DRIVING the 2012 Hyundai Elantra 1.6 GL AT: Life In The Catwalk

The old Hyundai Elantra were one of those cars in which were, OK, if not terrible, but in recent years, Hyundai, along with it’s sister company, Kia, has been undergoing a renaissance in which their cars are rapidly getting better in quality, durability, performance and style. This Hyundai Elantra is far from the what the old one used to be. It looks stylish, comfortable and refined. In a see of Japanese and American car offerings, how does 2011-2012 Philippine Car Of The Year stack up?

Exterior

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This may be the base Elantra GL, but unlike the base model sedans of other companies, this doesn’t feel spartan. It looks genuinely good and the design is positively futuristic. Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” stays true to its name, as the Elantra looks very swoopy and, well, fluidic. The hexagonal grille will definitely catch your attention. This generation of the Elantra really is far from what the old Elantra used to be. As a tuner fan though, I sort of think the exterior design won’t age well as the trend of concept car-like design may not last forever, and hence, I prefer the design of it’s sibling, the 2013 Kia Forte, which is also based on the same platform as the Elantra’s.

Interior

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Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” theme continues to the interior. There are barely any angular shapes in the design. Once again, even though this is the base model, it doesn’t feel totally cheap or spartan. An excellent sign of attention to detail is that, I’d be happy to report to you that the glove box is damped, as this is only typical in more expensive vehicles. (Damped. That slow down effect when opening the glove box.) The airconditioning controls do look good, but it takes a bit of getting used to. Interior plastics are hard, but doesn’t feel cheap and spartan. I do wish it shared the same radio head unit as the one seen in the Elantra GLS because this head unit seems to be out of place of the Elantra’s interior design. Design aside, I find it unique that the Elantra has a organ-type gas pedal, a feature much more common in upscale sedans, giving the driver better comfort on long drives.

Space and Practicality

The trunk is spacious, and so is the cabin, though the cabin may not seem as spacious because the Elantra’s design has a rising beltline, therefore it has less glass area. Kids may find it difficult to look outside, though when backing up, rear visibility isn’t much of a problem.

A longer wheelbase than some of its rivals means that legroom is excellent. Foot room, meanwhile is helped by having a flat floor. All the seats are comfortable and supportive with good thigh support. For the driver’s seat, there’s plenty of adjustments, and the steering wheel has reach and rake, so it won’t be hard for anyone to find their ideal driving position.

Features

The Hyundai Elantra GL is decently equipped. Of course, there are the typical power features, such as the windows, mirrors, and locks. The JVC stereo I mentioned, while only 1-DIN, does have full iPod integrations and plays it through 4 speakers. The typical array of ABS with EBD puts things under control should you brake heavily, and a driver’s side airbag should anything go wrong.

Powertrain

Powering the Hyundai Elantra GL is Hyundai’s 1.6 liter Gamma engine. Output is 130 PS at 6300 rpm and torque at 157 Nm at 4850 rpm. These figures may not sound powerful, but take note. This is only being produced by a 1.6 liter engine. The Elantra’s 1.6 liter engine produces the most power in any car that has a 1.6 liter in our market. Power is delivered through a 6-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic shifting via the rear wheels. 6-speed transmissions still aren’t a common offering these days. Kudos to Hyundai for that.

How It Drives

Drive the Hyundai Elantra around, and what I first noticed is that, the whole cabin is more biased towards comfort. That organ-type gas pedal I mentioned does feel more comfortable over your typical gas pedals. This should make the driver feel more comfortable when travelling on long highway journeys.

Ride and handling is also good, as the Elantra’s suspension offers a good balance between agility and comfort. It isn’t too hard that passengers will soon complain from backaches, but it isn’t too soft either that the car becomes too wallowy. This means that the Hyundai Elantra, can hold on its own while being driven on winding country roads. The steering is precise and responsive, and the brakes feel good as well.  The 6-Speed Automatic does a good job in delivering the appropriate gear, and if you want more control of the gearbox, the gearbox has manual mode via tiptronic shifting.

Acceleration is excellent for a 1.6, as the 6-speed automatic has excellent ratios. I must say, Hyundai has done a very good job with this 6-speed automatic, as they also seem to be really proud of their gearbox. That extra gear over the general competition’s 5-speed automatic gives you better fuel economy. I averaged *11.5 km/l, which includes a mix of city, highway, and spirited driving including driving in “manual” mode.

On The Downside

As with everything in life, nothing is perfect. Road noise is present in the car when driving on uneven or coarse roads, and sometimes, the suspension does give you a noticeable increase in road noise when going over bumps. The steering is responsive and precise, but it doesn’t give you much feedback, especially on center, and I find the self-centering of the steering wheel too assisted and too artificial for my taste. If you want the most fun to drive and sporty compact sedan, you probably want to check out the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer EX GT-A and Honda Civic 2.0 EL.

There are also some points to talk about in the interior. The interior is solidly well built, but this base 1.6 GL variant has hard plastics, unlike the 1.8 GLS. Also, there are some cabin pieces that feel really cheap, like the bottom part of the dashboard and doors.

Verdict

The Hyundai Elantra is one of the best compact sedans offered today. In a market dominated by Japanese and American cars, the Hyundai Elantra stands strong and competitive. Comfortable, practical, efficient and good looking, I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t consider buying one, and at PHP 888,000, it is also an excellent value for money.

Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★☆☆
Features: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★☆
Handling: ★★★☆☆
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆

OVERALL: 3.78 out of 5

*Fuel consumption results may vary depending on conditions and the driver itself.