If there is one auto company in the country that has enjoyed a phenomenal rise in the last 5 years, it's Hyundai. The brand has been relentless in coming out with new, more stylish, more practical, more affordable, more efficient and more powerful products every year, and the market has taken notice.
Now they give us the new Elantra, just 4 years after the last generation model with the 1.6 CRDI model. Well, that car 4 years ago never really took off. This one is different. Very different.
A coupe weeks ago, we gave you our opinion on the new Elantra, albeit as a 1.6 liter base model. We loved it for its great looks, excellent value for money and fun drive. Well, this 1.8 liter top-of-the-line GLS model is even better.
In the style department, there's not much between them, though being a higher end variant, the GLS does get quite a few extra bits. The chrome on the grille does give it a classier appeal, while the foglamps are a welcome touch. There's a nicer (and larger) set of wheels, a nicer pair of side mirrors and that's about it. It does look good in red compared to the plain jane silver we drove before.
Inside the Elantra GLS, there are several significant changes, especially with the center console and the wheel. Gone is that big slab of plastic in the GL that serves as the housing for the 1-DIN stereo system. In its place is a classy looking integrated unit that follows the lines of the interior beautifully. The manual shifter has been replaced with an automatic one, while the wheel is now wrapped in leather and has more buttons so you can take charge of what your iPod is playing on the go.
Everything else is relatively the same compared to the other model, but just with a few better bits and pieces all around to give you the feeling that you've bought a smaller Sonata rather than upsized Accent.
Driving it around, the convenience that the 6-speed automatic gearbox makes is immediate, especially in our traffic conditions. I miss the exciting nature of the 6-speed manual and the sprightly 1.6 liter motor in the GL, but the GLS is no slouch either.
Like it's little brother, the 1.6L, the GLS is powered by an engine that punches higher than it's displacement would typically allow. The 1.8 liter motor has been given dual continuously variable valve timing and has been tuned to produces 150 horsepower. Putting that in perspective, most 2 liters in the market today produce 150-155 horsepower.
Driving it in eco mode, the Elantra GLS maximizes its transmission well, returning about 8 kilometers per liter in the city and 11.5 on the highway, both in moderate traffic. Give the throttle a bit more gas and the Elantra responds quite well. Handling is very well balanced and lends quite a bit of fun. Same goes for the 6-speed auto, as it does a good job of finding the right gear that I need to accelerate out of a turn. As expected, braking is also better than the GL thanks to disc brakes in the back.
The same little niggles with the 1.6 like the heavy self centering on the steering and how it responds to rougher roads are still there, but again, it's more of a case of could-have-been-better rather than it-needs-fixing. Thankfully, like it's “low-end” brother, the GLS variant also comes in at a pretty good price: just PhP 938,000.
The Elantra, for Hyundai, seems to represent more than just a re-entry into a class of car that has been in a bit of a decline in recent years. The Elantra and its stablemates like the Accent, Sonata, Tucson and the rest tell us that we should expect more. They're telling us that we should expect better economy, better performance, concept car looks, more features and pleasantly stylish interiors from the cars we drive everyday.
Hyundai is doing more than just coming out with one best-seller after another... it seems like they're trying to lead a revolution.