Hyundai Elantra Elite Test

Impressive power and features - and a safe buy.

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • Lots of features
  • Practical and user-friendly
  • Powerful 2.0 litre engine
  • Well matched optional automatic transmission
  • Overly firm ride

If you’re in the market for a smallish well-equipped vehicle for around $25 grand, there’s a huge variety to choose from.

Pricing and specs are ultra-competitive in this segment, but if power and plenty of features are high on your list of priorities, Hyundai has a vehicle for you – the top-line Elantra Elite.

The Elantra Elite is available as a sedan or liftback and retails from a base price of AUD$23,495. Add an optional automatic transmission and cruise control (as fitted to our test vehicle) and the price increases to AUD$25,980. This competes well with similarly equipped models from other manufacturers.

Despite its budget price, the Elantra Elite brings luxury features normally reserved for much more expensive cars. Be prepared for a surprise the first time you open the door – you’ll find the seats and door trims are covered in standard leather. The Elantra’s leather trim is a great selling advantage over its competitors but, not surprisingly, it’s relatively low-grade leather. It isn’t soft and inviting.

The cabin is also equipped with a competent sounding CD/tuner (with MP3 compatibility), dual airbags and a basic trip computer. A security alarm, air conditioning, map lights, power windows and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob complete the list of luxury features. Note that our test car was also equipped with optional cruise control – at AUD$495 extra.

In contrast to many other high trim versions of cheaper cars, the Elantra Elite’s features are well integrated and user-friendly. There are no obvious after-thoughts or fiddly controls.

The cabin offers good space for four occupants and there’s enough rear cabin width to accommodate a fifth person when necessary. The centre rear passenger is secured by a 3-point retractable seatbelt together with an adjustable head restraint. The most noticeable limitation is rear headroom which is an issue if you’re taller than about 180cm. All armrests fall nicely to your side (the folding centre rear armrest incorporating twin slide-out cup holders), the waistline is low enough to avoid claustrophobia, and access is generous.

Our only criticisms of the cabin are the firm seats and dated looking dashboard. The blue instrument lighting is also questionable.

The liftback Elantra offers a good size rear cargo area augmented by a handy shopping bag hook on the back of the front passenger seat. To accommodate bulky loads, the 60/40 split rear backrest can be folded forward. Unfortunately, this is not a plain-sailing operation – the rear head restraints need to be removed and the steel-backed backrest is quite heavy. If a near-flat cargo floor is required, the lower cushions can also be pivoted forward against the front seats in a second action.

Lift the false floor of the cargo area and there’s easy access to a full-size steel spare wheel. A removable storage tray is also found in the centre of the spare wheel – a great place for a first aid kit.

Fill the cabin with passengers and cargo and the Elantra has no problems performing.

Powered by a 2.0 litre DOHC four cylinder with infinitely variable inlet cam timing, the Elantra boasts a class-leading 105kW and 186Nm (at 6000 and 4000 rpm respectively). Coupled to the optional automatic transmission fitted to our test car, the Elantra is zippy off the line and always has plenty of mid-range oomph. The 4 speed auto transmission is brilliantly matched to the engine – willing to down-shift, smooth and nicely adaptive to driving conditions. Open-road passing maneuvers are easily achieved with 105kW, although the engine’s high rpm noise and vibration are poor.

Weighing 1269kg, the auto Elantra Elite liftback can accelerate to 100 km/h in under 10 seconds; no problem there. However, the fuel consumption we achieved during our test was eye-opening – in separate fills we recorded 12.5 and 15 litres per 100km. Note that this was achieved in mostly heavy traffic conditions and with a lot of stop-starting. We imagine the ADR 81/01 figure of 9.1 litres per 100km is a better guide for typical driving conditions. Conventional 91 RON unleaded fuel is all you need to fill the 55 litre tank.

In the cut-and-thrust of traffic, the Elantra Elite is very comfortable – with one obvious exception. The ride is simply too harsh in low speed conditions. On the open road the ride is pleasant, but the suspension settings are too firm for typical Australian city/urban conditions.

With MacPherson struts under the nose and a multi-link IRS, the front-wheel-drive Elantra’s handling is characterized by understeer – safe, predictable understeer. Note that compared to the base model, the Elite scores bigger 195/60 15 Hankook 866 Radials.

The power-assisted rack and pinion steering is fine overall but on country roads it lacks feel and linearity. We often found ourselves making small steering adjustments through sweepers.

Braking is by means of ventilated front discs and solid rear discs with EBD and ABS. The 3-channel ABS system is capable of maintaining steering control during maximum braking but it feels like a relatively old and coarse system.

Stylistically, the Elantra is conventional and dated - the body shape could be out of the mid-late ‘90s. At least the ’03 facelift is carried over and the Elite is further distinguished by its fog lights, 15 inch alloy wheels and rear spoiler. Interestingly, the hatchback version receives a high-level rear spoiler (which looks quite awkward from some angles). The sedan version is equipped with a less overt spoiler.

And what about build quality – the question most people ask when talk turns to cheap Korean cars?

Well, the build quality of our test vehicle was a pleasant surprise. The doors shut beautifully, the paint and panel fitment was good and there were no rattles. The standard leather trim also appears durable. The Elantra’s warranty is another gigantic plus – its 5 year/130,000km coverage is unequalled by anything else in the class.

For AUD$25,980, the cruise control and auto-equipped Elantra Elite is good, safe buying. If you don’t mind the firm low speed ride, we think you’ll be quite happy with one.

The Elantra Elite was provided for this test by Hyundai Australia.

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