Elantra up to standard for Hyundai

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Hyundai's Elantra maintains the company's high standards. Photo supplied

You could be forgiven for feeling confused by the current naming protocols for Hyundai's burgeoning product line: a couple of years back, names started to give way to an alphanumerical naming system that clearly defined each model's place in the company's hierarchy.

So the i45 replaced the Sonata as the company's large saloon, with the i30 and i20 hatches slotting in below, and the iX35 replacing the Tucson at the foot of the company's SUV ladder.

Just when this system seemed to be making sense, a familiar name has returned, with the Elantra reinvented in an all-new guise to bridge the gap
between the i30, which is fairly compact by class standards, and the i45, which is quite large. It splits the difference fairly neatly too, measuring up at 285mm longer than the i30, and 290mm shorter than the i45.

The Elantra looks very much a junior i45, echoing that car's smooth, swooping good looks and sharing vital cues such as the distinctive elliptical headlights up front, and steeply descending crease line at the rear.

Inside, the Elantra heads off in its own direction, though with the same basic approach of clustering key controls for the sound and air-conditioning systems high on a prominent centre console. The cabin is decently roomy by class standards, and occupants are protected by six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control and a seatbelt reminder system.

The Elantra is offered in three trim levels, and even at entry level comes with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, AUX/USB/iPod inputs for the six-speaker sound system, steering-wheel audio controls and cruise control as standard.

The $4000 step up to the $39,990 Elite, as tested, provides much more: manual air-con upgrades to dual-zone climate, 16-inch alloys give way to 17s and wider 215/45 rubber, and leather finish replaces the standard cloth trim; auto headlights, front foglights, rain-sensing wipers, rear park assist, push-button start with proximity key, electric driver's seat with lumbar adjust and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror are also added.

It is up-to-the-minute mechanically, taking a six-speed automatic rather than the four-speed that - for now at least - features on both the i20 and
i30 models. The willingness of the 110kW/176Nm 1.8-litre petrol engine to rev smoothly into the upper reaches of the rev range and the ability of the gearbox to make sense of the motor's slightly peaky power delivery are crucial to the car's performance success.

The fuel consumption benefits of a tall top gear are also apparent, with the rated 7.1-litre per 100km standard cycle return entirely achievable in everyday driving.

Coarse-chip road noise is the one refinement bugbear in a car that rides well, and has both wind and (so long as it is not worked too hard) engine noise well contained.

Handling is nicely mannered rather than supremely engaging, with the test car showing a light, nimble character built on a foundation of accurate though not especially communicative steering and a chassis and suspension tuned to deliver initial neutral handling before progressive understeer builds during hard cornering.

All-up then, a solid effort by Hyundai, which maintains the high standards set by other recent arrivals from the company.



Elantra up to standard for Hyundai
At a Glance


Rating: For: Neat styling, fine interior design, great iPod interface.

Against: Coarse-chip road noise.

Verdict: Hyundai's star continues to rise.

Price: $39,990 Elite.

Engine: 1797cc fuel-injected four-cylinder petrol, max power 110kW at 6500rpm, max torque 176Nm@4700rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed auto, front-wheel drive.

Brakes and stability systems: Disc brakes with ABS, ESP, VSM.

Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels, 215/45 R17 tyres.

Fuel and economy: 91-octane petrol, 7.1 litres per 100km (on European combined cycle), capacity 49 litres.

Dimensions: Length 4530mm, width 1775mm, height 1435mm.