I remember when Hyundai was thought of as a purveyor of unreliable, cheap little rust buckets. Thanks to cars like the Pony, Stellar, and Excel this aroma, so to speak, lingered for a few decades.
Then one day, almost out of the blue Hyundai started to offer up some properly good vehicles. The best bit about this sudden rebound was the cars still came with a fantastic warranty period, they were still relatively cheap to buy, and they were now very handsome and reliable.
I have been driving the 2016 Hyundai Elantra Sport for the past week.
The Elantra is Hyundai’s mid-size sedan. It is reasonably priced and offers far more bang for your buck than you may believe.
The base model MSRP is only $17,250; yet you still find features such as remote keyless entry and alarm, power side mirrors, power windows, power door locks, XM satellite radio; the full litany of acronyms – ABS, TCS, EBD, ESC and TPMS.
After looking at the nicely contoured body lines and handsome face, you may have difficulty grasping how it can cost so little.
Even the Sport model (positioned in the middle of the trim levels), has an MSRP of just $20,250.
The value Hyundai offers is hard to match as they provide nearly every feature you could want for less than anyone. For the U.S. market Hyundai has added the Value Edition trim which provides an extra $1000.00 worth of customer favorite options like 16” alloy wheels.
For the 2016 model year no major remodelling has taken place, but to keep ahead of their competitors Hyundai has decided to deliver more standard features at each trim level.
The Sport I was driving had cloth seats and a power sunroof. The seats are made of something called Soyfoam which is a lightweight eco-friendly product made of soybean oil. I found the vegan seating comfortable; it was just firm enough to keep you cozy even during a long haul.
There is seating for 5 adults, but 4 would be more comfortable. The rear seats are 60/40 fold-downs and the trunk is very large.
Adding to the practicality are numerous storage areas. The amount of interior space is one of the Elantra’s strengths.
The trunk can swallow 14.8 cu. Ft. of cargo and the total interior volume of 110.4 cu. Ft. beats rivals like the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla. The vastness of this compact sedan even comes close to the full-size Nissan Maxima and VW CC.
Ultimately what Hyundai have given us is a compact sedan that, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), classifies as a mid-size but is larger inside than some full-size sedans.
Where the price starts to become apparent is in the extensive use of plastic on the inside. That said the plastic does appear to be of good quality, and has been molded into appealing shapes.
The middle of the range Sport has a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with the full raft of controls for the stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control and a button that alters the steering feel.
The steering has three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport, I left it in sport as it gives you the best idea of what the front wheels are doing. Among the electronic amenities was a rear view camera with a smallish touchscreen (4.3”) that becomes nearly impossible to see in direct sunlight.
The stereo in the Sport has access Sirius XM Satellite radio, and in models with the 7” Navigation system, allows you to use features like real time traffic and weather updates. As for the rest of the dash it is well thought out, easy to navigate and houses real buttons and knobs.
Being that I was in the Sport I had assumed that Hyundai would have installed the more powerful 2.0L that puts out 173 hp and 254 lb-ft.
I was surprised when I opened the hood and was greeted by the standard engine; a 1.8L 4 cylinder with a modest output of 145 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque.
The 2.0L becomes available at the next trim level. The 6-speed automatic transmission connected to the 1.8L worked very well and never had me longing for the available 6-speed manual (my usual preference).
While we are talking about the technical aspects of the engines I should mention that the engineers have decided on timing chains instead of timing belts. A chain is better as it requires no maintenance (beyond keeping up with your oil changes; therefore eliminating the costly timing belt replacement, not to mention the risk of a blown engine if the belt fails.
On the road the Elantra Sport rides on a firm suspension setup that handles curves well. However, rough surfaces will get tiring fast as you are bumped and jiggled about.
The engine is adequate and those who are only looking for a quality feel, and ample space in an attractive package at a great price will not be disappointed. The enthusiast crowd should look elsewhere.
The benefit of the less than exciting performance from the engine and chassis was the better than advertised fuel numbers I achieved as I never felt the desire to accelerate too quickly or drive at high speeds. Over my week of mixed driving I averaged 33.1 mpg. The official estimates for the sport are 28/38 mpg (city, highway).
After a week piloting this spacious, compact sedan I have concluded that the Elantra is a tough competitor in the compact segment. It offers practicality, comfort, far more room than the competition and a real sense of style for a lot less than expected.