Written by: Robert Nichols
Photography by: Robert Nichols
I remember when Hyundai first came to Canada. It was way back in 1983 and although I was in single digits as far as age, I can still clearly picture the advertisements for the Pony hatchback. Canadians apparently couldn’t get enough of this cheap little import that was powered by a 1.4L Mitsubishi engine and cost only $5,900. By 1986, Hyundai had sold around 50,000 units to Canadians. Perhaps we were taken by the chance to own something new, or did we expect the reliability and thrifty ownership costs of other Asian imports, chiefly the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla? Whatever the case, Hyundai ended up with a less than glowing reputation partly due to the fact that their cars started to rust even while you were pulling out of the dealership.
Despite the less than stellar reputation for reliability (and yes, that is a reference to their 1986 sedan) Hyundai managed to weather the storm that other companies, like Peugeot, Yugo, and Alfa Romeo could not. In recent years, Hyundai made the unprecedented turn and went from hum drum to segment leading in the blink of an eye.
The current success can only be credited to one man, Peter Schreyer. Mr. Schreyer, who now acts as Hyundai Motor Group President, is credited with designing the original Audi TT, the 1998 new Beetle and many other handsome and successful vehicles. In my opinion, Hyundai has become one of the more competitive brands because of his input. He has breathed new life and some drastically needed style into this once floundering and boring brand. It really is amazing that this relatively small Korean company that few cared about a decade ago is now building vehicles that are being compared to BMWs and Mercedes. With that in mind, you cannot help but wonder where the brand will go in the next 10 years.
For the past week I have been driving the 2016 Hyundai Elantra with the Sport Appearance Package. This reasonably priced middle-of-the-range sedan offers far more bang for your buck than you may believe. When you consider the base model MSRP is under $16,000 you may be pleasantly surprised to find features such as heated side mirrors, power windows, door locks, XM satellite radio; the full litany of acronyms – ABS, TCS, EBD, ESC and DSS. Then after studying the new body styling, you will have difficulty grasping how it costs so little. Even the Sport Appearance Package model (positioned in the middle of the trim levels), has an MSRP under $20,000. The value that Hyundai offers is hard to match as they provide nearly every feature you could think of.
To give their car an even better edge over the competition in 2016, the Elantra is available with more standard kit at each trim level. The Sport I was driving had cloth seats and a power sunroof. The seats are made of 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 five adults, but four would be more comfortable. The rear seats are 60/40 fold-downs and the trunk is very large. Adding to the practicality and daily usability are numerous storage areas. The amount of interior space is one of the Elantra’s strengths. The trunk can swallow 420 litres of cargo and the total interior volume of 3127 litres 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 has 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.
While there is a lot of plastic used inside, it seems to be of good quality, and has been molded into appealing shapes. At this price point it was nice to find padded armrests in both the doors and center console. It continually baffles me that manufacturers will still scrimp on something as inexpensive as a little foam. Really what would it cost to add a ½” of foam to the door and center armrests? This relatively small expense that Hyundai has made has gone such a long way in providing a more luxurious experience.
The 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 can be switched between three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport, I left it in sport. Among the electronic amenities was a rear view camera with a smallish touchscreen (4.3”) that becomes impossible to see in direct sunlight. Truthfully, even indirect bright light created more glare than the screen could handle. 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.
The standard engine is a 1.8-litre 4-cylinder with a modest output of 145 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque. You would assume, as did I that the Sport model would have the 2.0L engine that makes a more reasonable 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. But we are both mistaken; the “Sport” gets the smaller, less powerful, slower one. The 2.0L becomes available at the next trim level. The 6-speed automatic transmission connected to the 1.8-litre worked very well and never had me longing for the available 6-speed manual (my 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.
Out on the road the Elantra rides on a firmish suspension setup that handles curves well. However, rough surfaces get tiring fast as you are bumped and jiggled about. My time behind the wheel had me questioning what exactly is sporty about the Sport trim other than the badge. The engine has enough power to overtake slower moving traffic, but it is my opinion that the Elantra is best suited to the sort of individual who is looking for a quality feel, and ample space in an attractive package, but isn’t worried about driving excitement. The lack of enthusiasm from the engine and chassis did net better than advertised fuel numbers as I never felt the desire to accelerate too quickly or drive at a pace which raised the heart rate. Over my week of mixed driving I averaged 7.1 L/100 km. The official estimates for the sport are 8.5/6.3/7.5 L/100 km (city, highway, combined).
After a week piloting this spacious, compact sedan I have concluded that for a company which came to Canada with such humble beginnings they have come a very long way. The whole lineup is attractive, and for your hard earned dollar it would be difficult to find any other vehicle that packs so much style and space into the same budget. Despite the lack of sport in my Elantra Sport I have come away impressed, especially after I just banged my elbow on the felt covered armrest in my Mitsi.
型号 Model: 2016 Hyundai Elantra Sport Appearance Package
顏色 Paint Type: Titanium Grey Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $15,749
試車售價 Price as Tested: $19,799
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,700
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,549 / 1,775 / 1,430
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,342
引擎 Engine: 1.8L Dual CVVT DOHC 16V
最大馬力 Horsepower: 145 hp @ 6,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 130 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic with shiftronic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 8.5 / 6.3 / 7.5