The 25-year old Elantra is the oldest nameplate in the Hyundai line-up, and globally it holds the crown as being the brand’s highest-selling and most popular model – but Australia bucks the trend. When it comes to small cars, us Aussies tend to favour hatchbacks over their small sedan stable-mates, and last year Hyundai sold almost 4 times as many i30 hatchbacks compared to Elantra sedans. But overlook the new sixth-generation Elantra at your peril – because while the i30 may boast a larger boot opening, you’ll actually fit more in an Elantra.
Hyundai went back to the drawing board for the design of the new 2016 Elantra. The once controversial ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language has been completely reworked, and the new Elantra features a sleeker and cleaner body design when compared to the outgoing model. Up front, its the new hexagonal grille which grabs your attention first, followed by the new low-profile headlights on either side – which are very much in the same vein as new Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs. Despite being a base model, the Elantra Active gains daytime running lamps, plus projector headlights and fog lights, which helps give the car a more premium look.
Around the side, the Elantra features Hyundai’s signature body crease which runs from the front guard through the rear tail lights, while the rear end features design elements similar to those seen in other models from the Hyundai range. Overall we think the new Elantra looks quite classy, and we particularly liked the new rear tail lights and the integrated rear boot spoiler. Beneath the brand new bodywork is a revised chassis that’s made of 53% advanced high strength steel, versus 32% found in the outgoing model. Hyundai claims the stiffer frame will lower the amount of noise, vibration and harshness entering the cabin, all while offering better driving dynamics and improved crash test results.
The inside of the 2016 Hyundai Elantra feels a bit like a small version of the Sonata – and that’s a good thing. Everything is laid out nice and neatly, while the overall build quality and materials used are top-notch. A classy instrument cluster and piano black accents, plus a 7.0″ touch screen multimedia system with 6 speakers and Apple CarPlay are undoubtedly the highlights in here – but it is the ergonomics which impressed us the most. The cloth seats on the Active were comfortable on long trips and it took us no time at all to find our ideal driving position, thanks mostly to the large amount of tilt and reach adjustment available in the steering wheel. Compared to the more expensive Elantra Elite model, the Elantra Active does miss out on leather seats, a leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and rear air vents – but it still manages to retain a premium feel.
There’s plenty of space in the back of the new Elantra, with comfortable seating for up to 3 adults, plus good head and leg room for people up to around 6ft/182cm. Aside from the lack of rear air vents (you’ll need to upgrade to the Elantra Elite for those), there’s little to complain about back here.
The Elantra Active and Elite models are both powered by a 2.0L naturally-aspirated petrol engine, developing 112kW (150hp) of power and 192Nm (142lb-ft) of torque. While those numbers might not sound huge, the engine does a great job of shifting the Elantra’s relatively light body weight along. The torque converter in the 6-speed automatic gearbox remains locked for the majority of the time, meaning the engine revs cleanly and shifts through the gears quickly without any of the slurring or rev-flaring you might be used to with traditional automatic gearboxes. In operation it almost mimics a dual-clutch gearbox, with only the marginally slower shift times giving things away. Hyundai have given the Elantra Active an official combined fuel usage of 7.5L/100km, while we managed to beat this on test with a reading of 7.4L/100km after three days of city and country driving.
After getting behind the wheel, we discovered that Hyundai’s claims about the Elantra stiffer chassis, reduced noise, vibration and harshness all appear to be true. Hyundai says their Australian engineers went through 48 different suspension combinations before they found the sweet spot to suit local conditions, and the result is a car that is supremely quiet across most road surfaces, with well-sorted damping and plenty of confidence through the corners. The real-world proof of this is in how well the Elantra handled an extremely bumpy segment of our road-test route. It did a great job of smoothing out all but the worst bumps and never resorted to feeling crashy or harsh.
From an ownership perspective, Hyundai offer lifetime capped servicing and a 5-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, plus 12 months of complimentary roadside assistance. Hyundai’s commitment to tailoring their vehicles to Australian conditions appears to have paid off here, with the Elantra offering excellent urban manners while also performing well out on the open road. The 2.0L engine bettered the official fuel economy rating on test (a rarity in itself) and Hyundai’s capped price serving plan should bode well for running costs into the future.
In summary, we feel the 2016 Hyundai Elantra Active is one of the best small sedans currently on the market today. At $23,790+ on-road costs, we feel it offers good value for money with sharp exterior styling, an upmarket interior and an economical drivetrain. So if you’re after a spacious, comfortable and well-built small sedan that can still handle well, it’s a safe bet.
Specifications: 2016 Hyundai Elantra Active
Price: $23,790 + on-road costs
Warranty: 5 years / Unlimited km
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol 112kW / 192Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body: 4570mm (L), 1800mm (W), 1435mm (H)
Weight: 1,255 – 1,350kg
Thirst: 7.5/100km official combined, 7.4L/100km as tested
Test Location: Queensland, Australia
Vehicle Supplied By: Llewellyn Motors