Hyundai Elantra 2016 Review: K-Pop Elite

Derryn Wong

SINGAPORE – Looking at Hyundai’s new Elantra and it’s easy to see that the Korean carmaker might have taken a few lessons from K-Pop agencies in terms of product packaging. 


It’s not really a surprise. K-Pop has been around since the 1990s, and Hyundai was also attempting to up the visual kick of its products long before this. The previous Elantra wore its ‘swoopy curvy’ lines well, so much so that it still looked good, even when painted Smurf blue and driven in a terrible manner.

The new car looks good too, but in a wholly different way: The new Elantra looks mature, almost European. The diamond grille dominates the front end, while the details around it support the forward-looking stance, the lights, the contoured bonnet, and this stretches the length of the car with the strong shoulder line that feeds into the tail lamps.

Hyundai has explored the world of luxury automobiles for some time too, taken on new (Continental) blood in its design team and that effort shows, since not only does the Elantra look good by itself, it’s also immediately recognisable as a Hyundai.

More expensive siblings like the Sonata and Tucson have seen improvements both outside and in, and the Elantra is no different. Korea’s left its budget and entry level roots behind it (see K-Pop again) and the Elantra’s cabin is a great example of that: soft touch plastics, solid actuation and switchgear, pleasant blue lighting that looks good in day and night.

The car hasn’t grown much, it’s incrementally longer, wider and higher, but the wheelbase remains the same at 2,700mm, which pegs it to current competition such as the Mazda 3 sedan and the Kia K3 Forte. Boot space is good, at 458-litres, more than the competitors at 414-litres and 421-litres, respectively. The rear seats fold down (there’s a boot-mounted catch) although the loading aperture narrows near the seat back’s threshold.

Carried over is the 1.6-litre Gamma engine with 126bhp, mated to Hyundai’s own six-speed automatic transmission. As a package, it has no major shortcomings: It’s smooth and quiet, displaying better power and shift qualities than CVT-equipped cars, and as we proved with the previous Elantra, quite capable of delivering an efficiency figure that’s near to its claims. There’s a drive mode button now which toggles Eco, Normal and Sport modes, but from what we could feel, they primarily affect throttle response rather than shifting patterns or anything else.

It’s a disappointment not to see an entry-level turbo engine when we know the Hyundai Group is perfectly capable of it (see our news story), but nobody else is delving into turbos at this price point – and probably won’t in the next five years – unless you count Honda’s incoming Civic, which will be a Cat B model and priced in a different segment.

The Elantra sneaks up on you, in that it doesn’t quite smack you in the face with one stand-out feature or brilliance, but one area which is comprehensively better slowly sinks in: Refinement and handling.

READ MORE: How about a German alternative to East Asian sedans? 

Like its SUV brethren, the Tucson, the Elantra rides well, dispatching bumps with ease and no wallow. So much so, in fact, that with the car’s increased refinement, you’ll find yourself edging past speed limits unknowingly – something of a hallmark in more expensive cars. It’s likely a result of the stronger, stiffer chassis that packs more than 50 percent high-strength steel – which is also good for crash safety.

As mentioned in our launch story, the car also packs a lot of equipment in Elite spec – the $8,000 premium over the base S spec is well justified. What we found most useful were the ventilated seats (executed in good-looking perforated leather) plus driver’s powered memory seat, both still a rarity in this segment, Kia K3 aside.

Hyundai’s 5.0-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system still retains relatively basic functionality in this age of rotary/smart/tablet units, with USB/Bluetooth functions, but it also claws back points with the keyless entry/start and smart boot opening system – stand near the back (key in pocket) for more than three seconds and it pops open automatically.

Good, as mentioned, but not segment-leading good. But one area where the Elantra shines is in safety. It has ESP, ABS and traction control, of course, but the Elite model also has a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert and six airbags, including side and curtain units, all of which are rare at this price level individually, let alone together.  

It might not be pushing to re-define the inexpensive East Asian sedan segment with turbos and navigation on-board, but in safety at least, the Elantra is quite ahead of the competition.

In the wider picture, the forays into luxury have done Hyundai’s brand equity good, then some of the shine seems to have rubbed off on the Elantra. That the sort of step forward in quality we saw in its more expensive offerings like the Genesis, Sonata and Tucson, can be seen and felt here is only a good thing.

Hyundai Elantra Elite

Engine 1,591cc, 16V, inline 4

Power 126bhp at 6300rpm

Torque 155Nm at 4850rpm

Gearbox 6-speed automatic

Top Speed 195km/h

0-100kmh 11.6 seconds

Fuel efficiency 6.8L/100km

CO2 162g/km

Price $102,999 with COE

Availability Now


4-door 5 seat elantra Elite hyundai petrol sedan

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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