in Bangalore in a little over 12 hours.
The Elantra's engine is smooth and quiet. Cruises very well on highways.
It was Kerala for the next two weeks and, because home is at the foothills of the Western Ghats, a lot of driving through tight, twisty roads — the same ones I learnt to drive on. The Elantra proved to be fun to drive, although the steep rake angle of the A-pillar did leave me with big blind spots through some of the tighter corners. The engine also falls off boost a lot when you’re driving uphill, so you have to row through the gears quite a bit. While on the subject, I found the 1.6-litre motor’s 120bhp adequate for most situations, except when the car is fully loaded. Also, you’ll wish for a bit more grunt when you’re at speed and need that extra bit for an overtaking move. It was back to Bangalore for a wedding and then Mumbai again, and all without a single issue.
Spaghetti-like roads near my home in Kerala. The Elantra took to them well.
This roadtrip was, in a way, a great way to say goodbye to our longtermer. When it joined the Autocar fleet a year ago, I wasn’t too keen on it. I assumed it would drive with the usual waywardness that all Hyundais before it had. How wrong I was — it’s not as surefooted as its German rivals, but it’s almost there. It certainly looks a lot sharper, is a lot better equipped and a lot cheaper than them as well. The rear seats are good (my parents will vouch for this) and there’s enough boot space for two large suitcases, a small one and a haversack. One thing you should know though — there’s a big difference in ground clearance when the car is fully loaded. With five well-fed wedding guests on board, the car scraped its belly over a lot of Bangalore’s speed breakers.
Over the time we’ve had the Elantra, it’s not been too expensive to maintain either. The service intervals are at 1200km, 10,000km and 20,000km, and labour is free on these services. Consumables will, according to Hyundai, work up to a maximum of Rs 14,000 over these 20,000km, depending on what needs replacement.
What we at Autocar need now is a replacement for a car that has proven to be reliable and comfortable and, most importantly, quietly impressed all of us who drove it. The Elantra will be missed.
Hyundai Elantra SX CRDi M/T
Price: Rs 18.42 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 15.8kpl
Maintenance costs: None