When Hyundai launched the fifth-generation Elantra in 2011, it almost turned the compact sedan segment upside down. Once a segment cornered by the Japanese, it was now being seriously contended by a car from an unlikely manufacturer. The Elantra “MD,” as that model is codenamed, rocketed to second in the local sales charts for a time. Wait lists were long and reviews were glowing. Since then, the Japanese fought back. That brought the Elantra back into obscurity despite a mild refresh. Now, Hyundai is out with their all-new Elantra. The question is: can they turn the tide?
That depends. See, the biggest reason why anyone would love the Elantra is also the biggest reason someone else would hate it. The previous Elantra towed the line between sportiness and comfort, style and practicality—buyers loved them because you could actually get a Corolla with a longer warranty from someone other than Toyota. In other words, it was a fine, but unoriginal choice. The new one is pretty much the same: finer, but just as unoriginal. Sure, the 2016 Elantra “AD” packs a new body, better refinement, and improved efficiency, but at the end of the day, not a lot has changed.
This starts with the sheet metal. Though the 2016 Elantra features a completely new body, you can’t help but draw similarities with the previous model. The overall proportions are largely unchanged, though it’s less curvaceous and more angular this time. The Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 has finally made its way to the Elantra—and you see it in the large hexagonal grille, slim headlights, and widened appearance—but you still can’t help but criticize Hyundai for not doing more. Yes, it’s pleasant and modern, but unless you do a double or triple take, you’ll still mistake it for the previous-generation Elantra.
It’s pretty much the same story when you open the hood. Opting for the 1.6 GL nets you an engine that feels like a throwback: the very same 1.6-liter Gamma 4-cylinder engine from the previous Elantra. Surprisingly, maybe because of the switch to Euro 4 emission levels, it nets lower power (2.5 horsepower) and torque (2 Nm) than before. Thankfully, the response from the 127.5 (don’t forget the 0.5) horsepower, 153 Nm of torque engine doesn’t feel so penalized because the 2016 model does see a substantial reduction in weight: by some 60 kilograms, in fact.
Still, don’t expect that reduction in weight to offer up blistering performance. In fact, don’t expect this car to light up your passion for enthusiastic driving at all. This is pretty much a straightforward Point A to Point B commuter car and everything has been tuned to that effect. The powertrain is, in a word, practical: quiet, refined, and smooth. Treated to sensible throttle inputs and the speedometer needle will climb effortlessly. The accompanying 6-speed automatic is well-matched to the engine too, going up and down its ratios, matching up to your driving requirements nicely. The combination is so smooth that once or twice, you’ll actually mistake it for a CVT, minus the rubber band effect. The same drivetrain configuration is responsible for the Elantra’s commendable mileage figures: 8.26 km/L (average speed of 17 km/h).
Like the drivetrain, the interior doesn’t stray far from Hyundai’s playbook. It’s basically a scaled down version of what you’ll find in the newest Sonata. The bulbous treatment is replaced by geometric cleanliness and the controls have been tweaked for better tactile feel. The steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, but the driving position is still comfortable, if a bit awkward. The controls are all well-placed and clearly marked, but you feel that the center console could have been redesigned as not to use too much space.
Given its mainstream positioning, the large expanses of hard plastics is forgivable (at least fit and finish are consistent), but the lack of even the simplest toys isn’t. Priced at P 978,000, it lacks features which should have been standard on any modern day compact car: rear disc brakes, rear parking sensors, one-touch power windows up or down for the driver, Bluetooth hands-free telephony, adjustable rear headrests, and 3-point ELR seatbelts for all occupants (the rear middle seat has a two-point lap belt). In short, it’s pretty much where the previous Elantra left off, which would have been okay five years ago. But it’s 2016 and this mid-grade model feels like an Uber X fleet special.
If you do plan to Uber X this car, at least you’ll learn to forgive the interior shortcomings with the strides it has made with the ride and handling. Everything feels much more composed compared to before. Not only does it quiet down Manila’s hellish traffic, but run it deliberately through a pothole, and it’ll absorb the impact well. It’s smooth without being floaty. Though typical Elantra drivers won’t push it to the limit, when you do, it’ll remain secure. Long straightaways and sweeping bends is what it does best, remaining stable despite a good amount of body roll dialed in. It’s only when you hit quick transitions where the non-independent rear suspension begins to show its limitations. The electric power steering is still lacking in feedback, but it does feel more natural despite losing its trick Flex Steer system this year.
Overall, the 2016 Hyundai Elantra is nothing to be excited about. Despite noticeable improvements to areas such as ride, handling, and to some degree, style, it sticks too closely to the previous generation’s formula of walking on the middle ground as well as lackluster specifications. Yes, it offers a crisp design, a wealth of interior space, and a long warranty, but those are marginal gains compared to what its competitors are doing. The compact sedan category is steadily shrinking in the country, giving way to the rise of compact crossovers. Hyundai’s lukewarm approach to the all-new Elantra could very well contribute to that decline further.
2016 Hyundai Elantra 1.6 GL A/T
|Ownership||2016 Hyundai Elantra 1.6 GL A/T|
|Body Type||4-door sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||EFI, Normally Aspirated|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||127.5 @ 6,300|
|Nm @ rpm||154 @ 4,850|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,215|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Hankook Ventus Prime2 205/55 R 16 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||No|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||4|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|