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Will the new Elantra revive the executive sedan segment?

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 16, 2018

European design: The new Elantra features dark grey interiors with an 8-inch infotainment system

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For years, the segment has been the most unexciting passenger car category in India

Segmentation and sub-segmentation has meant that there are multiple niches in the passenger car market today. Applying the generic price-vs-demand metric may seem to explain the lower demand for sedans as the price segmentation goes up.

Yet, the lacklustre performance of the executive sedan segment defies logic, given the fact that there are a number of compact sports utility vehicles in the same price range that are doing rather well for themselves – the Hyunda Creta and the Renault Duster being among them. While the stars in the segment like the Skoda Octavia (later Laura), the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla and the Hyundai Elantra were having a good run initially, the last few years have seen a fairly steep fall in numbers. During the first four months of this year, for example, sales of executive sedans has fallen by a third.

The executive sedan segment has, for years, been the most unexciting category amongst passenger cars in India. Buyers have often chosen to remain cautious and unadventurous with their choice, also given the fact that many of them were older than buyers in the lower priced segments. The preference for diesel engines has been pronounced too. Not too surprisingly, the Toyota Corolla has been the most successful in the segment, while the Honda Civic simply got edged out due the lack of a diesel engine in its portfolio.

There are a few other cars in the segment which don’t seem to be able to pull in buyers, for example, the Renault Fluence managed only one sale during the first four months of this fiscal year. The only other cars that are selling in small numbers are the Skoda Octavia and the Volkswagen Jetta.

Into this market situation comes the new Hyundai Elantra. Sales numbers of the existing Elantra has plummeted. Yet, there is reason for cheer in the Hyundai camp, for finally there is some excitement that the segment gets with this new model.

Design

Hyundai’s design language has been maturing and the new Elantra is a really good pointer to this shedding of the Asian influence bordering on excess design, to one which is more European in flavour. Built on an entirely new platform, the Elantra retains some of the predecessor’s dimensions. So, while the same overall length has been carried forward, the width is a bit more. Again here the design maturity shows in the way it makes the car seem more compact.

Similarly, the body side line, the wheel arches and the belt line are sharp, yet very clean in their execution. The nose of the new Elantra is stubby with a larger, newer interpretation of the Hyundai signature hexagonal grille.

The bonnet slab dips sharply at the front probably contributing to the improved aerodynamic coefficient of 0.29. New HID (high intensity discharge) headlamps with LED daytime running lights and smaller, yet, more powerful fog lamps contribute to the tighter front profile. There is also the addition of the new air curtain in the front fender that runs through the fog lamp housing. At the rear, the design tightens up again. The new wrap-around tail-lamps with a trio of LED elements, the compact boot lid with an integrated spoiler and a chunk rear fender give the new Elantra a balanced stance. Some of the design cues are vaguely familiar, but the overall impression we got was that the car should now have more universal appeal.

Cabin

Adding to the European flavour, Hyundai designers have chosen to go with a dark grey theme for the new Elantra’s cabin. This definitely keeps things simple while adding to the elegance of the interior. The dashboard follows a layered concept, with the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen framed within the central aircon vents and a lower layer of controls below it. The centre stack is turned 6 degrees towards the right to make is more driver-oriented.

The instrument panel binnacle is a bit drab and predictable in terms of design, but the dual dial instruments and the multi-info display in-between offer all the key data at a quick glance. The multi-function steering wheel is the other change that makes it driver-focused. The amount of space available in the cabin seems to be about as much or a bit more than the outgoing model, but the number of features has simply shot up. There are the perforated leather seats now, and the already comfy seats are also cooled now and there is no better feeling than getting your backside cooled when the sun blazes outside.

The new Elantra also gets a sun roof, push button start, and some of the smaller add-ons like drilled aluminium pedals and door handles with spot lights. Of course, many of the features are available only in the top-trim variants.

Performance

The new Elantra is being offered with a new 2-litre petrol and the same U2 1.6-litre diesel engine (from the predecessor) as options. Both the engines get manual and automatic transmissions. Both these are 6-speed gearboxes and the auto gearbox is new with a brand new torque converter and shift logic for better performance and fuel efficiency. The new 1,999cc petrol engine delivers 152PS of peak power at 6,200rpm and peak torque of 19.6Kg-m at 4,000rpm. We test drove the auto transmission versions of both the engines. Hyundai has mastered the science of improving the refinement levels of its engines and both these units don’t disappoint, when they are idling. However, on the road the both the petrol and the diesel engines are a bit noisy in the cabin, though the other NVH parameters are well contained.

The 1,582cc diesel engine feels quicker off the block with a healthy 26.5Kg-m of torque available from 1,900rpm. Acceleration is effortless and power delivery is also very linear all the way to 4,000rpm when it peaks out with 128PS. Under hard acceleration, the petrol engine version is one that feels a bit more strained with the top-end seeming to plateau after about 5,000rpm. But, we are still talking about performance after crossing high 3-digit speeds. The auto transmission is offered with two drive modes – Eco and Sport – with the gear mapping being sportier and dynamic in the Sport mode.

Bottom line

The new Elantra also sees an improvement in the suspension set up. There is much less of the throw about that you see in some of the cars in the segment. Engineers have also added protection against the rear suspension bottoming out. The suspension is still tuned towards offering an accommodative ride in slow speed conditions.

We felt that it could have been a bit stiffer for assisting high speed dynamics. The steering feels similarly over-assisted and lacking in feel at high speeds, though it is extremely comfortable to use at slow speeds. The new petrol engine offers a claimed mileage of 14.62kmpl and the diesel engine’s is 22.54kmpl (both ARAI-rated for MT). Prices range from about Rs 13 lakh to Rs 19.2 lakh (ex-showroom)

Overall, the new Elantra does what Hyundai does best – bring loads of new features and a lot of value for its price. If you are looking for a car that offer better handling then go for the Octavia.

Published on September 01, 2016

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