The Hyundai Elantra, first marketed in Australia as the Lantra, was launched in 1990, and now, five years into its fifth generation, it has become an aggressively priced elegant family sedan with European styling, good fuel economy, an indulgent ride and a cornucopia of standard features.
The 2015 Elantra is packed with a wealth of standard amenities including remote keyless entry; iPod/USB and MP3 auxiliary input jacks; multifunction trip computer, six air bags: advanced dual front air bags with occupant classification system, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side-curtain airbags; driver’s blind spot mirror; dual-power and heated body-color side mirrors; motor-driven power steering; electronic stability control with traction control system and anti-lock braking system with brake assist.
Fluidic sculpture design
Hyundai has been pushing its concept of “fluidic scuplture” design with Elantra since it was last redesigned in 2011. Hyundai says that it “considers the interplay of wind with rigid surfaces to create the illusion of constant motion.”
Along Elantra’s sides are flowing lines, with the addition of a strong undercut feature line starting at the front door. These cues, along with muscular wheel arches and a sleek roofline, create a graceful demeanor and contribute to an aerodynamic body that creates a low drag coefficient of 0.28.
Hyundai’s signature hexagonal front grille and detailed swept-back head lights give Elantra a compact athletic face, vitalized by an open-mouth lower bumper, grille, L-shaped fog lights and available projector headlamps with LED accents. Its look has been developed by Hyundai’s North American Design Center in Irvine, California, which combined premium appeal with sportiness and chic. The appearance is sharp, stable and balanced with a chrome belt-line molding, 17-inch alloy wheels and a black, two-tone rear diffuser.
For me, the concept and execution translate into an exterior that is sleek and elegant with excellent fit and finish.
I drove the Elantra in its Limited trim, with a length of 179.1 inches, width of 69.9 inches and height of 56.3 inches on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, with a minimum ground clearance of 5.3 inches. The vehicle is confident, with a curb weight of 2,943 pounds.
Economy and power
Elantra power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 145 horsepower and 130 pounds-per-foot of torque in SE and Limited trims. The Sport version offers a 2.0-liter GDI engine that is rated at 173 horsepower and 154 pounds-per-foot of torque. My test Limited’s 1.8 with an aluminum block, head and crank was mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission for an EPA estimated at 27 mpg in the city driving and 37 mpg on the highway. My week of mixed-use testing yielded an average of 31.2 mpg.
The Elantra ride is worthy of higher-segment comfort and quietness. The cabin is indulgent and the performance is strong, but a trifle tentative. Quick autocross maneuvers displayed some challenging understeer from the motor-driven electric power steering that adjusts to changing driving conditions, but the vehicle is aerodynamic, stable and road-hugging, showing little yaw during tight S-curve tests. Uphill grades are conquered with aplomb and acceleration is good in mid ranges. My track tests were completed in a 9.4-second dash from zero to 60 mph and a 17.2-second quarter-mile.
McPherson strut front suspension, with coil springs and gas shock absorbers are coupled with a coupled torsion beam rear suspension and monotube shock absorbers for enhanced steering stability and ride smoothness.
Refined, intuitive cabin
The Elantra Limited cabin is refined with intuitive design and lighting. Its standard leather seating surfaces join with cloth-like pillar trim made of fibrous tissue and volcanic rock for a premium look and feel. Created for comfort, Elantra provides front headroom of 40.0 inches in the front row and 37.1 inches in row two. Front legroom is a spacious 43.6 inches in row one, but a confining 33.1 inches for second-row passengers. Shoulder room is generous throughout with 55.9 inches up front and 54.8 inches in the rear.
A quiet cabin is partly thanks to noise blockers, including HVAC duct absorption material, increased antivibration upper cowl pad thickness and coverage area, high-density carpet, increased antivibration floor pad thickness, additional expandable foam in the A-pillars, applied full underbody cover and a perforated antivibration material in the dash panel.
A top safety pick, Elantra is built with strong unibody construction, front and rear crumple zones and internal dual beams in its rear doors. Additional safety features in addition to those mentioned above include hill-start assist control, seat belt pretensioners, tire pressure monitoring system and driver’s blind spot mirror.
The 2015 Hyundai Elantra in Base SE trim with a manual transmission starts at $17,250 — automatic is $1,000 extra; the Elantra Sport starts at $21,600 and the Elantra Limited, as was my test ride, started at $21,700 (and that includes an automatic transmission).
The Ultimate Package added $2,400 for a navigation system with 7-inch screen, power tilt-and-slide sunroof, 360-watt premium audio with external amplifier, dual automatic temperature control with CleanAir ionizer and auto defogging system, and proximity key entry with electronic push button start and engine immobilizer. A rear spoiler added $295, auto-dimming mirror with Homelink added $275, carpeted floor mats added $125, mud guards added $95 and freight added $810 for a final invoice of $25,700.