Ford Focus VS Hyundai Elantra
- Great chassis
- Surprising engine
- Optional advanced safety
- Better tyres would be nice
- Too many optional colours
- All variants fun to drive
- Sensible spec levels
- Standard multimedia set-up
- Optional safety on Go & Active
- No radar safety on Sport
- Polarising looks
Ford's small hatch, the Focus, is criminally under-bought in Australia. The latest model is one of the best hatchbacks on the road and when you chuck in the decent price, impressive equipment and absurdly powerful engine for its size, it's a winner.
But you lot? You don't buy it in nearly the kinds of numbers it deserves. Partly because there isn't a bait-and-upsell boggo model to lure you in, partly because it's got a badge that is not exciting Australians any more and partly because it's not a compact SUV.
Or is(n't) it? Because alongside the ST-Line warm hatch is the identically priced and therefore technically a co-entry level model; the Focus Active. Slightly higher, with plastic cladding, drive modes and a conspicuous L on the transmission shifter, it's a little bit SUV, right?
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Is there a place for the humble sedan in 2019?
Hyundai seems to think so. And so for 2019 it has overhauled its Elantra range, with a polarising new look and interesting new trim levels.
Is the price right to push the Elantra to the forefront, though? Or is the i30’s less-famous sedan sibling destined to be overlooked?
We’ve spent some time in each of the Elantra’s four variants over the past few months to find out. Read on to see what’s what, and which one is our pick of the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Ten years ago, the idea that the higher-riding version of a hatchback would be a good city car would have been laughable. The Focus Active is pitched as a kind of SUV with its different low-grip driving modes, which you'll never touch if you stick to the city.
The Ford Focus is genuinely a brilliant car, no matter where you take it. The Active takes a terrific chassis, tweaks it for comfort but, ironically, doesn't lose much of the speed.
The Elantra might be overlooked compared to its famous i30 stablemate, but it shouldn’t be. It’s every bit as entertaining to drive and just as well equipped.
It’s a shame active safety is on the option list for lower trim levels, and there’s no radar features on higher ones, and the unnecessary styling changes might polarise buyers. But the Elantra is otherwise a well-equipped and rewarding-to-drive package across the range.
Would you consider the Elantra over a Japanese competitor? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
For a fairly conservative hatchback, the Focus came under fire for what some termed its derivative styling. I quite like it, and not just because the styling work was led by an Australian. The front end is very much family Ford, as long as it's the European arm of the family, fitting in with its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. The Active scores the usual black cladding, higher ride height and smaller diameter wheels, in exchange for more compliant, higher-profile tyres. All of that takes nothing away from a design that I think looks pretty good.
The cabin is well put together, with just that oddly angled touchscreen causing me a bit of a twitch. The design is a fairly steady Ford interior with a lot of switchgear shared with the Fiesta, but it's all quite nice. The materials feel mostly pleasant and the hardwearing fabric on the seats feels right for this kind of car.
Despite being a facelift of the rather good looking 2016 Elantra, the 2019 car has taken a hard turn into the domain of triangles and right-angles.
The new styling has proved controversial in the CarsGuide office. The Go and Active seem to have largely abandoned many of the styling points which Hyundai has invested in over the past few years, with their vertically lined grilles and abundance of triangle light fittings.
All the extra space on the big, flat rear is taken up by the big-font ‘Elantra’ text and Hyundai logo, which is '90s-style in design.
The Sport and identical-from-the-outside Sport Premium are angry looking cars, with frowning LED light fittings, giant alloys and an abundance of angular black highlights.
The side skirts, rear diffuser and spindle grille give the Sport variants an impressive amount of presence on the road. There’s no spoiler to be found, though.
Inside, the Go and Active are a fairly basic offering, with the Active scoring a leather wheel and some extra niceties. The dash is a sea of grey, however, and the nice touchscreen is humbled by its old-school in-dash positioning.
The Sport grades add some more sophisticated touches, with sporty leather-trimmed seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a more subtle climate-control console rather than the clunky air-conditioning one used in lesser variants.
All cars have a sensible trip computer and simple gauges in the instrument cluster.
Missing from any variant is a digital dashboard as seen in the Honda Civic. There’s also the argument that the Elantra’s cousin, the Kia Cerato, has a more forward-thinking cabin design.
The Focus is quite roomy compared to other cars in its class. The rear seat has good leg and headroom, with the feeling of space accentuated by large windows. Annoyingly, though, all that work put into making the rear a nice place to be is ruined by a lack of amenities like cupholders, USB ports or an armrest.
Front-seat passengers fare better with two cupholders, a roomy space at the base of the console for a phone and a wireless-charging pad. The front seats are very comfortable, too.
The boot starts at a fairly average 375 litres - clearly sacrificed for rear-seat space - and maxes out at 1320 litres with the seats down. While you have to lift things over the loading lip and down into the boot, it's one of the more sensibly shaped load areas, with straight up and down sides. Ironically, the smaller Puma has a noticeably larger boot.
Up front, the Elantra offers decent room. The Cabin feels a smidge more spacious than its i30 hatch sibling, and there’s plenty of leg and headroom on offer in every variant - except for the sport premium, which has a cropped roofline due to the sunroof. While there’s a decent centre console box, the door lacks a bit of padded trim for your elbow.
Like the rest of Hyundai’s range, the Elantra has a slew of generous cubbys and cupholders throughout the cabin. Underneath the air-con console is a deep trench which houses a 12v output, USB port and, in the Sport Premium variant, the Qi wireless phone charging pad.
Rear passengers are granted great legroom and decently sized cupholders in the doors, as well as a drop-down arm rest with two more cupholders.
The Active and Go lack rear air vents, whereas the Sport and Sport Premium offer two for back-seat passengers.
The available boot space should serve as a reminder why sedans shouldn’t be overlooked for practicality reasons, with 458 litres VDA on offer. Still, it is bested in this segment by the luggage capacity of the Cerato (520L), Civic (517L), and Impreza (460L). A rubber cargo liner and fabric bumper protector are available as genuine accessories.
In an annoying niggle, the Sport variants ride quite low around their midsections due to the flared bodykit bits. I found these would quite easily scrape if you weren’t careful over speedbumps or shopping centre ramps. Go and Active variants were fine in terms of clearance.
Price and features
The Focus Active wears a $30,990 sticker but the several people I know who bought one haven't paid that much, so Ford dealers are obviously keen to do deals. Even at that price, it's got a fair bit of stuff. The Active has 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto LED headlights, LED fog lights, sat nav, auto wipers, wireless hotspot, powered and heated folding door mirrors, wireless phone charging, a big safety package and a space-saver spare.
Ford's SYNC3 comes up on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dashboard, which weirdly feels like it's facing away from you slightly. It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB+ and also looks after various functions in the car.
The panoramic sunroof is a stiff $2000 and includes an annoying perforated cover rather than a solid one.
The Elantra range is made up of four variants split into two price points. But there are also a few small catches to look out for.
Kicking off the range at $21,490 is the Elantra Go. That money buys you a six-speed manual gearbox. An automatic can be had for an extra $2300, and from there you can add the must-have ‘SmartSense’ safety pack for an additional $1700.
Standard features on the Go include 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlamps, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto support, Bluetooth connectivity, a reversing camera, central locking, and a six-speaker audio system.
Next up is the Active. It starts from $25,990 and is offered exclusively as a six-speed automatic. Again, the must-have SafetySense is an extra $1700. The Active includes a larger 8.0-inch multimedia screen with built-in nav and DAB+ digital radio support, a premium audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured auto-folding wing-mirrors, as well as LED indicators and DRLs.
Then there’s a price-jump to $28,990 for the Elantra Sport manual. The Sport gets a significantly overhauled drivetrain and exterior treatment, with a full bodykit, bumper and grille. It also gets a leather interior with slightly sportier seats, aggressive 18-inch alloy wheels clad in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, ‘smart key’ keyless entry with push-button start, full LED front lighting with high-beam assist, and some (but not all) active safety items… More on that in the ‘Safety’ section.
The Sport can be had with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic at a $2500 premium. The other optional extra is red leather interior ($295), which can be had only when the car is painted white, grey or black.
Speaking of which, all colours (including blue, orange, red and silver) are optional and will cost you $495. White is the only free shade.
At the top of the range is the Elantra Sport Premium ($31,490 manual/$33,990 auto), which adds a sunroof (not the panoramic kind), front parking sensors, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, Qi wireless charging pad, auto-dimming rear mirror and a luggage net in the boot. Not a lot extra for a premium package, but it’s not wildly priced either.
Engine & trans
Ford does an excellent range of small turbo engines. The "normal" Focus range (such as it is, now the wagon has disappeared from the market) comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Bucking the SUV-this-size trend (yes, I know it's not really an SUV), this punchy little unit delivers an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. They're both very decent numbers for such a small engine.
The big numbers continue with the transmission boasting eight gears, a number you don't often find in a hatchback. It's a traditional torque-converter auto, too, so those of you who have bad memories of Ford's old PowerShift twin clutches should worry no more.
Power goes to the front wheels only and you'll get from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.
There are two engines in the Elantra range. A dated 2.0-litre non-turbo engine which has hung around for a long time in Hyundai’s stable, and a much newer 1.6-litre turbo engine in higher variants.
Unlike the i30, there’s no option for a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel. Any EV and plug-in hybrid versions are still beyond the horizon (perhaps pending the success of the Ioniq).
The Go and Active variants share the 2.0-litre engine which produces 112kW/192Nm. The Go is available as either a six-speed manual or a six-speed traditional torque converter automatic. The Active is six-speed auto only.
The Sport and Sport Premium are powered by the excellent 150kW/256Nm 1.6-litre turbo. Aside from the Kia Cerato GT, which shares the same engine, the next closest competitor at this price point is the outgoing Mazda3 SP25 (139kW/252Nm).
The Sport and Sport Premium can either be had with a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and can cycle between ‘normal’, ‘sport’ and ‘eco’ drive modes.
The Elantra range is a strictly front-wheel-drive affair, as there’s no option for all-wheel drive.
Ford's official testing for the big window sticker delivered a 6.4L/100km result on the combined cycle. In my time with the Focus, I got 7.2L/100km indicated on the dashboard, which is a pretty solid result given the Focus spent a good deal of the time on suburban or urban roads.
With its 52-litre tank, you'll cover around 800km if you manage the official figure, or just over 700km on my figures.
All 2.0-litre Elantras have claimed/combined fuel usage figures of 7.4L/100km. Against this claim I scored a very reasonable 8.0L/100km in my road test of the Active.
The 1.6-litre variants have a marginally better claimed consumption figure of 7.0L/100km against which I scored 9.0L/100km in my test of the Sport. If you’re having fun, expect at least 9.0L or above. That’s a compliment.
All Elantra variants happily consume regular 91RON unleaded and have 50-litre tanks. Good stuff.
Despite the very mild off-road pretensions, if it's a comfortable city ride you're after, the Active is the Focus to have. While the ST-Line isn't uncomfortable - not by a long way - the Active's more compliant tyres and higher ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear) iron out the bigger bumps without sacrificing much of the sportier car's impressive dynamic prowess, even with the low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The cracking 1.5-litre turbo is responsive and well-matched to the eight-speed auto. The big torque number pushes you along the road and makes overtaking much less dramatic than a 1.5-litre three-cylinder has any right to.
Ford's trademark Euro-tuned quick steering is also along for the ride, making darting in and out of gaps a quick roll of the wrist, which has the added benefit of meaning you rarely have to take your hands off the wheel for twirling. That darting is aided and abetted by the engine and gearbox, with the turbo seemingly keeping the boost flowing with little lag. It's almost like they planned it that way.
You have good vision in all directions, which almost renders the fact that the blind-spot monitoring is optional acceptable. Almost. It's very easy to get around in, easy to park and, just as importantly, easy to get in and out of. Compared to, say, a Toyota Corolla, the rear doors are very accommodating.
All Elantra variants are great to drive. They share excellent suspension and steering characteristics, lending them a rewarding experience in the corners while not being too stiff or too soft over bumps.
The 2.0 litre variants offer, well, acceptable power, even if they're a little on the thrashy side, and their ride comfort is boosted by sensibly sized alloy wheels and soft rubber.
Sport variants are genuinely a blast to drive. The 1.6-litre turbo has small amounts of lag, but is otherwise strong through 1500-4500rpm. Torque steer is present but manageable, and even adds a little to the excitement.
Thick (and pricey) Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres (225/40R18s) help keep the Elantra Sport planted and surprisingly grippy through the corners.
Road noise is acceptable but not stellar across the range. The same goes for the 10.6-meter turning circle.
Truly gone are the days where you should question whether Korean cars can be fun; the Sport and Sport premium do a better job of channeling the characteristics of Japanese sports sedans of the '90s and '00s better than most current Japanese nameplates.
On the downside, the silly flared body kit on the Sport variants limit ground clearance on ramps or speedbumps and can be prone to bottoming out. This combines with the easily scratched giant wheels to make for some nervous driving.
The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed with pedestrian avoidance and highway speeds), forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and active lane-keep assist.
Annoyingly - and I can't for the life of me work out why this is a thing - despite some advanced safety features in the base package, you have to pay $1250 extra for blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and reverse AEB, which are part of the Driver Assistance Pack. No, Ford is not the only company to do this.
The back seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The Focus scored five ANCAP stars in August 2019.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Go and Active variants have no active safety features as standard, but can be equipped with the very worthwhile $1700 safety pack.
Included is auto emergency braking (AEB), which detects pedestrians and works up to freeway speeds, blind-spot monitoring (BSM), rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA), active cruise, lane departure warning (LDW) and lane-keep assist (LKAS).
Most of these features come standard on the Sport and Sport Premium grades, with the omission of active cruise control and pedestrian detection. This is because the Sport grades lack a radar system.
Standard safety includes six airbags and the regular suite of electronic stability and traction controls, as well as two ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat mounting points across the rear seats.
The Elantra carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of 2016.
As a bonus, Go and Active variants have matching full-size spare wheels under the boot floor. Sport and Sport Premium cars have space savers.
The Elantra is built in South Korea.
The first five services cost $299 each and also include a free loan car and a 12-month extension to your roadside assist membership for up to seven years.
Hyundai covers its range with an on-par five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty promise offered by most of the competition. It is outdone by its mechanical twin, the Kia Cerato,with its seven-year warranty.
Hyundai’s fixed service program is one of its strong suits, with service pricing on turbo Elantra models locked between reasonable $273 to $460 costs per visit, locked all the way out to 168 months/210,000 kilometres. And even beyond that there's the optional pre-paid ‘iCare’ packages. Costs are slightly less for 2.0-litre cars.