The new Elantra looks even better than the last one. But what's it like behind the wheel?
The stunning 2006 Civic sedan was the first car in its class to carry a low-slung look. Designers used a low grille, a shallow bonnet, a steeply raked windscreen, a rising shoulder line and a relatively low roof to successfully deliver the impression of a car that sat really low to ground. Yes, a couple of European luxury carmakers had used a similar look before, and so had a few from the US, but Honda was the first to bring the low-slung trend to the mass market. And initially, the reaction was just fantastic; people just stared at the car when it hit our roads.
Even more attractive was the car that followed a few years later; Hyundai’s fifth-generation Elantra. A car that wholeheartedly embraced the ‘low-slung’ look as well as Hyundai’s fluidic design philosophy, the Elantra was both perfectly proportioned and beautifully detailed. Many, in fact, felt the Elantra was Hyundai’s best-looking car ever. And many still do.
But while the low-slung look made these cars look extremely attractive and initial demand was good, many customers in the later years thought these cars were a bit too impractical for everyday use (even though in reality they weren’t). Honda was quick to react and put a high-nosed version of the Civic into the US market; it immediately went on to become the bestselling car in the US. Fast forward a few years later and Hyundai, today, has done something similar with the new Elantra, a car that’s headed here next month.
Walking up to the white car for the first time draws mixed reactions. I sort of miss the flowing lines of the earlier car. I miss the stance, and I miss the view from the rear with the long tail-lights running around the back. And those big rear-wheel arches, I kind of liked them too. But I like this new car as well, a lot, and walking around the car allows me to take it in all at once. One thing’s for sure, this new Elantra does look like it has evolved from the earlier one. And this is clear when you look at the roofline and the boot, which, in profile, look similar.
The nose of the new Elantra, however, is all new. More ‘stand up’ now, the higher cowl and the more conventional bonnet give the front an all-new look. And the tall, Audi-like hexagonal grille helps differentiate it to a large extent too. Other elements that work particularly well include the strong bonnet ‘V’ that blends perfectly with the grille, the headlights that fit in with the grille perfectly and I also like how the rounded air dam is supported by the tall vertical ‘brackets’. The latter, interestingly, aren’t there for decoration only, but have a practical use as well; they house air inlets that channel the airflow through the bumper and around the front wheels, forming what is known as an ‘air curtain’. This reduces turbulence around the front wheels and improves stability and fuel economy. The new nose also makes the car look more compact in profile, despite the fact that the new car is actually longer. Around the back, the nicely executed rear looks quite attractive as well, especially with the LED inserts in the tail-lights on.