The Elantra, from a certain perspective, seems a bit unnecessary in Hyundai’s line-up. It’s not a high-volume seller like any of the hatchbacks, it’s not the flagship of the range as that post belongs to the Santa Fe, and for a similar price, the Creta SUV has a lot more appeal to most buyers. Moreover, the executive sedan segment has for a long time been dragging its feet, with slow sales and only a handful of carmakers still sticking it out. Yet, Hyundai has launched a brand new Elantra, which sounds a bit unusual when you realise the facelift of the last-generation car was launched only 16 months before. Truth is, Hyundai fast-tracked this launch to make sure India got the latest model as soon as possible, and this new Elantra does hold a lot of promise. Hyundai is, in fact, confident of this all-new car’s ability to jump-start this waning segment, but could it really be that good? A thorough test of all four versions should give us the answer.
This is the first Hyundai in a long time that isn’t a massive visual departure from, but rather an evolution of, its predecessor. The cab-forward shape and coupé-like curved roofline may be similar to the previous car’s, but everything else is all new – this is Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, Hyundai’s newest design language. Gone are the pointy edges that perhaps looked a bit too radical for this class, and in their place have come far more European styling cues. At the front, the wide hexagonal chrome grille bears more than a passing resemblance to what you’ll find on a modern Audi and there’s even a hint of Jaguar’s ‘J-Blade’ signature in the LED running lamps. The boomerang-shaped slits that house the small fog lamps on the extremities of the bumper are more than meets the eye, because they are actually functional, Hyundai says, channelling air efficiently to reduce turbulence inside the wheel arch and thereby improve fuel economy, aid stability and lower wind noise.
Over on the sides, the wheel arches (especially at the front) aren’t as pronounced as before, and, overall, the car doesn’t look as tall as before, which is a definite improvement. The biggest visual departure, however, is at the rear, where the rather bulky tail has been made a lot more elegant. The smaller, slimmer tail-lamps with their distinct LED signatures give a much better sense of width, as do the wide LED strips on the bumper. So while the flowing shape and aggressive nose are still attention-grabbing, the toned-down rear looks a lot more mature than before.
Where the third-generation Elantra (the first one to come to India back in 2004) was quite special for its expensive independent rear suspension, this sixth-generation car (as well as its predecessor) uses a more conventional and cost-effective non-independent, torsion-beam rear suspension. The front wheels, of course, use independent, MacPherson struts. The chassis now uses more high-strength steel than before – 53 percent versus 21 percent – resulting in a 30 percent increase in stiffness, which should dramatically help ride and handling.
While the exterior bears a slight resemblance to its predecessor, the interiors are worlds apart. We loved the old car’s daring approach to dashboard design, what with the vertical AC vents, hourglass-shaped control panel and surfeit of angles. This new one is far more conventional looking and altogether more ‘horizontal’ in its layout. It’s a very European approach to dash design, which seems to be the theme with this car, and the result is that everything is where you expect it to be. The big 8.0-inch touchscreen sits at the top of the central stack, followed by the AC vents and then the AC controls. The dials are classic Hyundai – white-backlit, easy to read, with a detail-rich screen between them. The biggest point of note is the cabin quality. Thus far, all Hyundais have used materials that are a notch above other Asian car brands, but there’s been a more or less uniform level across all the brand’s models, perhaps with the exception of the Santa Fe. This is the first Hyundai that feels a distinct step above all of them in the way it’s put together, and is closer than ever now to its European rivals in terms of fit and finish. There are a few low-rent bits – the fuel filler and boot-release levers in the driver’s footwell come to mind – but that’s about it. Other than that, we just wish there was a bit of chrome or wood trim in here to liven things up from the dull black and grey shades that permeate the interior.
In an executive sedan, all the seats are equally important, because these cars tend to be both owner and chauffeur driven. At the front, you get suitably large chairs with a good amount of support for your back and thighs. On top-spec cars, the driver’s seat is powered and, on the automatics, cooled too, but there’s no memory function, sadly. The cushioning is a bit on the soft side, so while it’s great on short drives, it could cause you a slight backache over a long stint at the wheel. Still, despite the tall instrument binnacle and sharply raked A-pillars, visibility from the driver’s seat is very good.
The back seat is quite similar to the previous car’s in that it is placed low and the roofline is low too, so you will have to duck a bit when you get in. Once you’re in place though, you’ll have little reason to complain. Headroom is surprisingly good despite that roof, there’s more than enough kneeroom, thanks to an H-point that’s sited pretty deep, and thigh support is about two inches away from being perfect. Here too, the central cushioning is perhaps a touch too soft for longer distances, but for short stints, it’s nice and comfortable. Hyundai has also provided three individual head restraints back here, and of course there are a pair of rear AC vents (they don’t take up too much space either).
With even premium hatchbacks (Hyundai’s own i20 is a prime example) now packing luxury-car levels of equipment, you get the feeling that Hyundai is starting to run out of ideas for its more expensive models, especially when costs have to be kept in check. There’s the very gimmicky automatic boot release (which rarely works), automatic headlamps (but not wipers), rear-parking sensors (but not front), projector headlamps and cooled seats, which are all very neat. Other staples like push-button start, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, a rear-view camera and a very impressive touchscreen (read about it in the special box) are all welcome, but it’s not segment-transcending stuff, as used to be the case with every new Hyundai. Another unusual thing is that all top-spec SX(O) cars are not created equal, as the automatics get a bit more equipment than the manuals. Cooled front seats, a sunroof, six airbags (the others get just two) and speed-sensitive door locks are only available on the two-pedal cars.
Under the hood of the new Elantra will sit one of two engine options – the familiar 128hp, 1,582cc ‘D4FB U2’ diesel and a brand new 152hp, 1,999cc ‘Nu MPi’ naturally aspirated petrol engine; yes, while the rest of the world is downsizing and turbocharging, the new Elantra’s motor is larger than its predecessor’s. Whichever engine you choose, you then have the choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque-converter automatic, so really, all bases have been covered with this car.
The familiar engine first. The 1.6-litre CRDi turbo-diesel has powered not only the previous Elantra, but also the Verna and the Creta in India. While in those other two cars, its 128hp and 260Nm of torque are class leading, in the Elantra, they fall behind the competition (apart from the Toyota Corolla Altis), as does the engine’s displacement – 2.0-litres is the norm here. In everyday driving, the lack of displacement and power isn’t too much of an issue, and the Elantra diesel is quite happy at city speeds, thanks to its smooth and linear nature. Even on the highway, sure, you’ll feel a bit of strain when you drop down from sixth to fifth in the manual car and go for an overtake, but it does still cruise quite comfortably otherwise.
Interestingly, it’s the old-school six-speed auto that highlights the engine’s lack of oomph, as the shift points are out of your control. Whereas in the manual, you would probably shift up a little before the redline, say at 3,500rpm, to keep progress smooth, in the automatic, if you bury your foot, it will run all the way to the redline and that brings with it a lot of strain (until this point, the engine is impressively refined). What’s more, there are no paddles for you to select gears manually with, but you can use the gear lever itself. The other issue we had with the auto was that it was a little over-enthusiastic to shift gears. Very often, even the slightest drop in revs or smallest twitch of the accelerator pedal would cause an unpredictable upshift or a downshift, adding unnecessary interruptions to progress.
It’s a similar experience with the six-speed automatic on the petrol car – although it is smooth, there are no shift paddles and it can be a bit hyperactive with its shifts at low speeds. However, the new 2.0-litre petrol motor is a very different animal from the diesel. While the unnecessary upshifts are somewhat blunted by the diesel engine’s relaxed nature, the petrol engine is super responsive at low revs. This means, in the petrol automatic, you have to be judicious with your throttle inputs at lower speeds to make jerk-free progress, but once you’re used to it, it’s quite enjoyable. Paired with the added control of a manual shifter and a clutch pedal, the petrol motor is even more enjoyable; it’s one of the most responsive at low revs that we’ve ever tested. This makes it very well suited to stop-and-go traffic, letting you jump off the line briskly and cut into gaps with minimal effort. There is a small flat spot in the power delivery, just below 2,000rpm, after which the mid-range builds up in earnest. It revs out very smoothly and quickly, making you want to push it harder, but it never quite delivers that same punch you’d get from, say, an equivalent Honda engine. Refinement is good, and it’s not until 3,000rpm that you start to hear the motor in the car. But, while both motors are impressively quiet, you do hear quite a bit of wind and tyre noise inside the Elantra.
Exclusive to the automatic cars in both mid- and top-spec guises, are three selectable drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport. There’s only a slight jump in responsiveness between Normal and Sport, more so in the petrol car as the motor is very responsive to begin with, but the real revelation is Eco mode. Before you even factor in the potential improvements to fuel economy, this mode just makes the automatic Elantras smoother to drive at lower speeds. The revs are kept low and shifts are few and further between, so you don’t get as many jerks or sudden spikes in power. Our performance tests were done in Sport mode of course, and in kickdown acceleration, both cars were much quicker than their manual counterparts are in-gear. So the autos may be better suited to snappy overtaking, but in flat-out acceleration, they were much closer matched, with the manuals being a bit quicker. The petrol manual, unsurprisingly is the quickest of the lot from a standstill, hitting 60kph in 4.02sec and 100kph in 9.32sec. Though there are disc brakes all around and the Elantra is equipped with ABS as standard, they felt a bit wooden and not quite as strong as we’d have liked slowing from three-digit speeds.
Here’s the really impressive thing about the new Elantra. It no longer feels softly sprung, a trait we have long associated with Hyundais. True, things have been on the mend over the years, but this feels like a significant step forward. The springs aren’t outright firm by class standards, but they’re firmer than any Hyundai before, which is something you’ll feel as soon as you hit a speed breaker a little too hard. The rebound can be felt with a solid thwack permeating the cabin. Hyundai tends to go a size up on the competition when it comes to its alloy wheels on top-spec cars, but not this time. 16 inches is the segment norm and Hyundai has stuck to it. They’re shod with thick, 60-profile Hankook Kinergy Eco tyres, which seem to be the magic ingredient in this ride-quality recipe. They do well to compensate for the stiffer suspension, soaking up the initial harshness of most bumps really nicely.
Then the firmer suspension steps in to make sure that body control is kept in check on an undulating surface. Considering how bad the old car was, you’ll be impressed to find that this one hardly bounces or floats at all at high speeds. It stays flat and tied down, and back seat passengers will be especially thankful for this. It really feels a whole lot more grown up and, dare we say it, European. As mentioned earlier, it’s only when you hit a bump or speed breaker really hard that you’ll catch the suspension off-guard. This added firmness, however, has not completely eliminated body roll, and you’ll still feel a bit of it when you corner the Elantra hard.
What you won’t feel much of when you corner hard is what the front wheels are up to, as the steering is still far too numb. Again, there is a marginal improvement from the previous car, but that seems more to do with added weight than outright feel. You will get a better sense of security at high speeds, or when you accidentally drop one of the front wheels into a pothole – the steering doesn’t go limp in your hands, nor do you feel any steering shock. All things considered, you still won’t want to drive the Elantra hard, but you will be thankful for the lightness of the steering when you’re parking or making a three-point turn.
Impressive as the performance of the new 2.0-litre petrol Elantra is, given the car’s size and weight (between 1,270 and 1,340kg), it’s no wonder the fuel economy isn’t spectacular. In the city, the petrol car managed 8.1kpl in our test, that number going up to 8.7kpl for the automatic; perhaps because the auto likes to keep the revs low. On the highway too, the auto does better, with a 12.5kpl result, compared to 11.8kpl from the manual. It’s the other way round for the small-capacity 1.6 diesel which, predictably, gets you a lot further on the Elantra’s 50-litre tank. Here, the manual manages 14.1kpl in the city versus the auto’s 11.12kpl, while on the highway, the manual does 17.7kpl and the automatic 15.12kpl.
The Elantra’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is one of the best in-house systems we’ve tested, especially from a mainstream carmaker and at this price point. It’s good-looking, slick in operation and feature loaded. Navigation is a given, as are Bluetooth, USB and Aux input, and displaying the feed from the rear camera, but it also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The graphics are large, clear and easy to see on the move, and most of the menus are accessible by physical buttons and knobs, so you don’t have to rely solely on tapping the screen to use it. The six-speaker audio system is surprisingly robust too, thanks to the Arkamys software that runs it. This unit is truly one of the Elantra’s highlights.
New Hyundai Elantra price, features and specifications revealed
The new Hyundai Elantra hasn't rewritten the rule book for executive sedans; in fact, its formula has stayed unchanged - striking looks, lots of equipment, value for money and capable, refined engines. But it's also improved dramatically in most areas and also gained a couple of new skills along the way. Dynamically, it's a quantum leap over its predecessor and a new benchmark for Hyundai in India, with a ride quality that can, at last, rival what its European rivals offer; shame the handling hasn't quite caught up yet, but it too has improved. On the equipment front, yes, it isn't the revolution its predecessor was, but you can't say it leaves you wanting either. The feature-rich touchscreen, in particular, is just superb. It's got a pair of very different, albeit both capable in their own right, engine options each with an auto or a manual, so there should be something for everyone. Space and comfort are generous, the striking looks will still be a big draw, but what really makes it worth it is the price, which is still a notch below cars from Europe. It just goes to show, it's possible to have an attractive proposition in the executive sedan segment yet.
What it costs
||Rs 16.59/17.99/17.69/19.90 lakh (introductory, ex-showroom, Delhi)
||Three year/unlimited km
||Petrol/Petrol (AT)/ Diesel/Diesel (AT)
||1999/1582cc, 4 cyls petrol/4 cyls diesel
||4 valves per cyl, DOHC
||152hp at 6200rpm/ 128hp at 4000rpm
||192Nm at 4000rpm/ 260Nm at 1900-2750rpm
|Power to weight
||119.6/113.6/95.5/90.9hp per tonne
|Torque to weight
||151.1/143.5/194/184.7Nm per tonne
||6-speed manual/6-speed auto/6-speed manual/6-speed auto
Chassis & Body
||Four-door sedan, monocoque
||MacPherson strut with coil spring
||Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs
||Rack and pinion
|Type of power assist
Acceleration in gear
|20-80kph in 3rd gear
|40-100kph in 4th gear
Range at a glance - Engines
||152hp Rs 12.99-17.99 lakh
||128hp Rs 14.99-19.90 lakh
Max speeds in gear
||53kph 6700rpm/49kph 5900rpm/ 42kph 4900rpm/ 35kph 3800rpm
||100kph 6900rpm/ 82kph 6100rpm/ 78kph 5000rpm/ 58kph 3900rpm
||151kph 6900rpm/ 123kph 6200rpm/ 128kph 4900rpm/ 86kph 4000rpm
||190kph 6800rpm/ 168kph 6400rpm/ 168kph 4600rpm/ 125kph 4400rpm
||203kph 6100rpm/ 192kph 5300rpm/ 161kph 3700rpm/ 161kph 4100rpm
||201kph 5300rpm/ 185kph 3900rpm*/ 160kph 3100rpm/ 180kph 3600rpm