Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Hyundai Elantra Active with specs, fuel consumption and verdict. 

Hyundai's Elantra has been one the Korean brand's mainstays for almost three decades. In the early 1990s, it was the first car Hyundai sold that wasn't mostly somebody else's under the badges, and has kept on keeping on (most of the time) in the local line-up.

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The car itself has been ever-changing, swinging wildly between design languages, capability and attractiveness. The just-replaced version, which has been with us since 2011, was a bit unusual. It clearly belonged to the i30 family but Hyundai kept the name and it sold pretty well in its own right in a contracting market.

Now there's a brand new car, giving us a bit of a preview of the new i30 and cementing the Elantra's place in the Hyundai range.

Value

The three-model Elantra range is a fairly simple proposition – they all have a 2.0 MPI naturally aspirated engine and you can have a six-speed manual or automatic transmission in the Active, whereas the $26,490 Elite is auto-only.

The profile itself looks great, with a four-door coupe shape and a short boot deck.

The Active we had was the auto, weighing in at $23,790, $2300 more than the manual. Both Actives are otherwise identically specified with 16-inch alloys, six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, USB and Apple CarPlay, air-conditioning, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, cloth trim, heated rear vision mirrors, full-size spare and trip computer.

Hyundai's uncommonly long five year/unlimited kilometre warranty is worth mentioning, as is free roadside assist for the same duration and lifetime fixed price servicing.  

Design

The new car is a bit of a mixed bag – the front end is consistent with the new Hyundai design language headed by ex-Audi man (and now a president of Hyundai-Kia) Peter Schreyer. It's dominated by a five-point grille that has the effect of visually widening and lowering the car. The new projector headlights, with LED-like daytime running lights, do the same thing.

The profile itself looks great, with a four-door coupe shape and a short boot deck. It goes a bit awkward at the C-pillar where the glass suddenly heads skywards to meet the diving roof. It looks a bit Prius-ey and was something that didn't work on the old car.

Inside there is plenty of space for up to five people. There's lots of head, leg and shoulder room for front-seat passengers, with good legroom and kneeroom for rear-seat occupants. That diving roofline does cut into headroom, meaning 180cm is about as tall as you'd want to be before developing a bald(er) spot.

The overall design of the interior is good but there are some naff bits, like the cheap-looking “metallic finish” scattered around the cabin, which looks like something from older Hyundais. That's the only real complaint in what is an otherwise good-looking and well-designed cabin that's as honest as you'd expect for the money, but better than pretty much any of its Japanese, Korean or European rivals.

Hyundai seems to have gone for “serene” with the Elantra and has hit the mark with almost alarming accuracy.

There are cupholders front and rear for a total of four and each door pocket has a bulge for a bottle holder, enough for a 500ml bottle. Under the front armrest there's a deep, rectangular bin and the glovebox has room to spare, even with the hefty owner's manual in there. There's also a lidded cubby hole under the air-con controls.

The boot is a pretty decent size, shaming larger cars with its 458 litres. The rear seats are a 60/40 split but the aperture is considerably narrower than the boot opening.

Safety

Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, brake assist, brake force distribution all add up to the maximum five-star ANCAP rating.

Sadly there are no safety option packs to add things like rear cross traffic or autonomous emergency braking.

Features

The seven-inch touchscreen – standard across the Elantra range – runs Hyundai's standard low-end interface, which is perfectly fine, if very blue. If you've got an iPhone, your lightning cable is all you'll need to transform the screen into Apple's CarPlay interface. This lets you use the phone's satnav (well, Apple Maps), music and other apps like Pandora and Spotify. Eventually, as in the Tucson Active and Active X, Android Auto will be available.

Engine and Transmission

The Elantra range is powered by Hyundai's own 2.0-litre MPI naturally aspirated four cylinder, producing 112kW and 192Nm. Hyundai reckons you'll get about 7.2L/100km on the combined cycle to lug the sedan's 1275kg about. There's no 0-100km/h but it's unlikely to be very far south of 10 seconds, if at all.

Our time with the car saw us average 9L/100km, slightly better than what we got in the slightly heavier Elite.

Driving  

Hyundai seems to have gone for “serene” with the Elantra and has hit the mark with almost alarming accuracy. The old car wasn't exactly a world-beater when it came to overall refinement, so this new Elantra is doubly impressive.

It's not a particularly interesting engine but it's highly unlikely you'll care – it does the job well and without fuss.

Ride, road noise, wind noise and engine hum are all distant on everything but the worst surfaces. The powerplant still has an unpleasant drone about it under load, but now you are far less likely to hear or feel it.  

It's a competent and secure handler in just about any conditions and on any surface, with just the weird, over-enthusiastic weight change in the electric steering that we spotted in the Elite (thankfully, Hyundai has flung the silly FlexSteer gimmick, which has the happy knock-on effect of removing buttons from the steering wheel). It's not bad, it's just strange.

The ride is excellent around town and in the quick stuff, but you know that it will understeer determinedly once the front tyres do let go. It's not a hot hatch, and it isn't meant to be.

The 2.0 MPI is the lowest-powered version of its size in the Hyundai range. It's not a particularly interesting engine but it's highly unlikely you'll care – it does the job well and without fuss. It could do with stop-start, though, to cut its thirst a little.