A decade ago, a Hyundai vehicle would have only been on your list if you desperately needed a temporary car or if you only had $1000 to spend on a car. However, in those 10 years, a relatively short time by auto standards, Hyundai has taken great strides to try to improve their vehicles and their image as being more than just a cheap “buy and dispose” auto manufacturer.
Performance – The new Elantra is powered by a 1.8L Nu engine developing 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque. Although it has roughly the same horsepower as the 2.0L Skyactiv Mazda3, the car feels very underpowered and lackluster when accelerating. I think with the addition of another 15hp or more torque at lower rpms would make the Elantra as engaging to drive as the Mazda3. Sadly, even the 6-speed manual transmission is a letdown because it is the complete opposite of sporty with shifts feeling “mushy” and imprecise.
The handling characteristics of the Elantra are not much better than the powertrain performance. The steering feel changes depending on what speed the vehicle is at ranging from very light at slow speeds and heavier at higher speeds. While this is a good thing in terms of ease of use around a city, it’s not so good if you’re looking for a little fun to brighten up your mundane traffic commute. The steering is just not as precise nor is it communicative as that of the Mazda3 or even its sibling, the Veloster.
Comfort – Performance of the Hyundai Elantra has not improved by leaps and bounds over its 24 year life span but interior design and comfort has. The cabin is very spacious for a compact car and esthetically very pleasing. The steering wheel is covered in buttons, which I find annoying, but the wheel is so well designed that the buttons feel like they’re a part of the steering wheel and unobtrusive. The center console is also nicely designed by being simple but also futuristic in how it looks. Space in the back seats is good for this size of a car but trunk space is not quite as big as other 5-door vehicles on the market. On the move, the Elantra absorbs bumps effortlessly however there is quite a bit of wind noise sneaking its way into the cabin at speeds of 100km/h+.
Odds and Ends – A decade ago a Hyundai would have been a forgetful car but today Hyundai takes great pride in the design of their vehicles and it shows. I’m almost inclined to say that Hyundai currently makes the best looking mainstream vehicles. The body has lines in all the right places and yet it is still an aerodynamic shape that helps to reduce fuel consumption.
In the end, despite the car’s comfortable ride and stylish design, I cannot recommend this vehicle. The Mazda 3 Sport GS (middle trim level like this Elantra GT GLS) is almost $1,000 CAD cheaper than the Elantra and yet it offers the same great comfort but also fun to drive characteristics.
Thank you to Open Road Mazda for providing the vehicle and go to their website to view other new and used vehicles. www.OpenRoadMazda.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.