What is it?
In the absence of the Sonata, this is now Hyundai’s flagship sedan. The new Elantra comes off as a more mature version of the earlier car. Gone are the swoopy, curvy lines of the earlier ‘fluidic’ car, and in its place are more subdued and crisper lines. It’s what Hyundai defines as Fluidic Sculpture 2.0.
The front is dominated by a large angular hexagonal grille with straight-lined chrome bars; very Audi like. On either side of the grille are angular headlights which on the top-spec model are High Intensity Discharge (HID) units with LED DRLs. Sitting below the lights are large vertical ‘brackets’ with inset projector fog lights, which give the Elantra an individual identity. However, some may find this overdone. These brackets aren’t just design elements, but have a functional job too. They house inlets that send air through the bumper and around the wheels to form an ‘air curtain’ that smoothens the airflow around the wheels thus improving fuel economy and cutting wind noise.
The side is where the new Elantra bears a strong resemblance to the older car. Both the old and new cars have a tapered rear window line, a gently rising waistline and a sharp coupé roofline. At the rear, the new car gets smart-looking horizontal split tail-light units with LED lights on all but the base version.
Below the new skin is a monocoque with a higher percentage of high strength steel, up to 53 percent over the older car's 21 percent, giving the new Elantra a higher torsional stiffness. Hyundai also states that the new car uses 40 times more structural adhesives over the old car.
What’s it like on the inside?
Like the exterior, the interiors too are a departure from the curvy design of the predecessor, with the straight-edged styling details giving it a very Teutonic touch. The dash holds a large 8.0-inch touchscreen which, apart from the regular connectivity options like USB and Bluetooth, also features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument panel has two circular dials for the speedo and tacho and a 3.5-inch mono TFT screen that displays the trip computer info.
The front seats are large, and a segment first is the three-level controlled ventilation system. I tried it out and it was super effective – you feel your hind sides getting cooler in a matter of seconds. Given the sloping roofline rear, headroom at the rear was bound to be tight but the seat base is set deep with an upward slope giving you a low seating position and decent under thigh support. Headroom is just about sufficient for average-sized adults. Also, the rear windows do seem a little narrow and while it isn't claustrophobic, it doesn’t give you a wide and open feeling either.
Like the ventilated seats, another unique feature on the Elantra is the smart boot unlocking system that automatically pops open the trunk lid when you merely stand next to it, if the key is on you. No waving your arms or shaking your leg around the bumper; it needs you to stand next to it for about three seconds, so that it won’t mistakenly pop open if you walk past the back. But it also means it will open if you stop to talk to someone briefly. I tried this out but had mixed results with the system working erratically.
Unlike past Hyundais, the Elantra isn’t loaded to the gills by segment standards. Yes, it does have some first-in-class features but the car does miss out on some crucial items like rain-sensing wipers, paddler shifters, memory seats and front parking sensors, among a few other smaller bits.
What’s it like to drive?
The Elantra is powered by a 152hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and 128hp 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel unit, both paired to six-speed manual or auto units. I got behind the wheel of a diesel manual and a petrol automatic.
The diesel is Hyundai’s tried and tested U2 engine and, on the Elantra, it feels adequate but not really powerful. Power delivery is nice and linear all through the rev range but does not have that exciting surge at any point. Refinement levels of the engine are excellent, especially at idle with barely any sound or vibrations entering the cabin.
The petrol on the other hand offers a more exciting drive and is equally refined only getting noisy higher in its rev range. The auto box come with three modes – Normal, Eco and Sport – that alters the shift points. Even in Normal mode though it seemed a little too eager to shift down a gear – just a light tap of the throttle orders a downshift.
Hyundai seems to have made great strides with the suspension. It soaks up bumps really well and has a very European feel (firm and well controlled) to it. The steering, though better weighted, is still typically Hyundai and not very engaging.
Should I buy one?
The Elantra enters a segment with quite a few rivals, but the Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Corolla Altis and Chevrolet Cruze are all fairly long in the tooth now, and while the Octavia is new, well equipped and drives well, the Skoda is pricey and dealer support and other service issues are yet to be sorted out.
Hyundai has given the Elantra a very competitive pricing. The base petrol car at Rs 12.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) is the cheapest model in the segment while the top-spec diesel at Rs 19.9 lakh is lower than European rivals. However, the Elantra range is no longer as well equipped as before and the real goodies like the ventilated seats and sunroof as well as safety kits like side airbags and speed-sensing door locks are reserved for the top trim automatic version only, which cost a substantial premium over the fully loaded manual versions.
As things stand, the Elantra isn’t going singularly rev up excitement in the flagging executive sedan segment. But what it does do is offer up is an interesting proposition against the other players with a modern feel, a well-sorted ride, comfortable interiors, decent equipment and a tempting asking price, all of which is backed by a proven service network. With all that taken into consideration, the Elantra does then seem to have what it takes to be the segment leader.