For the Canadian introduction of its redesigned 2017 Elantra, Hyundai scheduled a day of driving in and around Victoria, BC. The morning’s route took us past picturesque oceanside parks and along twisting forest-lined backroads. Then after lunch we stopped at a suburban grocery store where corporate reps loaded each Elantra’s capacious trunk with bagfuls of groceries. It was, they told us, a little something in lieu of the usual tchotchke or gizmo handed out to journalists as a memento of the event. We weren’t expected to keep the groceries, mind you, but rather to drive them to Victoria’s Our Place Society, an inner-city mission serving the city’s homeless and vulnerable. There we were rewarded with the gift of giving, delivering the food ourselves to the mission’s kitchen. It was a well-conceived and generous gesture, and to Hyundai’s credit that appears to be the approach the company has taken with the Elantra itself, too.
The sixth-generation Elantra is a fraction bigger than the previous car – 20mm longer, 5mm taller and wider – providing interior room that ranks as midsize despite the car’s positioning in the compact segment. This keeps the Elantra competitive with the recently upsized Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, and ahead of the Ford Focus and Mazda3. The exterior style bears a distinct family resemblance to the Sonata, with smoothly sculpted sides, a steeply sloping rear roofline, and an on-trend hexagonal grille flanked by LED accent lights. There are LED accent taillights too, and the overall effect is good looking if a tad conservative.
Hyundai has been knocked in the past for a sub-par ride quality compared to its chief rivals, and during a pre-drive presentation product manager Eric Marshall explained how the engineers have worked to improve things by reconfiguring the rear torsion axle’s suspension geometry, adding rubber isolation mounts for the front subframe, and stiffening the car’s structure through increased use of high-strength steel and structural adhesives.
The new Elantra uses 53 percent high-strength steel versus 21 percent in the old car, and to illustrate the real-world effect of this, PR manager Chad Heard put on simple demonstration, laying two identical-looking sheets of steel – one mild and one high-strength – between a pair cinder blocks, then standing on each of them. The mild steel sheet bent and collapsed to the floor, while the high-strength sheet held strong. Point taken, and the demo lent credence to Hyundai’s assurance that the new car should score top ratings in IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.
Pricing and packaging for the new Elantra has been a mystery since the car’s Los Angeles debut, and Marshall shed some light with a brief walk-through of the lineup, although final pricing has so far been determined only for the base L trim, which will start at $15,999. This is a $200 increase compared to the equivalent 2016 model and we can expect similarly modest increases across the range, which currently tops out at $25,849. “We know we need to remain competitive with Toyota and Honda,” Marshall hinted.
The L trim gets a manual transmission and 15-inch steel wheels, with standard features including power locks and windows, remote keyless entry, tilt/telescope steering wheel, multifunction trip computer, six-speaker AM/FM/MP3 audio with USB and auxiliary inputs, seven airbags (including driver’s knee airbag), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes, projector headlights and, this being Canada, even heated front seats. “We were given carte blanche to put together Canadian-tailored content,” Marshall remarked. “So these aren’t simply U.S. trims carried over to Canada.” Moving up from from the base trim will be an LE model that adds high-demand amenities including manual air conditioning, automatic transmission, Bluetooth connectivity and steering-wheel mounted audio controls.