Hyundai Elantra Review – Promising Second Coming

In recent years, Hyundai Motor India Limited (HMIL) has found success in models that had limited acceptance in their earlier avatars. Like its competitor Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL), Hyundai too found it hard to sell premium sedans such as the Elantra and Sonata. What turned around things for the company though was the fluidic design language and development of new & efficient technologies. The company recently introduced the Neo Fluidic Elantra based on the same philosophy. We drove the car to find out what makes it different in terms of market performance, and in comparison to its predecessor.

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Design

Finding any significant flaw or shortcoming with the fluidic sculpture is a tough task. The overall theme is based on the interplay of wind with rigid surfaces to represent the effect of motion. The design is comprised of lines that reflect the flow of wind over the surfaces, which results in a curvaceous and smoothly flowing design. As a result, we find the Elantra to be the best implementation of the fluidic sculpture in HMIL’s present Indian model line-up.

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The side profile gets a sporty yet muscular look, courtesy the pronounced line starting from the front door and flowing till the tail lamps. The sharply raked roofline gives the car a coupe-ish look, adding to the dynamic character. Every element from the headlamp and grille to the bootlid and tail lamps seamlessly complement each other. Viewed from side, the wing-shaped glass area adds a lot to the motion-intensive design. 

The only place which looks a little out of place is the area between the tail lamp and the tip of the rear bumper. It looks a little larger than normal in flesh and could’ve done better with a crease or two. Overall, we can safely say that the new Elantra is the best-looking car in its segment. While it should be noted that most of the competition is on the heels of a new platform/ generation, there’s no taking away from Elantra for its modern and striking design.

Powertrain

The Elantra is presently offered with a petrol and diesel engine, the diesel being the same 1.6 l unit found in the Verna. The new offering is the 1.8 l MPI four-cylinder engine from Hyundai’s new Nu engine family. The Nu family consists of MPI, GDI and CVVL series of engines. The MPI engine develops 148 hp and a torque of about 178 Nm @ 4,700 rpm. 

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Lightweighting was an important consideration in the engine design process. The block is made of aluminium and is combined with a cast iron cylinder liner, cylinder head and crank. Usage of alloy over iron results in a 30 % lighter block. In numbers, this means an overall weight reduction of about 34 kg without sacrificing structural strength. 

Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT) camshafts along with hydraulic engine mounts is claimed to offer a better balance between power, efficiency and refinement. Normally, CVVT or similar systems are used only on the intake camshaft. Using it on both camshafts is claimed to result in a two percent increase each, in volumetric efficiency and fuel economy. Hydrocarbon emissions too are reduced by 30 %, leading to a powerful yet clean engine. 

The unit is silent and refined from start-ups till about 4,000 rpm. The overall engineering and NVH proofing does a good job of filtering the decibels out of the cabin. We found that the engine starts sounding a little harsh only after about 4,000 rpm. At cruising speeds though, the engine is extremely smooth and efficient aerodynamics ensure low wind noise. A maintenance-free silent timing chain system further lowers the NVH levels, while offering enhanced reliability.

A smart engineering solution is the plastic two-stage Variable Intake System (VIS). Usage of plastic instead of aluminium, or any other metal, has resulted in a weight saving of about 30 % along with a significant cost-benefit. The system consists of two intake manifolds, one longer than the other. Based on the requirement, the system can automatically switch between the intake manifolds, resulting in a claimed increase of four percent in performance.

In the 1.8 l Nu engine, the throttle cable and mechanical linkages have been done away with in favour of an electronic throttle control. This allows better regulation over air intake, throttle response and drivability. The engine pulls away cleanly from a little below 2,000 rpm, prior to which there is some amount of lag. The lag, however, isn’t much and wouldn’t be bothersome in most conditions. Overall acceleration is satisfactory and the engine provides sufficient momentum in every gear. Using a handheld GPS device, we got a best time of 0-100 km/hr in 10.6 seconds. It should be noted that the test was performed in partially wet conditions, so on a dry surface a few tenths of a second could be reduced further. 

The new engine also makes use of an offset crankshaft design, which reduces friction between the cylinder wall and piston. Lesser friction results in an improvement of one percent in fuel-efficiency. The M6CF3-1 six-speed manual transmission is well-integrated with the MPI engine and is an easy unit to work through. The unit features triple-cone synchronisers for first and second gears, double-cone for third and single cone for the remaining three gears. As a result, this transmission is smoother to operate than quite a few comparable units. Balanced gear ratios keep the requirement for shifting in check to a large extent. 

The overall powertrain package for the Elantra works well and all of the technologies mentioned above work in good unison. The 1.8 l Nu engine, with its wide host of effective engineering solutions provides a balanced offering. It isn’t the sportiest powertrain nor is it the smoothest on sale today. It does, however, offer one of the best balances between performance, efficiency and comfort among all segment cars on sale today.

Interior & Features

Stepping into the cabin, one is greeted with the continuation of the fluidic sculpture design language in the dashboard. The downward flowing design of the centre console is the eye-catching part. The door handles and trim too have been designed to mimic the flow of water or air. Usage of grey instead of the usual chrome on the door handles adds a subtle look to the cabin. The overall effect of the design implementation is modern yet elegant. The dials and controls are neatly designed and ergonomically placed.

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The front seats offer good cushioning and lateral and vertical support. These seats offer a segment-first ventilated cooling system. The system is of great help in humid conditions and aids comfort significantly. The laterally movable armrest is a good touch and makes it easy for drivers of varied height to find an overall comfortable seating position. A telescopic/ tiltable steering wheel along with a 10-way electrically adjustable driver seat makes it a comfortable car for the driver. The front view over an 180o span is clear and none of the pillars block the vision. The sloping rear glass too offers decent visibility, but not as good as the front.

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Rear seats offer good legroom and seat width by segment standards. The only issue with taller occupants at the rear can be the tapering roofline, which limits the availability of headroom. A nice touch at the rear is the placement of audio controls, signifying the focus on the rear passengers. Overall, the interior of the Elantra is well-packaged and nicely laid-out. Material quality is of acceptable standards and the plastic bits’ colours go along well with the beige theme. In terms of features, the Elantra scores higher than not just the competition but a few cars from a segment above too. 

Dynamics

Hyundai has always focused on comfort and a soft ride quality instead of performance and traction. While that isn’t bad, at times their cars have been a little too soft to be comfortable. The Elantra addresses that to a large extent and the overall stability is a lot better. The discs all-round coupled with ABS with EBD provide acceptable and stable braking. During our test, the Elantra managed to come to a halt from 100 km/hr in 128 ft, a decent number by segment standards. 

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The suspension set-up comprises of McPherson struts with coil springs at the front and a double torsion beam axle at the rear with gas shockers at both ends. The set-up is stiffer than its predecessor and the contact with road on undulating surfaces is better at high speeds, although not entirely satisfactory. Road grip is acceptable and the car remains fairly composed over turns and corners. The body-roll though can be unsettling at times but only at high speeds. Looking at the other side, the soft suspension does result in a comfortable ride quality and most of the bumps are effectively filtered out of the cabin. On broken surfaces, the soft set-up does help to an extent and passengers remain largely insulated from jerks.

One bit, which leaves significant room for improvement is the steering, which is feather-light. At medium and high-speeds, the unit offers almost no feedback, making the car hard to drive quickly over a long stretch or series of turns. The response too isn’t particularly quick and at times the steering can be caught out activating the electric motor, when going off a straight-line. At low-speeds and in dense traffic the unit holds the advantage of being an effortless unit to operate. While it certainly is a pre-determined trade-off, we feel the bias could’ve been a little more balanced. 

The overall dynamic ability of the Elantra is a significant step forward from the previous generation. In comparison with competition, the Elantra would fare pretty well when put to a test of dynamics in city conditions. Among HMIL’s present product portfolio too, the Elantra is one of the most dynamically sound cars. Also one must bear in mind that the Elantra continues to target consumers with daily commute and family haulage in mind and in that role, it does a very good job. 

Safety

Safety is one parameter, where Hyundai has set the benchmark earlier in the Indian market with the i20. The company was one of the first-movers for making safety a priority, a long-needed one in the Indian automotive industry. With the Elantra, the company has once again reaffirmed its focus on safety technologies being a prerogative for their vehicles, irrespective of vehicular segment.

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Dual-front airbags along with ABS & EBD, rear parking sensor and impact sensing door unlock is available as standard offering. On the higher variants, one can opt for four additional curtain airbags, ESP, vehicle stability management, hill-start assist control and rear view mirror with integrated rear view display. All these technologies lend the Elantra with the best available combination of active and passive safety technologies. 

Outlook

The Elantra has all the ingredients needed in a successful product for our market. Simple yet innovative engineering touches along with a great integration of convenience features and the option of a diesel powertrain will appeal to those looking for value for money. The fluidic sculpture design and improved dynamics will help in appealing to younger consumers.

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Improved dynamics, comfort and class-leading safety will attract those searching for a well-rounded family vehicle. In a nutshell, Elantra has got something for almost everyone out in the car market. Add to it competitive pricing and we have all the reasons to say that Hyundai has another winner on its hands. The Elantra is priced between Rs 12.51 lakh and Rs 14.74 lakh for the petrol and Rs 12.91 lakh and Rs 15.85 lakh (ex-showroom, New Delhi) for the diesel powertrain.

Text: Arpit Mahendra

Photos: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay