Hyundai's latest in a line of new cars with the fluidic design concept is the Elantra. It's a nameplate that we Indians are familiar with, what with the third-gen model being the only one to be sold on our shores nearly a decade ago. It was a competent automobile that somehow never set the sales charts afire, disappearing a few years later, along with the globally venerable badge as well.
It's making a comeback though, this August after a gap of nearly six years. The Elantra is re-entering the very space it had originally planned to make a strong presence in - a space that is actually shrinking. Despite the entry of models like the new VW Jetta and the Renault Fluence late last year and one of the two segment leaders, the Chevrolet Cruze getting an engine update just weeks ago, it's been on a downturn. Contemporaries in the SUV and MPV space, however continue to grow at breakneck speed, probably signalling a change of heart among customers. So the Elantra has a big burden on its young shoulders.
On the inside, the Elantra is very swoopy and stylish, just like the exteriors. Design hints are sharp and the centre console has a waterfall effect to it. Controls are well designed, thought and finished and it's brimming with features. Like ventilated front seats, rear audio controls, cruise control, ESP, six airbags, bluetooth audio... the works. It easily bests the segment in this department too, maybe it could have done with a more thorough trip meter to round the package off.
At 4.53 metres long, it's just longer than the VW Jetta but a smidgeon shorter than the Toyota Corolla Altis. Its 2700 mm wheelbase is among the best and it shows with the amount of room on offer on the inside, making much of its competition feel a bit cramped.
There never was a question mark with regards to the diesel motor. Its 126 bhp and 25-odd kgm of torque is sprightly by nature as well as refined. There is distinctive diesel clatter on the outside on start up that recedes a bit as the engine reaches optimum temperature but doesn't develop a hushed tone either. Step in and the sound deadening and some clever engineering never let you sense that an oil burner is busy at work.
Step on the gas and it the six-speed auto hesitates a wee bit before thrusting you forward. Performance is more than adequate, especially when pipped against the likes of the Fluence 1.5 dCi and the Altis 1.4 D-4D. At 11.8 seconds to 100 kph it sits nicely between the French-Japanese duo as well as the German, American and Czech trio. A top speed of 180 kph isn't off the mark either, though we are certain that the manual will help the acceleration figures by a bit. The six-speed auto isn't as quick thinking as the dual-clutch like the Jetta, but it seems to do upshifts a wee bit quicker than the downshifts. There is no sport mode, except a tiptronic mode, but with no paddle shifters.
Hyundai are keen on pricing the car parallel to the Corolla, the other best-seller apart from the Cruze. If that's indeed the case expect the base Elantra to start below Rs 12 lakh, stretching all the way to Rs 16 lakh. Like the Verna, expect a raft of trims and variants which should help it gain quite some traction. But will it shake the market up and become the segment best-seller is very hard to predict, especially since there are five other players, none of whom are pushovers. Yet, Hyundai's recent string of successes could work in its favour. All of which we will know this August.