I was never a big fan of Superman movies; it was all too fake for me but Man Of Steel brought in not only a decent and believable story but also a new perspective. Moreover, it did keep to its roots and that is extremely difficult; but yet the director managed to sail through with flying colours. Car makers too have a similar responsibility on their heads; but who can pull this off well is what remains to be seen. Hyundai has taken a step in this direction with the all-new Elantra.
In its 6th generation now, the Elantra enters a segment, which hasn't really been on the radar of buyers, considering the shift of preference to SUVs. But, we're glad, Hyundai hasn't lost hope and introduced a new generation car, in this segment; and, it comes to this segment with modest expectations. Hyundai plans to sell 350-400 units of the car a month and well that is a good start. We've loved the fifth generation of the car, which was launched in India and was no doubt handsome; but the new one looks like it took shape, after a geometry class in school.
I say this because all you can see are shapes. Let's start with the 'hexagonal' front grille, the parallel lines on the side, the acute angle shaped fog lamp housing, the 'sort of' intersecting lines on the bonnet and finally the polygon-shaped LED tail lamps. That's evidence enough, I guess; but with all those changes in the bag, the 2016 Elantra looks bold and taut and that's in line with the new age. There is a generous dose of chrome all around, right from the grille to the door handles; but it isn't overdone. The body hugging curvature of the headlamps has been shown the door and the Elantra comes packed in with new LED DRLs, flanked by HID projector lamps and this gives the sedan its own character. The sloping roof integrates into the boot lid and gives the car a coupe like shape, which is very refreshing in this segment.
What is also refreshing is the new 2.0-litre Nu petrol engine. It's all new and we've been itching to get our hands on this one. The four cylinder, 16 valve engine comes with dual variable valve timing and is capable of churning out 150bhp, that is 3.4bhp more than its predecessor. The torque figure too has gone up by 14.5Nm and now stands at 192Nm, which makes it more powerful than the 1.8-litre motor. The power is transferred to the wheels via a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission, but we got behind the 6-speed torque convertor.
This gearbox gets a manual mode too, just like the outgoing Elantra; but now you can choose the modes to your liking. The 2016 Elantra now gets an Eco and Sport mode, which makes minor changes, in the manner power is delivered to the wheels. The motor revs quickly, but the gear changes do not respond to quick acceleration. The performance is brisk and you can see the gears changing at close to 2200rpm, in the Eco mode. Engage sport and the gears change above 3500rpm and then you hear the motor vrooming, but you don't see this translating into any action. It's a cruiser and though engaging it into the manual mode makes things more involving, it's all about relaxed performance, in this one, which is why it doesn't match up to the likes of the Skoda Octavia or the Chevrolet Cruze (which is only available in diesel)
Hyundai claims that the new, more powerful petrol engine returns a mileage of 14.62 kmpl, which makes it marginally more efficient than the 1.8-litre motor. You can thank the tyres too, for this. The size remains the same - 205/60 R16; but on Hankook Kinergy tyres, there is a good amount of traction as well as low rolling resistance.
Enter the cabin and it's strikingly gorgeous. You can't help but notice how the entire dash is very driver oriented. It's like sitting in a cockpit, a feeling replicated from the Cruze. There's black leatherette upholstery, while the dash gets a silver lining, which finds continuity on the front doors as well. There's an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and no, it's not been picked up from the Creta.
The user interface has been improved significantly and there's a bigger screen too, which makes the cabin of the Elantra quite a luxurious cave. There's satellite navigation (MapMyIndia) as well as both Android Auto and Apple Car Play. There's a pretty busy 3-spoke steering wheel, which comes with controls for the audio, Bluetooth, cruise control and the trip computer. There are no rough edges on the dash board, it's crisp and very premium. The soft touch plastic to the dashboard is a nice touch too and oozes elegance.
Adding to the feature list is the dual zone climate control, which now comes with a Sync functions; and, of course, who can forget the ventilated front seats. Mind you, it's the only sub-20 lakh car to come with one. Hyundai has also packed the Elantra with a 10-way adjustable power seat, which sadly does not come with a memory function (are we expecting too much!). There's also an anti-pinch sunroof on offer. Also, there's a lot of space for the passengers. There's good under thigh support up front and at the rear and the suspension settings on the Elantra make long distance a breeze.
The hydraulic rebound stopper in the rear suspension takes all the undulations on the road in its stride and you aren't thrown around at the back, a feeling you usually got in its predecessor. It's great to see Hyundai going in the direction of improving the ride and handling on its cars and we were told that this is just the beginning and the focus has now changed to making the ride a quality one and handling dynamics better. The suspension was on the firmer side and the body roll extremely well controlled, which is a big step over the previous gen. The steering wheel is light and lacks feel at lower speeds; however, push down the throttle and there's a decent amount of weight to it.
So too, Hyundai has worked hard to curtail the NVH levels on the car and it shows. There's little engine and tyre noise that makes its way into the cabin and that's a delight, really! On the safety front, driver and passenger airbags and ABS with EBD come part as standard equipment. However, in the top-of-the-line models, you get Electronic Stability Control, Hill-start assist Control, Vehicle Stability management as well as side and curtain airbags.
Trust Hyundai to stir the hornets' nest with aggressive pricing and with the 2016 Elantra, that's exactly what it has done. The base petrol variant of the new Elantra is priced at ₹ 12.99 lakh and goes all the way to 17.99 lakh for the automatic. The diesel line-up ranges from Rs 14.75 lakh to Rs 19.19 lakh. Hyundai has managed to undercut all its rivals by a decent margin and the prices, though introductory, will not change before the end of this year. So, just like the movie then, the new Elantra is a big improvement, which might also give this segment the much needed boost.