When it comes to traditional vehicle segments, the SUV boom of recent times has inflicted some serious casualties over the recent past – and one of the major ones in the Indian market has been the entry-level luxury sedan segment. Once a rather successful segment, with products that were sought after, the past few years have been rather cruel on the segment with dwindling sales and lack of excitement about future products.
However, with the launch of an all-new Elantra, Hyundai is attempting to reverse the fortunes of the segment. To be honest, Hyundai’s attempt does have some logic. You see, one of the reasons behind the segment generally seeing poor response has been the dearth of new and exciting products over the past few years. And with the Elantra, Hyundai is right on the money on most counts. Not only does the new car feature sharp styling that takes Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Design’ philosophy to a new level, its attention-to-detail makes it stand out from its competitors. It’s details like the big bold grille up front, balanced stance and the distinctive tail lights that are beginning to give the entire Hyundai range a very distinct design language of its own.
But, if you think that the exterior is attractive, you’ll be even more impressed with the Elantra’s all-black interiors. Not only did we love the fact that someone was finally moving away from the ubiquitous beige interiors in our market, but the quality of the materials and the equipment levels leave very little to be desired. The silver detailing of the dashboard and switchgear provides a nice contrast to the black detailing, and the switchgear and plastics feel soft to the touch and are of superlative quality. Add to that segment first features, such as ventilated front seats, superb levels of standard equipment, and ample space for five passengers, and the appeal of the new Elantra starts making a lot more sense.
Style and features aside, there’s been a quiet revolution brewing at Hyundai that people are finally beginning to recognise – and that’s in the ride and handling department. Recognised as an Achilles heel of their older products, the latest products from the brand have upped their game in this department so massively, that, at times, it’s hard to believe that you’re driving a Hyundai. In fact, we’ll put our necks on the line to say that the new Elantra is by far the best handling Hyundai product we’ve ever driven.
Not only does the Elantra offer superb ride comfort on the road, as well as provide terrific high-speed stability and manners, it proves to be a formidable competitor on the track too. The chassis is capable enough for the car to be thrown around the track. Let’s just say that it handles aggressive driving quite well. However, there are two factors that we would like Hyundai to work on – one, in the diesel version that we drove for this test, the Elantra could certainly use some more grunt as the chassis seems capable of dealing with far more power. Secondly, in the automatic version that we drove previously, the transmission could be more responsive – especially in the face of the super quick dual-clutch gearboxes from the VW Group.
All said and done, though, there are multiple reasons why the Elantra finishes so high up in our final standings. One, it offers a freshness to its segment with new styling and an excellent interior, not to mention class-leading equipment levels. Secondly, the aggressive pricing means that it scores well on the value-for-money front. And, thirdly, with its practicality and terrific suspension tuning, if one’s on a budget, it’s difficult to find a car that has so many qualities and is so usable on an everyday basis at this price point. And the figures don’t lie, when we last checked, the Elantra had already clocked over 1,000 bookings. It already has a two-month waiting list. As they say, success is hardly ever wrong in a competitive market like ours – and the Elantra continues to validate this theory.