Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to buying cars but when it comes to picking a small car Hyundai's Elantra makes an excellent choice, writes Brent Davison.
WHEN it comes to buying a car, we want the best package we can get for the dollars we have available. We want to tick every box when it comes to equipment, comfort, style, reliability, safety and build quality.
The driving experience, brand reputation and warranty offered? All are extremely important.
When it comes right down to the nitty gritty, we want a car we are happy to own and proud to park in the driveway.
For small car buyers, such a vehicle is Hyundai's new sixth-generation Elantra, a four-door sedan with sexy styling, loads of standard equipment and a classy, comfortable interior that manages to be both practical and handsome.
Elantra is available in two model variants -- Active (from $21,490 plus on-road costs) and Elite ($26,490 plus on-road costs) -- and in true Hyundai tradition both come with way more of everything than expected.
As well as looking and feeling just that little bit bigger than the average small car, both model variants bristle with standard features. On the safety front, both feature six airbags, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability management and hill-start assist.
Active then adds automatic headlights and front foglights, daytime running lights, a rear-view camera with rear parking assist sensors and 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55 tyres.
Inside, it has a 17.5cm touchscreen audio with six speakers, MP3 capability, auxiliary and USB connections, Bluetooth connectivity and, for added safety, the steering wheel also has its own set of audio controls as well as buttons to manage the standard cruise control.
Comfort features include power windows all around, height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilting and telescoping steering column, a trip computer, air-conditioning and even a folding centre armrest for the back seat passengers.
Elite adds even more to that impressive list with leather interior appointments, premium steering wheel and gear lever, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning with rear seat vents, 17-inch diameter alloy wheels and wider 225/45 tyres, chrome exterior highlights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, an electronic proximity key with push-button start and even a cargo net in the boot.
The old saying: "Lots of flash, not lots of cash" springs to mind with this new Elantra pair.
What is particularly impressive about the car is the cabin's openness and spaciousness. The dash panel is set back towards the windscreen, the centre console is low, the rear floor is relatively flat and my Elite-grade test car had a pleasant light and dark interior colour scheme with light seat facings, console lid, door inserts, armrests, headlining and lower dashboard with the rest finished in an attractive charcoal colour.
Mechanically, Elantra is absolutely class competitive courtesy of its all-alloy, 2.0-litre ‘Nu' engine which replaces the previous car's 1.8-litre powerplant. Power output is now a handy 112 kilowatts and torque an impressive 192 Newton metres, increases of 2 and 8 per cent respectively.
Active buyers get a standard six-speed manual gearbox while Elite has a six-speed automatic (a $2300 option for Active) complete with a sequential manual shift mode for those sporty moments.
For me, those moments happened fairly regularly courtesy of the achievements of Hyundai Australia's local chassis engineering team which found the sweet spot between handling prowess and ride comfort by not just utilising the car's stiffer and stronger body design but also by evaluating some 48 different suspension configurations to find the right combination.
The end result is a harmonious blend of ride and handling, the sort that means Elantra is not out of its depth when it has to cover testing roads quickly, the sort that means passengers will not feel uncomfortable or be thrown about when cornering speeds rise. Ride quality has not been compromised at all, and Elantra has a relatively soft ride with moderately light steering to match.
Visually, the car is deceptive. It has a sexy, semi-fastback look courtesy of a rising shoulder line that kicks up at the rear to meet the curvaceous falling roofline, the result a cheekily-abbreviated bum that highlights the car's long nose and generous cabin.
In practical terms, it also makes for a generously-sized boot, a 458-litre cave that can be made even bigger by lowering the rear seat backrests, a job done simply by pulling small handles inside the boot.
Overall, Elantra is an excellent package with loads of interior room, good looks, a willing engine that is happy on the highway and a well-sorted automatic gearbox that is happy in town.
Ride and handling blend nicely and the overall execution of this small sedan is excellent.
HYUNDAI ELANTRA IN DETAIL
Active (6-speed manual): $21,490
Active (6-speed automatic): $23,790
Elite (6-speed automatic): $26,490
Fuel-injected 2.0-litre, four-cylinder with double overhead camshafts and continuously variable valve timing. 112kW of power at 6200rpm, 192Nm of torque at 4000rpm
ANCAP SAFETY RATING: 5-star
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