The new Elantra pushes its rivals aside with excellent driving dynamics and superlative levels of comfort, Alvin Thomas finds.
The Hyundai Elantra has been prowling around the roads of the Middle East for more than 26 years now. However, as a kid, I do remember drooling over the third-generation Elantra, with its strikingly chiselled rear lights and subtle yet functional sporty design elements.
However, for the next two generations, the brand followed it up with family friendly sub-compact designs. These helped sales to grow but somehow lacked the charm and stature of the early models.
Nevertheless, for the sixth generation, Hyundai has brought back much of that original charm and flair. So, when I was given a chance to take the new Elantra out for a spin, I pounced at the opportunity.
The test model was a strikingly metallic “Lakeside Blue”, which I fell in love with upon first glance. Hyundai has fiddled around with the “fluidic design”, too. The car seemed to sit a bit lower and wider than previous versions, giving it a sportier feel than that of its competitors.
Further elevating its snazzy character was the hexagonal grille that ran from end to end, a chrome accented door line, alloy wheels and new, aggressive fish-hook-like LED daytime running lamps that gave it a shabaabiah (youth) vibe.
Mind you, this sportiness and sleekness did not mean that interior space was compromised. Climbing into the car, I quickly realised that there was ample space for five even after pushing the front seats all the way back (for testing purposes), thereby successfully taking on rivals such as the Honda Civic and even the Toyota Corolla in terms of space.
Even the boot was big enough to take three full-size travel bags.
The interior was overhauled completely for 2016, having taken minor design cues from the brand’s Genesis sedan. Unlike the superior Genesis, however, the tester I received was adorned in cloth seats and a 12cm TFT LCD touchscreen.
On the upside, the seats were extremely comfortable and provided excellent lateral support and decent bolstering during some spirited driving.
Our top-end 2.0 GLS trim also benefited from an above-average sounding eight-speaker Infinity audio system and an infotainment screen complete with a trip computer, average mileage readings and audio details on the instrument cluster. I also received audio controls and cruise control switches on the steering wheel.
Apart from that, the driver could benefit from eight-way adjustable seating, as well as a decent-sized moonroof.
To test the dynamics of the handling and the powertrain, I decided to head to Qantab beach via the beautiful winding mountain roads with my friend, Jijin Thomas.
My Elantra came standard with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder pot banger that pumped out a spritely 163 hp and an equally impressive 198 Nm of torque. Putting down power to the front wheels was a six-speed automatic transmission. This, coupled with the 1300-odd kg body, should ideally have made for a fun drive.
Unfortunately, a 48-degree Celsius day meant the car was running on fumes (cars with combustion engines run at lower efficiency on hot days), and ended up gasping for air on the hilly roads en route to Qantab.
This also resulted in a 100kph sprint time of 11.2 seconds – two seconds slower than the dealer-claimed 9.2 seconds – on a straight piece of tarmac. But we’d have to give the Elantra the benefit of the doubt, solely because of the simmering midday heat.
For the young at heart, there was even a Drive Mode switch that allowed you to toggle between Sport, Normal and Eco. I drove the car solely in the Sport mode. This altered the transmission mapping and throttle response accordingly, resulting in longer gear ratios (transmission holds the lower gears) for quicker acceleration.
For a car of such stature, the Elantra does handle itself extremely well around corners.
Pushing it to its limits (safely) revealed a lack of tyre squealing and only slight and manageable amounts of understeer, as one might expect from a front-wheel-drive car.
You can also augment the weight of the steering wheel, for that added aggressive feel. The steering is direct, and pretty much on point if you were to drive it in the Sport mode.
However, it would soften up in other modes, aiding easy parking in tight spots.
The Elantra’s chassis is very well-tuned, soaking up the bumps on the roads without any drama whatsoever. As a matter of fact, this has to be one of the smoothest sub-compact sedans out there today. Even the noise levels inside the cabin are below that of most competitors, inching into a seemingly impossible German-level of comfort and quietness.
The Hyundai Elantra has always been a winner in the GCC market but this sixth-generation sedan certainly ups the ante, teasing its competitors in broad daylight. Your turn, Japan!