Over a couple of years, the Hyundai Elantra has grown into a major player in the compact sedan market. It’s no longer just a budget choice nowadays. The Elantra is now up there in quality and driving dynamics against its Japanese, American, and European rivals. While it was once the value king in its segment, competition has gotten immensely tough these days. More than just value for money, many of the Elantras competitors now posses as much, if not greater style or equipment levels. The current generation (AD) Elantra has been on the market for about 2 years now, but has 2 years been kind to Hyundai’s bread and butter model? Let’s find out.
What I like about the Elantra is its clean, confident, yet smart design. Though some might think it’s too conservative, the exterior of the car is quite aggressive with that coupe style roofline, short rear deck, and wide hexagonal front grille flanked by slim headlights that seem to be inspired from Audis of late. Not a coincidence, though, considering that Hyundai’s designer, Peter Schreyer, came from the four-ringed German brand. This is Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 at work, which gives the car a very dynamic presence. Being the entry level GL model, it only gets 15-inch alloy wheels, giving it a budget feel, but the entire package works nonetheless.
Step inside the Elantra, and you are greeted by a dashboard that has a logical and fuss-free arrangement. Everyone that steps inside can instantly find out where and how everything works. Most of the materials are the scratchy plastic variety, but at least the dashboard uses plush soft touch materials. Compared to its rivals though, with its black on black interior and predominantly grey interior trims, the Elantra’s cabin can sometimes be even considered drab, especially when compared to the likes of the Mazda 3 and Honda Civic, but at least the cabin is well built, with solid feeling doors, switches, and panels.
There’s plenty of space for all occupants to ponder around, though taller rear passengers need a little bit of ducking in order to clear themselves through the sloping roofline. There’s plenty of cubby spaces, too, which is good as we humans love to put all our unnecessary junk inside the car anyways. As for the trunk space, it offers a generous 420 liters of space, though the lack of folding rear seats is a huge omission nowadays.
The Elantra we have is the base 1.6 GL MT and dynamically, I could not ask for anything else. We’ve put the Elantra through a series of challenges like the Petron Mabuhay Independence Rally and mind you, this Elantra packs a big punch dynamically speaking. Hyundai did not saddle the Elantra with a dull personality. Granted, a Honda Civic, let alone a Mazda 3 won’t loose any sleep in terms of driving dynamics, but the Elantra does the commuting job of a compact sedan well. It has a suave steering feel that does the job decently, as well as provide a very comfortable ride. Even at high speeds, the Hyundai Elantra feels stable, quiet, and well secured. Despite lacking a multilink rear suspension, the torsion beam setup does an excellent job cushioning harsh bumps and undulations at any speed. Even if you take it into a corner, there isn’t too much body roll to truly upset the Elantra’s handling. It’s only through quick direction changes when the torsion beam rear suspension shows its dynamic limitations. However, for 99% of anyone’s everyday driving commute, the Elantra does the commuting job commendably.
Things I don’t like about the car, well there’s the underwhelming power from the 1.6-liter Gamma inline-4 engine carried over from the previous Elantra, at least on paper. While it produces 128 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 157 Nm of torque @ 4,850 rpm, figures that remain unchanged from the previous model, this is remedied by the fact that the new Elantra weighs 60 kg less, making the car still feel spritely. Of course given that this is the entry level model in the range and having the smallest engine, it’s mainly destined to be a city car, and it’s suppose to do city things, like go to a McDonald’s drive thru or get your hair done at the local hair salon, and it does these things admirably. Even if you get stuck in city traffic, more so at EDSA, its 6-speed manual transmission is a joy to use. The clutch is very easy to use, as the biting point is low, and the clutch pedal is also light, which makes this Elantra a perfect car for those who wish to learn driving a manual. Out on a clearer stretch of road, and the the Elantra is made more fun because of this manual tranny, with its precise gear change, excellent short throws, and lovely shifting feel from the gear shifter.
However, the most disappointing thing about this car is its glaring lack of standard features. Does it have one touch up/down windows? Pull them up or down yourself! How about Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary input? Well, let’s just say there’s a diverse list of radio stations for you to choose from. How about a three-point seatbelt for the middle passenger? Hyundai thinks a lap belt will suffice in the event of a crash, and so is a single SRS airbag for the driver and a lack of electronic stability control to prevent a crash from happening in the first place.
As a whole, the Hyundai Elantra is spacious, practical, and a great driving car as a whole. It’s not that fast, nor can it play music through your phone. It doesn’t even have a commendable list of safety features, so why should someone get an Elantra? If a comfort oriented sedan is what you’re looking for, especially one that doesn’t feel like an entry-level sedan in terms of the driving experience, then by all means go for it. The Hyundai Elantra does get the fundamentals of how a car drives correctly, especially since it gets the job done in a comfortable and stable manner, but in a world where all your classmates are getting As on all subjects, then Hyundai really needs to step up the equipment game in order for the Elantra to remain significant.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆
Overall: 3.4 out of 5