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zigWheels.com Hyundai Elantra: First Drive

2445 Views 2 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  booster-juice
The all new Hyundai Elantra is finally here and this time it intends on dominating the segment rather than being just another run of the mill product offering. It's got all the bases covered and Hyundai is betting big with this one!

Hyundai had to pull the plug on the 4th generation Elantra a few years ago as the car wasn't able to command the desired level of market penetration, despite the segment witnessing a growth. Incidentally the 4th generation Elantra suffered on the account of its image. It wasn't able to generate enough appeal amongst buyers who preferred a more contemporary design and new age interiors. At the time, fuel costs were in check and the Elantra was an able performer on both petrol and diesel offerings, however that wasn't enough. Adding to the woes, Hyundai offered a lucrative discount on the Elantra and even that card failed to trigger a major response in the market. The eventual outcome was that Hyundai had to pull the plug on the Elantra; however the company did promise that they would be back.

In true Hollywood fashion, the 5th avatar of the Elantra is back and better than ever. The car boasts of Hyundai's signature fluidic design theme and while the entire range from the Eon up to the Sonata follows the same line of thought in terms of exterior design, it is the Elantra that walks away with the laurels thanks to its proportionate looks that are bound to catch eyeballs. Its coupe inspired body lines, pronounced character lines, stretched headlights and taillights, sculpted wheel arches all work to give the Elantra a rather aggressive stance.

The icing on the cake however have to be those neat 16 inch alloys shod with 205/60 R16 rubber which work their magic in completing a rather desirable exterior package. By moving away from the contemporary and exploring the element of design, Hyundai has been able to address a major grouse that people had with the previous Elantra. That was a car that was designed to look as though it could be driven in either direction! However the past is the past and the new Elantra is a definite winner in the looks department.

The elegance of the exterior is matched with the well appointed interiors that exude a quality fit and finish which is at par with what one expects from a car of this segment. The plastics are great, the texture and feel of materials all exude a premium feel. The two tone dash with chrome accents around the center console is rather stylish and the beige interiors offer an airy aura to the cabin. Speaking of which, cabin space is rather decent and while leg space is great all around, the sloping roof line does hamper headroom for tall passengers at the rear. Having said that, the overall appeal of the Elantra stands as testament to how much attention Hyundai has paid to customer feedback regarding the demands that can be afforded to a car of this class.

Another element that shines through on the Elantra is also something that we have observed across the new range of Hyundai vehicles and that is the company's ability to package the vehicle with a high level of kit. The Elantra comes with a host of creature comforts and features which include dual zone climate control, ventilated front seats (only on top end variants), high end audio system with AUX/iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, rear seat audio controls, steering mounted audio and cruise controls, a cooled glove box, an electro-chromic rear view mirror with rear view camera, rear parking sensors, rear air conditioning vents, electronically folding and heated ORVMs, electronically adjustable driver seat as well as push button start/stop. In terms of safety features, the Elantra comes with six airbags, ABS, vehicle stability management (VSM) as well as electronic stability control (ESC). In total, it's a rather exhaustive list that surpasses what most of the competition offer and this is bound to work heavily in the Elantra's favour.
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Powering the Elantra is a choice of two engines, namely a 1,797cc petrol unit and a 1,582cc diesel mill. The four cylinder petrol engine boasts of a dual overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder, multi point fuel injection and variable timing valve train technology (VTVT). It is capable of churning out a solid 149.5PS @6,500 rpm and a decent 181Nm of torque @ 4700 rpm. The diesel unit is incidentally the same engine fitted into the new Verna which is already on sale in India. This four cylinder common rail direct injection mill features a variable geometry turbo (VGT) and pumps out a decent 128PS @ 4000 rpm and a rather decent 265Nm of torque between 1,900-2,750 rpm.

Both engines are offered with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Incidentally both transmissions are six speed units that complement the engines perfectly and allow for an enhanced drive experience. In terms of fuel efficiency, the diesel manual would be the best bet and should offer a mileage in the range of 14-16 kmpl with ease. The petrol unit would obviously be lower but it is expected to be reasonably efficient as well. Having said that, the market is strongly swinging towards diesels and even Hyundai is expecting the sales volumes to be driven by the diesel variants.

Speaking about engines, the 1.8 litre petrol promises to be quite a performer, however I was unable to get behind the wheel of that car. What I did get to drive was the 1.6 litre diesel in both manual and automatic avatars. While I was a little skeptical about the diesel's ability to perform in the Elantra, especially considering the fact that this is the exact same engine from the Verna in the exact state of tune, I was in for a revelation.

The engine generates enough grunt and ample torque to power the Elantra with elan. It's smooth, refined and NVH is rather impressive. While I did not find it underpowered, I don't expect the Elantra diesel to win any quarter mile races. The manual was the obvious choice amongst the gearboxes as it complimented the engine perfectly and offered a more engaging drive experience as compared to the automatic box. Having said that, the six speed automatic isn't lethargic and frankly considering current market trends I wouldn't be surprised if the automatic diesel Elantra found a solid fan following!
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In terms of driveability, the Elantra offers a well planted ride, which came as a pleasant surprise considering the fact that the company is known for their soft suspension set up which takes away from drive dynamics. While the ride quality is smooth, the car remains composed even at three digit speeds and at no time did it instill any nervousness. The steering is great to grip and is rather light at city speeds which is great while driving around town. On the highway the steering does firm up with higher speeds but I personally felt that it remained a little light. Regardless, the Elantra is a joy to drive.

The new Elantra is piped directly against the Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Altis and Honda Civic, and on the higher end of the spectrum the car is up against the Skoda Laura and the Volkswagen Jetta. It's not an easy marketplace to operate in and there are a bunch of big brands that are determined on demanding their piece of the pie. Hyundai has already burnt their fingers once by offering a run-of-the-mill product in this segment, however this time around the new Elantra does have the mettle to play its cards right. The new car boasts of a stellar design that has worked wonders for Hyundai, its well kitted, offers decent performance and it has already garnered a number of accolades across the globe.

Hyundai has reason to bet big on the success of the Elantra however the real deal lies in the pricing strategy. If the lesson learnt from the Verna is anything to judge Hyundai by, then expect the Elantra to be offered across a plethora of versions (engine options + transmission options + variant options = a very long choice list!) to cater to a wide price bracket and therefore garner maximum market interest. It worked for the Verna and it remains to be seen if this success story will unfold again for the Elantra.
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