The Elantra nameplate (which actually started out as Lantra after a mystifying legal challenge from Mitsubishi) has been kicking around our shores for nearly 30 years.
It’s had its hits and misses – the first car was solid, dependable but had a rubbish Mitsubishi (there’s some irony for you) engine in it, the second one was curvy and confident and an in-house effort. Things were looking good and then the wheels pretty much fell off in the late 1990s.
There was a long period in the wilderness while Hyundai messed about with styling ideas and actually getting things right before the just-replaced version appeared in 2011, to supplement the smash-hit Hyundai i30. With a new i30 on the way, the new Elantra is here to pre-empt the sales-smash hatch.
Compared to the hatch and wagon i30 range, the sedan is pretty tight – a manual or auto Active at $21,490 and $23,790 respectively and the Elite auto we had at $26,490. All three have the same 2.0 MPI engine from the Tucson Active.
Being the top of the small range, the Elite scores 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, USB and Apple CarPlay, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, cruise control, leather trim (some real, some not), folding heated exterior mirror, power windows all round, auto headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, full-size spare, hands-free boot opening and a trip computer.
Hyundai charges $495 for metallic paint, which makes up six of the seven colours available. Ours came in the fetching Fiery Red (which isn’t what it sounds like, it’s far more tasteful), bringing the total to $26,985.
The Hyundai warranty is an extra-long five years/unlimited kilometres with free roadside assist for the duration, as well as lifetime fixed priced servicing.
For comparison, the Corolla ZR sedan is $30,990, with a less powerful engine and CVT, but does include in-built sat nav and front parking sensors. The Mazda3 Touring sedan is a more competitive $26,790 and has similar extras to the Corolla, more power and a handy safety pack option, but the interior has some ropey moments.
The Elantra seems like a car of two halves; the front half is very well resolved, with lots of low, horizontal lines to accentuate its width and make it look lower.
The front profile is also flattering, but then it all goes a tiny bit Prius as the windowline heads for a falling, coupe-style roofline at the C-pillar. The silhouette is fine, but this upkick doesn’t work and makes the car look a bit weak. That skyward flick is also echoed with an extravagant bootlid that looks a bit better.
It all comes together again at the rear, with sleek LED-alike taillights that look fantastic at night. You can also pick the Elite from Active with a bit of chrome in the front grille and along the beltline, plus its funky LED daytime running lights.
Front-seat passengers are well looked after, with oodles of head and shoulder room as well as comfortable seats that offer a good range of adjustment. The driver also scores a reach and tilt steering wheel.
Rear-seat occupants are going to be fine as long as nobody in the car is over six-foot, as the falling roofline cuts into headroom. There’s good leg and knee room for that height and just enough room to squeeze big feet under the front seats.
Storage comes in the form of a pair of cupholders front and rear to bring the total to four. Each door can hold a 500ml bottle and there’s a deep, rectangular bin under the front armrest and a good-sized glovebox.
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.
The nifty ‘Smart Boot’, which has to be activated through the dashboard, is a nice touch.
There’s a bit of penny-pinching evident in the boot though – the exposed metal isn’t carpeted or properly painted and even though the cargo net is welcome, you have to undo it to access the spare tyre, then faff about to put the anchor rings back through the slots cut into the carpet.
Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, brake assist, brake force distribution all add up to the maximum five-star rating.
The seven-inch screen – available across the range – runs both the standard Hyundai head unit, which is perfectly acceptable if a bit Fisher Price-looking, or you can plug in your iPhone to get CarPlay up on the screen, which takes care of your music, messages and phone stuff. You can also tell Siri to play your music library or use a streaming service like Pandora or Spotify.
The nifty ‘Smart Boot’, which has to be activated through the dashboard, is a nice touch. You just have to walk up behind the boot and stand there for three seconds and the lid will pop. No need to wave your foot around like you’re playing a game of slow-motion air soccer.
Engine and transmission
The Elantra’s motivation comes from Hyundai’s own 2.0 MPI, good for 112kW and 192Nm. Hyundai says you’ll get around 7.2L/100km in the 1355kg Elantra on the combined cycle. The lightish kerb weight no doubt helps, while the lack of stop-start tech evidently does not.
We got 9.6L/100km over a couple of weeks of mostly city driving, which could be better. With figures like these, the 50-litre tank restricts the range a little.
The new Elantra is a rather more serene experience than the old car and that is mostly down to a Herculean effort to reduce noise from all sources. The engine noise is a distant hum below 4000rpm and a bit of a drone over that speed, but keeps mostly to itself.
Road noise is particularly well suppressed, meaning a very quiet cabin for your daily commute or trip to the country.
Even with the torsion beam rear end, the ride is very composed indeed, with even big Sydney bumps failing to make much of an impression on passengers.
The engine power is obviously never going to mark out the Elantra as a beast, but it does the job. One imagines that the target market isn’t looking for anything other than adequate acceleration and that’s exactly what the car delivers.
The numbers are a little skinny and the transmission can sometimes be caught out, but as long as you keep the pedal away from the carpet, you’ll not find anything to get upset about.
Unfortunately, the steering has a very artificial-feeling weight to it. When you turn through corners the assistance drops off a little too enthusiastically. It’s not bad, it’s just weird and could do with a bit more fine-tuning.