What does one look for when buying a four-door family sedan? Looks? Comfort? Features? It's safe to say all of the above. As more and more car buyers want more bang for their buck, automakers are forced to come up with automobiles that have to look and act the part.
The Elantra is one model that proves to be a stand out from the rest of its contemporaries. When I first laid laid eyes on one (previous generation), it struck me as a very stylish car in a sea of average looking C-segment sedans at the time. I was also surprised to know that the car came from Hyundai.
Now all-new for the 2016 model year, the Elantra gets a major redesign both inside and out. With the older generation proving to be a hit with car buyers, will the new version be able to deliver?
Several months ago, we were able to get our hands on the mid-range GL automatic model. It was a nice car, but was certainly lacking some key features which may not satisfy the car buyer that needs all the bells and whistles. Enter the range-topping GLS. Aside from that fact it's better equipped, it also gets a new 2.0-liter motor that succeeds the older 1.8-liter mill. But before we get to that, let's check out the car's eye-catching exterior.
Bearing the brand's Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language, the 2016 Elantra features a more mature exterior. It still has all the right curves in the right places but is marginally better looking than the previous generation. I particularly like the new front fascia with its prominent hexagonal grill and sweeping headlights that give the sedan an aggressive and upmarket look.
The rear is not bad either as I liked how Hyundai made the taillights smaller. I'm a fan of the fifth-gen's taillights myself but the new set on the sixth-gen Elantra is more pleasing to the eyes. The 17-inch alloy wheels were also a welcome addition to the GLS as the 16-inch set on the GL looks too small for the car.
Overall, I like how Hyundai made the Elantra look more European and upscale. I was unsure at first if Hyundai would be able to outdo the look of the previous Elantra but I am glad that they were able to pull it off.
The interior of the 2016 Elantra may have lost its 'Korean Soul' but it looks and feels better nonetheless. It gets a more upright dashboard design that is both appealing and ergonomic. Splashes of faux metal accents and gloss black trim envelopes the cabin while the fabric-trimmed seats are comfortable. However, a bit more lateral support would have been better for the driver's seat.
At the center sits the touchscreen infotainment that supports AM/FM radio, CD, USB, Aux and Bluetooth. Below it is the automatic climate control with dual-zone function and rear vents. While the new center console is not as uniquely designed as the older model, the more conventional look of the center dash means everything is placed where it should be.
Being the range-topping model, it gets several extras apart from Bluetooth connectivity and the touchscreen display. The GLS gets a leather steering wheel, automatic headlights and window wipers, power folding side mirrors, push-button start and a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines. I do find it disappointing however that the GLS does not come with navigation.
As I've mentioned earlier, the new top-of-the-range GLS is now propelled by a 2.0-liter Nu MPI inline-four. It produces 152 PS at 6200 rpm and 192 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. Power is then transferred to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox with manumatic function.
While it's not the most powerful C-segment sedan, the powertrain is smooth and well-matched with the chassis. With more than enough grunt, the 2.0-liter mill pulls along quite nicely though I did find that most of its power is at the midrange. It's great for fuel economy but one has to plan in advance when overtaking. Of course, a swift shift with the manual mode brings up the revs to its powerband.
Where the Elantra truly excels is riding comfort. Never once did I felt tired when driving the Elantra through the metro's rutted side streets and pothole-filled highways. The last sedan I drove that felt this comfortable was its cousin, the Kia Forte. It's safe to say that both companies got the damping right for their C-segment contenders.
Handling-wise, the Elantra has good driving characteristics. The electronic power steering system may be too light for some, but for me it felt just right.
Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) deadening on the Elantra is also good, as there was little outside disturbance intruding the cabin. The Elantra also gets high marks for legroom for the rear occupants but headroom at the rear could be a problem for taller passengers as the Elantra has a sloping roofline.
As for fuel economy, the Elantra returned reasonable figures. Stuck in heavy traffic? The Elantra will average around 7.3 km/l. A cruise through light city streets will net you an average consumption between 10 – 11 km/l. Take it out on the highway and the Elantra is capable of averaging 16.6 km/l of fuel.
Retailing for PhP 1,158,000, the Elantra GLS is for those that value comfort over outright performance and handling. The 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic transmission are well-matched, while the cozy interior and pliant ride will keep occupants relaxed for hundreds of kilometers.
It's also relatively more affordable than other top-of-the-range C-segment sedans which currently average between PhP 1.2 and 1.4 million. It's only true rival is its relative, the base model Kia Forte Sedan. The other Korean may only have a 1.6-liter engine, but all of the extra features that are only available for the top-spec Elantra already come as standard on the Forte Sedan which currently retails for PhP 965,000.
The price may leave a few heads scratching but looking at the overall package, the range-topping Elantra presents a strong case.