Looks are conservative but starting price, quality handling and upmarket touches make the sedan hard to beat.
The next Hyundai i30 is going to be good. I'm not Nostradamus but it's easy to make a confident prediction when you've already driven the future.
In this case, the future of the i30 is wrapped inside the latest Hyundai Elantra.
So I can say with absolute certainty the more mature feel of the latest Elantra, together with its quieter cabin and more upmarket final finishing, will be mirrored in the i30.
I'd also expect the quality handling and ride of the Elantra to carry over to the i30.
I'm not sold on the sedan's cuts-and-creases styling but it is designed for conservative customers in the likes of the US and China.
The i30 should be more modern and European, since that's the primary customer base. We won't know until it is previewed at a major motor show, most likely in Europe, in the latter part of the year.
It is not tinny or rattly, feels taut at all times
There's another query about the compact contenders from the South Korean maker: why is the Elantra here already when the i30 is still months away?
For the answer, look at the popularity of four-doors in countries other than Australia. The buying ratio is about 80-20 globally in favour of the sedan — here the numbers flip to 80-20 for the hatch.
So the Elantra sedan comes first and provides one of the best contenders in the class, with a starting price from $21,490 for the base Active spec. The test Elite is up a bit at $26,490 but the increase is easy to justify with its leather seats, LED light package, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone auto aircon, push-button start and even illuminated vanity mirrors (missing from the Active).
The mechanical package is the same for the range, with the front-drive 2.0-litre petrol four making 112kW/192Nm. The Elite comes only as a six-speed auto, which makes life easier but slightly slower — the six-speed manual in the Active clocks 8.8 seconds from rest to 100km/h but the Elite does a leisurely 9.9.
The Elite is fractionally heavier on fuel at 7.2L/100km but that's still fine for the class. The best thing about the new Elantra is its feel. It is not tinny or rattly, feels taut at all times, and the things you can see and touch are a cut above the i30 and many of its opponents.
Hyundai knows the first impression in the showroom is super-important today (that's what gets lots of Audi customers inside the first minute) and that means soft-touch plastics on the Elantra's top surfaces, a dash that is clean with tight tolerances, and controls with a substantial feel.
The same approach pays off from the opening minutes at the wheel, as the car feels compliant in the suspension with well-sorted damping, good brakes and plenty of cornering grip.
It's no sports car. I can't wait for the more youthful i30 and even an SR model with a turbo engine.
Bluetooth connection, however, is awful and could even be a deal-breaker for some people.
Easy to park and with a useful boot, the Elantra also has pretty good rear vision — many hatches are more pinched in the tail than sedans.
It's a little strange, though, that Hyundai does not give a tow rating for the Elantra. There are huge numbers of new family-first utes in Australia but some people still have a baby pop-up camper or a box trailer for weekend runs to the tip.
There is no ANCAP safety rating yet but, even with its rear-view camera and solid suite of airbags, it is unlikely to score five stars in Australia without such active safety gear as auto safety braking.
For me, the worst thing about the Elantra is the multimedia setup. The display is big enough and clear enough, the sound is all right although the radio reception could be better.
Bluetooth connection, however, is awful and could even be a deal-breaker for some people. It's more blu-toot than Bluetooth, with clarity (a misnomer) that's easily the worst in my recent experience.
Hyundai needs to get serious about the problem and ensure it's not repeated in coming models, particularly the new Veloster and i30.