They say you should never judge a book by its cover. They say looks aren’t everything. They say beauty is only skin deep. They say it’s what’s inside that counts. They say a lot of things, but when I saw for myself the Hyundai MD Elantra up close I forgot about all that for a moment.
This is a product of Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language, and it shows – everything seems to flow. The headlamps sweep back towards a shoulder line that gently kinks at the C-pillar, creating a leaf-shaped glass area. A waistline starts from the front wheel arch, marks the position of the outside door handles and finally punctuates the tail lamps. The waistline is so pronounced it creates ‘hips.’
Look at it side-on and you notice the headlamps and tail lamps are of about the same shape and surface area. Its short overhangs are about the same length too – the rear is only 100 mm longer than the front – and with a roofline that bridges bonnet and boot in a constant parabolic curve, this is a car of very balanced proportions.
And who could miss that front end? Some might call it fussy, but the way the bonnet lines meet at the grille and then form a hexagon around the triple-slatted lower intake, you have to say, is pretty original. It’s a handsome car that manages to stand out without being offensive. Oh, and it’s locally-assembled, which is why you see an Inokom badge on the nose.
Hyundai is on a roll with the MD Elantra, especially in the US where it is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades including 2012 North American Car of the Year. They’re no longer strangers to the Malaysian market either, and their global confidence is growing, which shows in the Elantra’s bold styling. Of course, how the styling will hold up in the years to come is a different matter, but for now, looks-wise, it’s a big tick in my box.
The fluidity continues inside, with dashboard and door pulls being particularly swoopy (even the steering wheel spokes, to an extent). It’s interesting at best, but there’s a downside – due to the adventurous shapes, the central air-con vents have had to be relegated to small areas on either side of the centre console, which is a bit awkward-looking.
That is not to say air-con performance suffers, for the cooling system features double-pipe plumbing, which Hyundai says “results in faster cooling and less load on the air-con compressor.” Indeed, no complaints as far as air conditioning is concerned – cabin temperatures are brought down to comfortable levels very quickly, and maintained even on the hottest of days.
In terms of fit and finish, it has to be said that while everything’s put together very well, the perceived quality of the materials used do lag somewhat behind its main rivals. I say ‘perceived’ because I have no doubt they’ll hold up to many years of abuse, but they do not feel so. Buttons and switches are all in the right places, but again, there’s still a plasticky lightness in their operation. Think of the buttons on a calculator. But hey, they do the job.
Practicality and space? Oh yes. Cubbyholes are in abundance (including an overhead compartment for you to put your sunglasses), and they’ve clearly been cleverly thought out, for all are within easy reach and don’t require much of a stretch. There’s even a shopping bag hook on the centre console, and I counted eight cupholders in total – surely a record for this segment. The cabin has an airy feel, helped by the sunroof and the fact that it really is quite spacious inside.
You’re looking at 420 litres of luggage space; open the really light boot lid and pull the two catch release knobs to fold the back seats down and obviously you get a lot more. With the rear bench folded, the centre seat belt is in the way. Try as I did, I couldn’t find a way to get rid of it. It’s a safety thing, of course. But if I had a really wide cabinet to transport, I might have to saw it in half first.
The MD Elantra is offered here in four variants: 1.6MT Standard, 1.6AT Standard, 1.6AT High Spec and 1.8AT Premium, with prices starting from RM88,888, OTR with insurance. Standard kit for all include ABS with EBD, auxiliary, USB and iPod functionality, electric power steering, leather seats, two airbags, fog lamps and automatic headlamps.
My test car was the 1.8AT Premium, which costs RM114,888. Exclusive to it are 17-inch alloys (the other variants get 16s), a tilt-and-slide sunroof, Nappa leather seats, Audio Visual Navigator, dual-zone automatic air-con, automatic wipers, power driver’s seat and cruise control. It also has keyless entry and start (only the Standard manual doesn’t get this), ESP with VSM and aluminium pedals (the High Spec gets these too). That’s a lot of kit, I’m sure you’ll agree.