The compact sedan market in the Philippines has long been a segment dominated by Japanese stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Although the second-generation Hyundai Elantra did have a brief entry during the late nineties, it wasn’t until the fifth generation when the Korean brand's entry in to the compact class has made a significant impact in the segment.
It's easy to see why, and it all begins with the design.
Hyundai’s 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language has no doubt reshaped the brand significantly with distinctly styled vehicles. The Elantra received its mid-cycle update in mid-August last year in South Korea, followed by a quiet entry early this year to the Philippine market along with the Accent and Tucson. Exterior styling receives a slight update with slightly restyled headlamps featuring LED positioning lamps, updated radiator and bumper grills and a bolder set of foglamps to make a more striking front end. The rear receives a new set of tail lamps fitted with LEDs to match the front and a subtly restyled bumper.
Go inside and the interior layout is pretty much identical as before, save for for the relocated aircon vents on the center stack which have been pulled upwards to make more space for the start/stop button and fill the awkward looking silver bunny ears. Material is a mix of hard plastic and some soft-touch synthetics to give it a slightly more premium touch.
The multi-information display gives fuel mileage reading in addition to the standard distance displays. The steering wheel gets controls for audio and the information display as well. The entertainment system features a basic radio with CD/MP3, AUX connectivity with four speakers. Sound quality was good. Air-conditioning is controlled with rotary-type manual knobs with the addition of rear vents.
Overall the interior is a good mix of utilitarian controls that are ergonomically placed.
Under the hood is a carried over 1.6-liter DOHC D-CVVT inline-4 Gamma engine. Rated at 130 PS with 157 Nm of torque, it is the most able of the 1.6-liter powered cars in the compact class. It performed exactly the same as we tested before having a good amount of torque in the low to midrange making it a good car for the city while still having good power on the open road. This time however, the test mule we got comes with a 6-speed automatic which was geared well enough to match the engine and produced smooth and precise shifts.
The instrumentation also gets an eco mode indicator to remind you to drive more frugal. I did about 13 km/l in mixed highway and city driving conditions with light to moderate traffic. On the open road, it logged 17 km/l on the on-board fuel meter; while it clocked 9.5km/l in pure city with light to moderate traffic. The numbers are a little lower than the previous test, but it would be interesting to note that this particular car had 16-inch wheels with high performance tires while the previous test mule came with 15-inch eco tires.
The suspension seems to have been reworked; likely a revision in damping and spring rates as it seemed to feel smoother through rougher than normal roads. Handling seems to be better but again, this car does again come with 16-inch rolling stock. It's worthy to note that this Elantra, while a better handler, is still not the most dynamic in its class.
The electric-assist steering receives the flex-steer system first introduced locally with the Santa Fe. This gives the ability to choose between comfort, sport or normal steering modes to suit specific driving styles, though it's still synthetic.
For comfort and safety, it comes with a smart access key, power folding side mirrors, auto light control function, front and rear parking sensors, dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution.
The Elantra has indeed gone leaps and bounds in terms of looks. If styling were the only factor in deciding a car purchase, it would indeed be high up on the list of choices for most car buyers, but that not always be the case. Modern styling, premium features, bells and whistles might be attractive, the car still has a 1.6-liter engine and retails for a little over 1-million, which lends me to think that this variant may be overreaching a bit given that it's more expensive against competitors.