What's it about?
The latest Elantra has a tough battle on its hand in the segment in which Toyota's Corolla and VW's Jetta have entrenched themselves as the ones to beat. Going up against these "automatic winners" can't be easy, but with the Korean manufacturer winning as much favour as it has over the past decade or so, Elantra is now in a position to pose a definite threat.
And it doesn't look too bad either. Its rear is rather frumpy with those doe-eyed taillamp clusters, but take a glance at big brothers Sonata and Santa Fe and the family resemblance is clear. Styling could be considered bland but inoffensive, something that is generally valued in this segment.
New Elantra is significantly larger than its predecessor, and its occupants will be most grateful. Space within the cabin feels huge for all passengers - Hyundai claims better shoulder room by up to 40 mm for rear passengers.
Inside the cabin, the bright blue backlighting for the instrumentation and control panels initially jarred the visual senses. Thankfully, the intensity of this blue hue is adjustable and once accustomed to it, it actually became pleasantly different. Materials within the cabin, particularly of the hard bits, felt good to the touch and quality levels appear more than fair.
We tried our hand at the entry-level Elantra equipped with a 1.6-litre engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. Admittedly, journalists are usually allowed access to top-of-the-range models for evaluation, but Hyundai must have felt reasonably comfortable setting its "base" model loose.
It is very comprehensively equipped and safety features includes dual airbags, ABS with EBD and pretensioned seat belts.
Additional luxury items include automatic door locks, steering wheel mounted controls, climate control and lots of other "big car" paraphernalia.
In fact, it would perhaps be easier to list what this car does not have.
Compared with the range-topping 2.0-litre model, the 1.6-litre has 15-inch steel wheels and misses out on a high-mounted third brake light and, the big one, the 2.0-litre powerplant. And that's about it.
Under the bonnet
The 16-valve twin-cam unit is equipped with CVVT and its peak power of 89 kW is attained at 6 200 r/min, while 153 Nm of torque is on tap at 4 200 r/min.
This, according to Hyundai, equates to a power increase of 13 kW and increased torque of 10 Nm when compared with the previous model.
Elantra's primary concern is family transportation and it excels at this with great alacrity.
Comfortable and soft, the Elantra offers a no-fuss driving experience, great for those who essentially hop into a car, turn the key in the ignition and drive off.
Expecting this car to provide greater levels of entertainment could prove to be a tall order, but our test unit certainly did not shy away from the occasional hurried spurt. Ride quality is top-notch and most bumps and bruises are effortlessly absorbed through Elantra's front MacPherson strut and multi-link rear setup.
But it's best suited for Sunday cruise-like expeditions. Demand too much from it and Elantra loses some of its composure, especially through faster corners.
The power-steering is a bit numb around the centre too, but this shouldn't interfere too much if Elantra is allowed to potter about at a comfortable pace.
Mastering the clutch and gearshift is a breeze, with both requiring light and breezy operation.
And all this equates to a car that is a good all-rounder - great for suburban runs and an easy cruiser when the mood strikes it, although it tends to become a bit gruff when too much power is turned on.
Look, if you're one who likes to live the F1 dream from the driver's seat, then the Elantra is hardly the vehicle you should be taking any two-wheeled corners with. And while there may be better cars around, at the price, Elantra makes a definite case for itself.
It's not glamorous, but it is more than efficient. It values a bit of space for the family and has high enough comfort levels to lure the crabby munchkin off to Lala Land while still being able to stir it up when required. The Elantra could just be your thing. And don't be fooled by its demure nature, this is also likely to be the car to upset the establishment.