The executive sedan (D) segment of the Indian car market is fairly small, and has never really been a happy hunting ground for any manufacturer but for the initial euphoria it generates among prospective customers. For some time now, the segment has been going steady at about 1,000 units of sale each month. Hyundai Motor India though, is aiming to change that with the launch of their latest product, the sixth-generation Elantra. The company invited us over to Mahabalipuram recently to get a first-hand experience of the car. Here's what we found out.
Launched in 2012, the fifth-generation Hyundai Elantra was one of the most striking visual advocates of the Korean auto major's fluidic design language and philosophy. That wasn't lost on the customers in India, and Hyundai was able to take good advantage of that excitement by becoming a segment leader with the Elantra. Over four years later, the company expects to create the same kind of fervour among customers with the new Elantra.
DESIGN & STYLING
The new Elantra is based on a completely new vehicle platform, and in a departure from their earlier stance, designers have taken a much conservative approach to the exterior design and styling of the car, all to good effect. The company calls this the new Fluidic 2.0 design language, with focus on dynamic precision. This is also in accordance with the brand direction that the company seeks, which is 'modern' and 'premium'.
The Elantra hasn't changed much dimensionally, but for the increased width of 20 mm. The outer appearance of the car looks nice and contemporary. The large hexagonal grille is a major shift on the front, and so are the headlights with daytime running lights (DRL). The side profile is more coupe-like now, and aids aerodynamics. The company claims a best-in-segment coefficient drag of 0.29 on the Elantra. The lines on the side merge well into the boot and to the LED rear combination lamps, which look like an advanced iteration of the tail lamps from Hyundai's premium compact hatch, i20.
Inside, the Elantra now gets an all-black cabin, which certainly looks classier than the multi-coloured beige-black-silver dashboard in the earlier generation Elantra. The centre console looks very conventional, and is tilted towards the driver offering not just a good view, but easy operational access. The 8-inch AVN touchscreen in HD is quite intuitive, and the switches in the centre console and steering column are well laid-out. The cluster gauge is a 3.5-inch mono TFT LCD unit, and has a wide array of driving information built-in.
The seats are comfortable at the front, but the rear seat would have been better with slightly more thigh support. Both front seats are air cooled and feature three-stage cooling, and the driver's seat has electric controls with a twin memory function. In terms of storage space, the Elantra has a fair amount of options for occupants both in the front and the rear. Overall, the Elantra cabin is an impressive place to be in. Quality of plastic is good, and so is the fit & finish.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The Elantra comes with two engine options – the U2 1.6 l CRDi and the new Nu 2 l petrol engine. Both these engines come with the option of a manual six-speed or the six-speed automatic transmission. To begin with, we drove the diesel variant that is capable of a maximum power output of about 126 hp at 4,000 rpm and 260 Nm torque at 1,900-2,750 rpm. This is the same unit that powered the outgoing Elantra, and it continues to impress with its power delivery and refinement. Mileage figures have improved to a claimed 22.54 km/l for the manual transmission.
The Nu 2 l, 4-cylinder petrol engine is all-new, and is the largest in its segment. It is a lightweight all aluminium engine with dual VTVT (variable timing valve train) that allows independent control of the intake and exhaust valves in an internal combustion engine. The output ratings of this engine, however, isn't class leading. Having said that, the 150 hp of peak power at 6,200 rom and the 192 Nm of torque don't make the engine feel compromised form any aspect, be it performance or efficiency. The ARAI certified mileage for the 2 l unit is 14.62 km/l with the automatic gearbox.
The six-speed automatic transmission has a new torque converter with enhanced control logic. It also comes with a couple of driving modes – Eco for improved fuel efficiency, and Sport mode to make the throttle more responsive. There is a manual mode built in, should you want to have control of your gearshifts.
SUSPENSION & SAFETY
There is MacPherson Strut type suspension in the front, while suspension duty in the rear is done by Coupled Torsion Beam Axle. Hyundai has also introduced a Hydraulic Rebound Stopper (HRS) in the Elantra that offers improved damping. During the drive, we mostly experienced smooth roads, but on a few stretches that demanded the suspension to play its role, it didn't disappoint. There is a marked improvement on the Elantra's steering system. The electrically-assisted system is still light, but there is definite feel to it now, as compared to the car from the previous generation, and offers decent feedback.
The new platform on which the Elantra has been built has 53 % Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) structure, claims the company, up from the 21 % AHSS in the earlier generation Elantra. While this helps reduce the weight of the car, it also aids in safety and NVH characteristics of the chassis. In addition, there is 40X more adhesive used in the structure for chassis connection reinforcement and chassis rigidity. To reduce repair costs, Hyundai has built 'crush boxes' both in the front and rear structure of the car. These essentially are secured spaces for deformation in case of low speed collision to prevent major damage to the vehicle body.
Other safety features include six airbags, hill assist control (HAC), electronic stability control (ESC), and vehicle stability management (VSM). VSM essentially is a combination of ESC and MDPS (motor-driven power steering) that assists the steering system for improved stability while braking or acceleration during unstable vehicle condition.
Like in its entire product portfolio, Hyundai has packed the Elantra with a host of interesting, practical features. One such addition to the Elantra's impressive feature list is the Smart Trunk. Say, you are carrying bags in both your hands. When you approach the rear of the car, the sensor recognises the key in your pocket, and in three seconds, the boot lid pops open automatically.
Launched at a price range of Rs 12.99-17.99 lakh for the petrol variants, and Rs 14.79-19.19 lakh for the diesel variants, Hyundai has introduced to the market a compelling package. How much it is capable of buoying the overall segment, time will tell.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay