Building a C-Segment car must be one of the more difficult challenges for automakers. It can't be too small nor too large, it should be efficient but not underpowered and it should pack enough equipment to please a wide spectrum of customers. A C-Segment car should also look good and, to some extent, fill the owner with pride as he or she perches it on their driveway or office carpark. In short, it's the Goldilocks segment.
So when it was time for Hyundai to redesign the Elantra, one can presume a few engineers gained a few more white hairs and more wrinkles. Judging from high praises from our past reviews, the new Elantra had to be a darn good car, a better car than its predecessor.
On exterior alone, the Elantra is a winner. While not as daring as its predecessor, the new shape is edgier and more angular. It still retains that rather distinct roofline from the old Elantra but you won't mistake it for an Accent. Instead, it takes a more cues from its bigger brother, the Sonata, and that was a good looking sedan too. Hyundai's 'Fluidic Sculpture 2.0' design philosophy did wonders for the Elantra. My favorite angle of the Elantra would be the front quarter view with its headlights giving it a more upmarket look. It's a looker from the rear too with its wide and slim tail lights and high-deck trunklid.
It's a shame then that the 16-inch rims look rather small on the car. The silver paint doesn't do it any favors either as it hides many of the Elantra's character lines. Small wheels and bland color choice aside, I'd put the Elantra near the top of its class in terms of looks. It's a car you would probably buy on looks alone.
Inside, things are more somber. Compared to the old Elantra, the interior on the new model is rather conservative. Gone are the sweeping lines of the previous generation and in its place is the more formal and upright 'T-design' dashboard as seen on the Sonata. Still, the more conventional look will perhaps age better in the long run. As for ergonomics, it's rather straightforward; radio in the top half, air-con controls at the lower half, no buttons in odd places and exactly where you expect them to be.
Hyundai also made a great deal of effort in making the interior feel more premium. The soft touch dash was a nice treat and the door panels, while made from hard plastic, has a grain that still feels nice to touch. Push down on the buttons and there's a nice feel to them and there are no loud clicks or clacks when you press them, just a nice fluid motion.
This interior can be best described as an exercise in touch points. Hyundai made the car feel more upscale by adding an air of quality where your hands usually go. However, there is a rather vital feature missing in the Elantra: It lacks of Bluetooth. While you can still play songs from a smartphone's playlist, the system has a tendency to be a little choosy with the cord.
Under the hood of this particular Elantra is Hyundai's Gamma 1.6-liter MPi engine. Essentially a carryover from the previous generation model, it produces 130 PS and 154 Nm of torque. Needless to say, the figures are impressive for a 1.6 liter engine. Hyundai bucks the CVT trend by pairing it with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.
On the road, the Elantra doesn't wow you with pin-sharp driving dynamics or involve you in more spirited driving. The steering offers very little feel and remains light even at higher speeds, occasionally making you guess where the front wheels are pointed. Instead, the Elantra tries to cosset you with a smooth ride and excellent refinement. Noise isolation is good with sounds from the engine becoming more vocal 3,000 rpm, keeping things hushed in the cabin. Space inside is good and taller passengers won't complain about legroom but the sloping roofline cuts in a little on headroom.
Despite the wind-cheating profile, forward visibility is better than its predecessor with redesigned front pillars and a larger windshield. The side windows are larger too, letting in more light in the cabin. Sitting at the back however, it may like a bunker since the window line sweeps upwards. Reversing into spaces in another matter. With its steep rear windshield, it often shows an illusion of you being close to a wall, only to find out you're still about a two feet away from it. What this car needs then is a set of reverse sensors which isn't available for the mid-level model.
The aerodynamic shape of the Elantra makes it one of the quietest sedans I have tested. Even at highway speeds, there was little in the way of wind noise. Couple that with its pliant ride and the Elantra is great for long drives and cruises. Speaking of ride, it stays composed on the open road and soaks up bumps with muffled thump, just to let you know the road isn't smooth.
At lower speeds, the ride is on the firm side but not harsh. Suspension rebound and compression is good and, with the way it was set up, does a good job of keeping the body level. As a car to bring you to work or out of town, the Elantra is comfortable to ride in and the light controls make it as stress-free as possible for the driver. The Elantra will impress many with its refinement and ease of driving; just don't ask it to hustle through corners.
Shoppers in this segment expect good fuel economy and the Elantra delivers on that front. In relatively heavy traffic, the 1.6 liter mill consumes 8.5 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 16 km/h. Light traffic meanwhile yielded 12.8 kilometers per liter at 32 km/h average. It sips on the highway too, returning 16.3 kilometers per liter with an average speed of 92 km/h. These figures surprisingly top its Kia-badged cousin. Perhaps the slippery body played a role in its high efficiency on the highway.
Talking about engine performance, it delivers most of its 130 PS at the mid-range of the rev-band. It may be related to the Forte but the Kia, as observed in our past review, makes the most of its grunt higher up the RPMs. Passing on the highway is no worry for the Elantra, just let the transmission kick down and go. For an even quicker overtake, put it in manual mode and pull it a gear down yourself. It's not the fastest manual mode out there but it does the job.
As for value, the mid-range Elantra lacks a few features one would expect in this class of car. Aside from the aforementioned Bluetooth system, the Elantra doesn't have have a telescopic steering wheel nor an automatic up and down function for power windows. Also missing is automatic climate control, unusual in a mid-level C-Segment car. Some of its rivals, including its cousin, pack more equipment for less. Its twin packs dual-zone climate control with rear vents, touchscreen infotainment with AM/FM, CD, USB, Aux and Bluetooth, reverse camera with front and rear parking sensors? The Kia even comes with cruise control, automatic headlights.
At Php 998,000, it sneaks in just under the 1 million peso 'barrier'. It ticks the boxes on what a C-Segment sedan should be. It's small enough to be maneuverable and spacious enough for a long haul. It's stylish and has a reasonably powerful and efficient engine too. While it won't please those looking for a sporty drive, the Elantra is more than enough for those considering a C-Segment sedan. All it needs now is a better equipment package to boost its value proposition.