Elantra quality first
Hyundai found class in 2006, writesGRAHAMSMITH
HYUNDAI has thrown off the cheap-and-cheerful tag it wore when it arrived here in the 1980s. It had to, mind you, because no car company could survive longterm if all it did was build cars that were little more than whitegoods on wheels.
For most people, even those with only a passing interest in them, cars are an emotional purchase and Hyundai eventually had to move beyond its dollar-driven positioning and appeal to those who wanted a better drive than the company was initially offering.
Enter models such as the Sonata and, in 2006, the HD Elantra, the latest variant on Hyundai’s small-car theme. It would once have been defined by its sticker price but, though the price was sharp, it offered more. 1990s, but when the HD model was launched it was regarded as a real challenger to such small-car leaders as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Nissan Tiida.
Scanning the specifications showed it was no pretender in the class; it really did match up against the Japanese cars.
Importantly, Hyundai was ticking boxes with all manner of motoring bodies, from NCAP for its safety performance to JD Power for its quality and reliability.
They were all signs the brand had matured enough to be trusted, that it was no longer just a builder of disposable cars.
The Elantra was a small, frontwheel-drive four-door sedan with contemporary looks inside and out, an updated and fuel-efficient 2-litre engine and loads of standard safety features.
It no longer looked cheap and the quality was clear everywhere, from interior fit to paint finish.
The HD range was made up of four models — the SX, SLX, Elite and auto-only Elite S.
Power was provided by a responsive and economical 2-litre four- cylinder engine boasting performance peaks of 105kW at 6000 revs and 186Nm at 4600 revs.
Buyers could choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and a four-speed auto.
It looked the goods, but the drive was somewhat underwhelming. The steering was rubbery, the handling less than impressive, the ride average and the manual gearshift imprecise.
All models were quite well equipped, even the entry-level model came standard with anti-skid brakes, airconditioning, power windows and mirrors, an alarm and dual front airbags.
Move up the range to the Elite S topper and you drove away with leather, alloys and a sunroof. PAY $13,000-$18,000 for a base SX, add $1500 for an SLX, $3000 for an Elite or $4000 for an Elite S. HYUNDAI has worked hard to rid itself of the cheerfully cheap label and the result is better build quality and much-improved reliability over- all. Few problems are reported to carsGuide and that suggests owners are satisfied with their cars.
Make the usual checks for shonky crash repairs, poor panel fit and colour mismatching. Ask vendors for a service record. ANCAP rated the Elantra at three stars, average for a car of this safetyconscious era. All models have dual front airbags and anti-skid brakes; the SX also had side front airbags, and the Elite had head airbags and electronic stability control. THE Elantra’s engine is a sweetrunning unit with good performance for the class, but importantly it also returns good economy. Expect 7-8 litres for 100km on average around town. A RELIABLE and affordable small car that’s worth a look.