The C-segment is among the most fought over in the region and Hyundai has managed to make a mark with the Elantra. We drove the car during its early launch in the region. Does it have enough in the refresh to continue its challenge?
Author: Raj Warrior | Photography: Supplied
Both of the Korean brands in town seem to be doing exactly the same thing with a large number of models. Apparently the eagerness to replace a model platform with something completely new has tapered-off to building on the existing strengths of the platform, while using new manufacturing technology and materials to achieve better stiffness and reduced weight. And we are certain that there is a bit of commercial benefit being realised too, but are we being too harsh there? The Elantra is now in its sixth generation and this year the switch over between the MD to the new AD platform brings with it a significant declaration of the newfound values of targeted use of high-strength steel and reduction of weight. Apparently more than half of the underlying structure is now composed of high strength steel.
The entire redesign process gives you the feeling that there is a degree of prioritisation at work here. Why waste time changing a successful formula? So we get a car that has had major changes in the fascia, both front and rear, slightly more of a wheelbase and better sculpted interior utilisation that offers more legroom. However, you would don’t need to look at the badge to identify the new Elantra.
The major design changes include a redesigned grille with a larger, more pronounced hexagonal shape and the foglights have been shifted to the flanking black inserts at the extreme of the bumper. The rear has similarly changed to incorporate a more horizontal treatment of the taillamps, now available with LED elements, the lamps come in to the number plate area, serving to clearly define the logo and giving the tail a wider stance.
Although Hyundai claims the car continues with the fluidic sculpture treatment of the previous generation, its use of the curved form seems to have been toned down. In fact the new car shares a lot in terms of visual treatment with the US-specific coupe version that came out in 2013. But the new lines look cleaner and more in tune with the increasingly dynamic drive of the car.
The interiors of the new Hyundai Elantra have been change to a far greater degree. Now the dashboard treatment is very driver-specific. It is laid out in a manner where the centre display and console look almost shifted towards the driver, largely because of the strake that loops over the display and its flanking a/c ducts without any visual continuity from the rising centre console. The design of the binnacle and steering wheel area stays in character, with clean black on white instrumentation with variable backlighting and the by now expected selectable steering assist levels.
For a change, the Hyundai Elantra offers a very slim entertainment control and a more robust air-conditioning panel. The air-conditioning combines the usual layout along with a HEPA filter panel that delivers dust-free and pollen-free air. Additional controls available on the centre console include seat ventilation and cooling controls as well as the drive mode toggle.
Cabin room has improved to a reasonable degree, with special emphasis on the rear area. Legroom is better and the seats are nicely sculpted with a slightly softer squab even in the rear. The lower back now tends to nestle in with the seat shape. Back in the front the car is offered with power seats in some grades and these seats have also received a reshaping of the back support cushions, While there is no attempt at feeling sporty, the seats are a bit snugger while being more forgiving.
The console has also received an upgrade to make it useful for today’s buyer. The car gets the ability to link up with the user’s iPhone or Android Phone through CarPlay and Android Auto, although the apps that show up are limited by the phone’s operating system. In addition, at the top of the line the car gets an Infinity speaker package.
The Elantra is launched in the Middle East and Africa region with a choice of two engines, both being four-cylinder MPI engines, a smaller 1.6-litre and the larger 2.0-litre. Both of these engines are stalwarts of the Hyundai stable; the smaller engine is part of the Gamma family of engines, while the 2.0-litre is part of the Nu series. Power and torque ratings of the base engine are 126bhp and 155Nm of torque while the larger engine offers 154HP and 195Nm of torque. Both of these engines are mated with a six-speed automatic gearbox with a tiptronic function.
The compact Elantra isn’t really known for its excellent drive dynamics. But this generation does manage to change that feel a bit. The engineers seem to have paid attention to suspension tuning and the electric power steering has definitely enjoyed an evolution from the early editions on Hyundai cars of the past few years. While the comfort setting still makes for a very overly assisted steering, the Sport mode tightens up the feedback to an appreciable degree although there is still some deadness around the centre. The car’s improved NVH levels are very apparent in the cabin, where we had to remind ourselves that the engine was switched on.
The driver will also appreciate having some fancy safety gadgetry – blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert are part of the package although we aren’t really sure of whether any or all of these would be offered in the Oman market. And the car also gets hands-free boot opening (by swinging your foot below the rear bumper while you have the key in your pocket). Again, it may only be available on the top variant.
With the move to a six-speed transmission, the car gets much smoother on its ramp up through the speedometer. There is just a bit of howl around the second gear before the remaining click through smoothly and the Sport mode allows the gears to hold for just that couple of heartbeats longer, very useful when using engine braking on a downhill slope. While the 1.6-litre unit is adequate, if can afford it please do go for the 2.0-litre just for the extra torque available. It isn’t as if you are going to win any races with the car, but take off at roundabouts and the climb up Wadi Kabir will be that little bit easier. And the gearbox then tends to compensate earlier up the rev band to go for a more fuel-efficient drive.
Handling around a corner is decent, with a more European feel, but that can be attributed to both the stiffer body as well as the rejig of the suspension components and the steering feel. The larger wheels and tyres on the 2.0-litre also result in a planted feel. Braking is adequate.
The 2016 Hyundai Elantra may be a full revamp, but it isn’t pushing for new territory. What it does is reinforce the position of the model in the C-segment while packaging a whole lot of new tech to keep it current for the foreseeable future. After all, a broad swathe of Oman’s middle class now swears by the values of the brand..