Vehicle Fitout
Elantra chasing the Europeans

If nothing else, the latest Hyundai Elantra proves without a doubt that the Korean company has come of age, with sharp looks, sharper handling, and a steering system that could belong in a sports car.

John Oxley reports.

This is not a facelift. It’s a brand-new car, with a different (and much stronger) body structure, as well as more features, more space, and a totally new ride and handling package that’s snapping at the heels of the better European hot hatches.

And despite the extra features, prices of the two versions remain the same as the previous model.

The engine line-up is changed too, with the previous 1.8-litre unit replaced by a 2-litre 112kW/193Nm petrol in both the Entry and Elite models, driving the front wheels via either a six-speed manual (on indent) or six-speed automatic gearbox. And there’s more to come later in the year, with a 150kW 1.6-litre turbo version with even more kit and a new interior to give it a sportier look.

Styling follows a “fastback” coupe design, with the latest version of Hyundai’s corporate grille up front, and featuring side ducts that direct airflow through the wheel arches and out into the wheel wells, cutting drag.

The use of high strength steel in the body structure – 53 percent in total – is a big feature, as well as increased use of body adhesives and hot stamping to increase torsional rigidity by 25-30 percent.

Another new feature is the use of thermo-plastic for the front sub-frame on elastomer body mounts, to make the steering firmer, and this shows the moment you drive the car, and particularly on high speed corners as well as tight bends.

A new electric steering system is provided, and this does away with the need to have “multi-choice” since it gives greatly enhanced “feel”, and has been tuned, as has the suspension, to cater for our road conditions. The rear end has been stiffened up, too, and sees the shock absorbers fitted vertically to give a 50 percent increase in shock height and more wheel travel, improving bump resistance.

Both cars are well specced. The Entry version, at $35,990 for the auto (the manual is $1,000 less) gets 16 inch alloy wheels, a new Vehicle Stability Management programme which includes steering sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and an impact-sensing door unlocking system, as well as front fog lights are standard.

Inside there’s a seven inch touchscreen, a new multimedia audio system which includes Bluetooth telephony and music streaming, as well as Apple Car Play (with Android Auto soon), as well as manual aircon, electric windows, and front and rear park assist sensors. There’s both tilt and reach adjustment of the steering column, a 60-40 split rear seat for more versatility, and keyless entry with an alarm. Six airbags are fitted, and it gets a five-star safety ANCAP rating. Boot capacity is a healthy 458 litres, and claimed average fuel consumption 7.2L/100km.

Stepping up to the Elite adds 17 inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera with rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection system, LED daytime running lights, electrically operated driver’s seat, with electric lumbar adjustment on both front seats, dual zone climate aircon with pollen filter, electronic parking brake with auto hold, heated front seats, heated and electrically folding mirrors, leather trim, proximity key entry with stop-start button, and an automatic window defog system.

A great feature is the Smart Boot, which gets around the problem of having your hands full by openings when you stand behind the vehicle (with the key in your pocket or handbag). The Elite comes in at $39,990.

There’s a 3 year/100,000km mechanical warranty, 3 years/100,000km roadside assistance, and 10-year body corrosion warranty.

On the road, well to say we were thrilled would be an understatement.

This is the first small Korean car to give true European feel, with no untoward suspension movement even in fast bumpy corners, and razor sharp steering.

At the same time it’s roomy and comfortable, while the feature list, especially on the Elite model, is great.

If there’s any criticism, it’s of a market which has largely rejected small sedans in favour of hatchbacks, despite the obvious advantages of sedans with lock-up boots for sales reps and families alike.

The new Elantra might, therefore, be aimed at a small segment of the market – but they’ll be very happy customers!

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