Back to the Future
I didn't have the chance to drive the second-generation Elantra that came out in the late 90’s, nor did I even bother to try. Because back then, I considered the Elantra as my personal nemesis. Those were the days when I was working as a race mechanic for Erick Tanael and we were running a Toyota AE101 in the Philippine Production Touring Car Championship. The Hyundais were not exactly “lookers”, but they had established themselves as class leaders. At the time, they had a good balance and ample power, so we really had to dig deep and focus hard to push the very limits and beat the Elantra's.
Fast forward to the present day. Three-generations later, the all-new Elantra is now a totally different animal compared the old one. The former Elantra was not pretty, nor was it really ugly, but it was different, and to a point… indifferent. The all-new Elantra looks sharp, crisp, and slick. It’s so beautiful that you don’t have to change anything on this car to make it pretty. In fact you don’t need exterior enhancements such as body kits, or subtle add-ons like a front chin, ducktail, or carbon pieces. But if you really have to, changing the wheels to 18-inchers with a bit more offset will give you a kick ass ride.
They say that the “eyes are the window of the soul” and for a car, those are its headlights. And looking at the Elantra’s eyes, you'll immediately see that it means business. Look deeper and discover its character, beauty, and an air of confidence that's proud, but not arrogant, probably because inside, it knows that it can back up its mean stance with performance. It’s got show and more importantly, it has go!
The lines on the car exude a sleek athletic stance. It hunkers down to convey to onlookers that it means business. And when I say business, I mean speed and performance, with a touch of refinement. It has characteristics that reminds you it's related to the Sonata, Genesis Coupe, and even the Accent. Personally, I think that the designers of the all-new Elantra are absolutely brilliant. They knew what was needed, listened to what the consumers wanted, and created something to be desired.
Talking about the devil in the details, the switches and controls are positioned with ease of access, and there's a card holder on the sun visor for parking or toll cards so you won’t go crazy looking for those blasted things when it’s time to pay. It also has a dedicated 12v lighter plug for the passenger. It’s these little clever bits that really convinced me that this sedan was designed with the consumer in mind, not just building a car for the sake of building it.
A closer look at the interior tells a story of comfort, good build quality, and great space. The rear boot is also surprisingly roomy, despite the Elantra's short rear overhang. You can fit in a couple of extra spare tires, golf bags, diving gear, or... whatever. Plus, you can drop the rear seats by pulling a lever in the trunk if you need more space. No hassle of having to folding it from the inside, here.
A True Winner
I was able to stretch the Elantra's legs, driving it with my busy schedule. The 1.8L D-VVCT engine and its six-speed automatic transmission are great everywhere, around town, on the highway, and perhaps, even on track. Power delivery is smooth, with lots of torque, which makes going through all six gears a lot of fun. But even in Sport Mode, the transmission will automatically shift up as soon as it hits the rev limiter, so as not to damage the engine or the gears.
The Elantra's a big car, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it. The ride is firm but comfortable, and you can go just about anywhere with three or four more people and still not feel cramped inside. And while it may look low from the outside, I didn't encounter any problems with its ride height. I found the Elantra really fun to drive, with its crisp steering and excellent handling. The only thing I'd change are the eco-tires that comes standard. I have a strong feeling that in race trim, under a capable driver, this car has the potential to bag championships. And even if it indeed has won the title of Car of the Year in four different countries, and priced at unbeatable P938,000, it doesn’t really matter to me what it does, because in my book… it’s already a winner.