Korean sedan gets the update drop on its better-selling hatch sibling.

Meet the most popular Hyundai on the planet.

Sedans may be on the nose in Australia but the humble Elantra is a bestseller for the brand worldwide.

In Australia, the Elantra plays second fiddle to the i30 hatch, which outsells it roughly four to one.

But Hyundai says there is still healthy demand for a small sedan, particularly among older parents whose children have moved out of home.

Buyers are either upgrading from a hatch or moving out of an SUV or large sedan they owned by necessity when their kids were younger.

Thanks to its global importance, the Elantra has been updated before the i30, with a new look, technology upgrades and a more powerful engine.

The 1.8-litre has been replaced by a bigger 2.0-litre engine that has more torque available lower in the rev range for better pick-up off the mark. But there’s a catch. At a time when there is plenty of focus on fuel economy and emissions, the new model is thirstier than the one it replaces.

Hyundai says the difference on the automatic version amounts to just 15 litres more petrol over a year for the average motorist. The manual is thirstier.

The price has also gone up $500 to $21,490 on the entry level model although Hyundai says about $2000 worth of equipment has been added.

The cost of adding an automatic transmission is above average — $2300.

Hyundai says local development work has made the car more refined, comfortable and responsive on typical Australian roads.

The better equipped, auto-only Elite costs $26,490, or $300 less than the previous model, with what the maker says is between $2000 and $2500 worth of extra gear.

A more powerful SR sports model with a 150kW turbo engine and sports suspension tuning will join the range midyear.

Standard gear on the base model includes reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels with full-size spare, LED daytime running lights, auto headlights and seven-inch centre screen that hooks up to Apple Car Play — if you have an iPhone. If your phone is Android-based, you may want to put off buying until the third quarter of this year when the technology becomes available.

The Elite gets leather-appointed seats, climate-control airconditioning, smart key and push button start, bigger wheels and a larger digital display between the speedo and tacho.

The headline act of the new car is the stiffer body and revised front and rear suspension. Hyundai says local development work has made the car more refined, comfortable and responsive on typical Australian roads.

Six airbags are standard but there is none of the active safety technology that is becoming more common on rivals. There is no automated braking at low speeds, no blind spot monitor or lane departure warning.

Hyundai says added safety gear could be available on the SR model and flow through to other grades later in the year but is making no promises.

It also says it is expecting no surprises when the car is crash tested. The company was embarrassed last year by a four-star rating for its Tucson SUV (it has since been retested and awarded five stars).

The new Elantra is slightly longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, with more shoulder, head and leg room. The boot is slightly smaller than before because of the new rear suspension set up.

On the road

The sedan may not be a sales rival for the i30 hatch, let alone a sports car, but thanks to this update it is now a noticeably better car to drive.

The bigger engine feels stronger off the mark and more refined when asked to work hard. The six-speed transmission also works well, shifting smoothly and responding quickly when asked to kick down.

As with the recent Tucson, the highlight of the new Elantra is the way it soaks up bumps and corrugations at speed. The ride is comfortable but also composed — it doesn’t jar over sharp edges and settles quickly after bigger bumps.

The steering is accurate and well weighted and the car feels nimble through the corners, although the tyres on the Active model lack grip. The bigger wheel and tyre combination on the Elite feels better.

Trimmed with lots of dark grey, the cabin is plain but comfortable and functional. The CarPlay setup’s navigation, phone and entertainment controls are easy to use (if you have an iPhone). Headroom is good in the front and acceptable in the back.