Hyundai Elantra Long Term Review
The Hyundai Elantra is a comfortable car with striking looks and generous equipment.
One of the most popular segments the world over is what we in India refer to as the D-segment. This class of cars consists of big names like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Elantra, what’s common between all these vehicles is that they are among the top selling cars for the respective automobile manufacturers. In fact the top five highest selling cars in the world last year were from this segment, this pretty much establishes the fact that D-segment automobiles are ideal for most buyers in the world. This brings me to the Hyundai Elantra, a car which is now in its fifth generation and has managed to leapfrog big and more established brands to the top. What makes the Elantra such a hot favourite the world over? Our long termer has just arrived and within just a few days, we have understood what the hype is all about.
Starting life in 1990, the Hyundai Elantra has come a long long way. I remember driving the third generation Elantra when it was launched in India in April 2004. It was a gleaming black car and although the styling was referred to as ugly by most back then, I found solace in the wickedness of its grumpy smile. But that wasn’t the point, Hyundai has always played the value game and back then too the Elantra came equipped with features unheard off in the segment, the biggest and most talked about was the Traction Control System. I remember the salesman taking me to a dusty patch of road to just demonstrate the system. Besides being so well equipped with a plethora of equipment, the Elantra simply did not manage to sell and Hyundai pulled the plug on the model, not bringing in the fourth generation to India. However when the fifth generation model was launched a couple of years back, it was bound to be an instant success because of its new fluidic design language which makes it look plain outstanding.
It’s no rocket science that attractive appearance always goes down well with prospective buyers and that’s one area where Hyundai has mastered the tricks of the trade. The Elantra is the most appealing car from the company and although many might find the new Sonata having the most eye-candy, we feel the Elantra has just the right proportions to draw eye-pops. In fact I spent around 500 kms driving along with the Elantra which gave me a good chance to admire its attractive styling. What really works is the coupe like profile and the massive attention to detail in the front-end design. We might have a lot of options in this segment but when it comes to design alone, the Elantra is simply no match. It manages to make people give it a second glance and the Maharajah Red colour really works wonders on this vehicle. The swept back lights are very well executed and so are the longish tail lights, we are impressed.
Open the solid doors and you are greeted by the same level of design focus as on the outside. The cabin is an excellent place to be in and that’s largely why the Hyundai Elantra is so popular globally. You are engulfed by a cabin where there has been no shortcuts taken at all, everything falls in place neatly and on our long term car which is nearing 19,000 kms on the odo, Hyundai’s fantastic build quality reflects with nothing falling apart or rattling. One thing which we really miss is the distance to empty feature, something which makes tanking up so much more convenient as you can plan fuel stops more accurately.
Even higher is our admiration for the seats, which offer good support but both the front and rear seats have a story to tell. Mumbai is soaring hot at 40 degrees and the Elantra’s AC is doing well to cope up with the heat but what’s even better are the cooled ventilated front seats, they simply keep you fresh on long journeys by ensuring your backside is chilled. The rear has good space too and the rear seat arm rest has most of the audio controls, making it the apt place to occupy for audiophiles. One thing I don’t like about the Elantra’s cabin are the front centre AC vents, they are positioned too low and that makes air flow not so smooth. Hyundai has re-arranged the AC vents on the facelifted model. Other small issues include a USB which doesn’t work properly with the iPhone, you can’t browse songs on your phone through the car and the doors don’t auto-lock at all.
When I went to pick up the Elantra from Hyundai, I wasn’t really looking forward to the driving experience but somehow the car has managed to surprise me, in a pleasant way. No, it’s not close to as sharp as the Skoda Octavia or Volkswagen Jetta but the sheer convenience of driving this D-segmenter has left me spell bound. Ours is an automatic version, which coupled with the light steering makes city driving a breeze. The diesel motor isn’t the most powerful around but has decent pep to keep the Elantra up to pace in both the city and on the highway and while we aren’t too impressed with the speeds with which the 6-speed gearbox goes about shifting cogs, we do appreciate its smoothness which coupled with the fantastic NVH levels keeps your drive tranquil.
One aspect where Hyundai cars don’t real shine bright are the dynamics but just recently when I had to get across quickly from one part of Mumbai to another, I was taken aback with the Elantra being quite fun behind the wheel. As long as you don’t take the car near its limit, you can enjoy it quite as much and I can confidently say the Elantra has the best steering of all Hyundai cars. What deserves a special mention is the ride quality, it absorbs all that the road throws at it and although the vehicle appears a bit bouncy from the outside, it really isn’t that bouncy on the inside.
Our long term car was showing signs of sponginess with the brakes and thus we thought of getting the 20,000 km service done. The car went in for regular service and the engine oil along with brake pads were changed. The wiper blades were also replaced considering pre-monsoon showers can surprise us anytime soon. Post service, the Elantra feels much improved, reflecting both in engine performance and stopping power.
When we first drove the fifth generation Hyundai Elantra two years back, we were all praises for it and the car ticked so many boxes that it even swept the 2012 MotorBeam Car Of The Year honours. The competition in this segment has increased but the Elantra maintains its own in front of its rivals. The Elantra isn’t a driver’s car but what it lacks in the driver involvement department, it more than makes up for it by excelling in other key areas which most buyers really care about. The Elantra looks stunning inside-out, rides well and the diesel engine is frugal yet with a good amount of punch for all types of driving situations. With so many things being done so well, it’s no mystery why the Elantra was the world’s fourth highest selling car last year.