First drive: 2016 Hyundai Elantra 2.0 in the UAE
The Hyundai Elantra is a subcompact that has been around since a long time. Although not much of an attention grabber, it is apparently a sales success in the Middle East, owing to the great exterior design and price tag. However, the Koreans’ penchant to continually evolve meant that Hyundai finally went all-in to make the car a more complete package rather than just a looker. And how the all-new 2016 Hyundai Elantra has grown from its past is what we were to witness when the local dealer invited us for a day-long media event that included an extensive test-drive.
Despite a few individual elements that vaguely resemble some upscale brands, the Elantra arguably sports an original design, and is one great looking car in its segment. The new car gets a hexagonal grille with chrome horizontal lines, LED daytime running lamps built into the headlamps, new alloy wheels, LED tail lamps, and chrome door handles, at least in our fully-loaded test car.
The interior has been overhauled completely, with the approach being more neat and functional than being overdone. The buttons and controls are all neatly laid out, and the center dash is slightly angled towards the driver. Textured soft-touch surfaces are confined to the dash-top and part of the door panels only, while the rest are textured hard plastics.
Our car was an optioned-up example with a few seemingly segment-first features, should the local dealer choose to offer those here. Some interesting bits in our car included a superb-thumping Infinity sound system with seven speakers, external amp, and subwoofer, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satnav and Qibla functions, front and rear parking sensors with reverse camera, HID headlamps, ventilated front seats with heating and cooling, dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, traction and stability control, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, smart key entry with start-stop button, hands-free smart trunk opening, and seven airbags including a knee airbag.
During the presentation, Hyundai’s chief executives from South Korea even kept bragging about cheap and easy-to-replace chassis components in the event of a collision, thus keeping the repair costs lower.
With gains in length and width, but sporting the same wheelbase as its predecessor, the new Elantra is slightly roomier than the old car, although still not class-leading, and can comfortably seat five. The boot is pretty darn spacious too. There are adequate cup-holders and storage cubbies throughout the cabin. And then there are two USB charging ports and two 12-volt power outlets.
The new Elantra will be available with either a 2.0-litre or a 1.6-litre, both 4-cylinder and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Our tester obviously sporting the larger engine, never felt slow or short of power at any point, although we suspect the smaller engine to be rather inadequate. Power delivery being linear and gradual, our Elantra was expectedly not a speed demon. But there is good passing power at highway speeds, requiring only one downshift at most. The gearbox is a smooth-shifting unit and seemed to do the job well, with a responsive manual mode too. Interestingly enough, there are three ‘drive’ modes, namely – Normal, Sport and Eco, all of which alters the throttle and transmission mapping accordingly.
The new Elantra rides smoothly for most part, with only a bit of stiffness felt on the poorest of road surfaces, while remaining remarkably composed even at speeds as high as 170 kph. To the extent that we took it, the Elantra handles very well too, with good body control revealing a well-tuned chassis and suspension setup. Sudden steering inputs does not upset the cars balance, and it has admirable grip levels, which is quite surprising for a Hyundai, as it now feels more European than Korean. The steering is nicely-weighted and the response is sharp. But feedback from the steering and controls is very limited. Hyundai plans to bring the Elantra 1.6 Turbo GDI into the Middle East later this year, which will sport upgraded suspension components, and that should be much more fun to drive.
We also noticed how the new Elantra is easily one of the quietest compact sedans in its segment. A bit of wind noise is noticeable only as the speedo sails north of 130 kph. The engine makes itself heard only under full throttle with a refined tone, and the road noise is kept to a minimum. With moderately-bolstered seats that feel quite comfortable, long drives in the new Elantra are never a chore, making it an ideal choice for those who spend a considerably long time behind the wheel.
So with the 2016 Elantra, Hyundai is all set to cause a stir in the hotly-contested compact segment. And this time it is not just the looks alone, but the Koreans seem to have nailed it in so many other aspects, making the all-new Elantra even more of an attractive proposition and value for money. The all-new 2016 Hyundai Elantra may well become the next ‘Toyota Corolla’ soon.