The well-equipped and twin-engined new Hyundai Elantra impresses as an all-rounder. Ouseph Chacko has the details

Hyundai’s all-new Elantra has made choosing an executive saloon much harder. The fifth-generation Elantra is nothing like the old car and is in fact two generations ahead. With Hyundai’s popular ‘Fluidic Design’ and a long list of equipments, it is all geared up to make its presence felt in the market.

At 2700mm, it has the longest wheelbase and thus oodles of space inside. The chauffeur-driven will like the leg space at the back, but might find the back seats a tad too reclined. Another issue is that the swooping roofline eats into precious headroom and this is likely to bother back-seat occupants taller than six feet.

There are no such complains at the front though. The dashboard layout is very stylish with a dominant V-shaped centre console and sporty deep-dish dials. Fit and finish is upto the mark too, but what really wows you is the long equipment list. A 10-way powered driver’s seat , dual-zone climate control, cooled front seats, a reversing camera, keyless entry and go, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and USB and aux-in ports. This top-end Elantra SX makes some of its rivals look seriously under-equipped. Hyundai hasn’t stinted on safety features either — the SX gets six airbags, ABS, ESP and even Vehicle Stability Management. The VSM is linked to the electrically assisted power steering and has the ability to make small steering corrections if it senses the car is going out of control.

Under the hood, the Elantra comes with two engine options — a 148bhp 1.8-litre petrol and the 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel from the Verna. Both can be specified with a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, so the Elantra, spec-wise at least, takes on everything from the diesel Toyota Corolla to the VW Jetta. We drove the petrol automatic and the manual diesel, and frankly, the petrol motor with the auto isn’t impressive. The engine is powerful enough but isn’t as refined or enthusiastic as the specs would lead you to believe. Sure, the more you rev it the more shove there is, but it sounds strained and isn’t a willing participant when you’re really pushing it. Also letting it down is the automatic gearbox, which upshifts at the earliest possible moment and then constantly hunts through the gears every time you move your foot.

However, the redeeming feature of this engine-gearbox combo is its long-legged cruising ability (thanks to a tall sixth gear). It will also appeal to people who simply want an easy, stress-free city commute.

The diesel with the manual gearbox is a far more appealing combination. It is smooth, quiet and performance is satisfying thanks to the 26.5kgm of torque. Peak torque comes in at 1900rpm, so there is some measure of turbo lag. It feels best when you use the slick, light-action gearshift and light, progressive clutch to upshift early.

The suspension is MacPherson struts up front and a cost-effective and space-saving non-independent torsion beam at the rear (the old Elantra had independent rear suspension). Our test route had mostly smooth roads, but it was rather evident that the rear suspension is set up for comfort. There was some pitching over undulations, but this apart, the ride is pretty sorted and the Elantra displays good straight-line stability.

It isn’t a particularly exciting car to drive though — the steering feel is artificial and though it weighs up at speed, that isn’t enough. But grip levels are good.

It’s a car that prefers to be coaxed through corners. Still, this car’s ride and handling envelope should satisfy all but hardcore driving enthusiasts.

Prices of the Elantra start at Rs. 12.51 lakh and is available in seven trims, making it a good overall package for buyers. The styling and the long equipment list will appeal to the buyers as much as the Verna did and the chauffeur-driven will most likely not mind the unexciting drive of the car. But where this car will really excel will be in its resale value. With the market increasingly inclining towards diesel, it is no surprise then that the diesel option is the better investment compared to the petrol. Finally, the Elantra may not be the best car out there, but as an all-rounder it ticks many boxes to make it a sensible buy.