Test drive: Hyundai Elantra 2.0 Executive & 1.6 Sport

Hyundai’s new Elantra range makes for a strong case in the renewed C-segment battle

Elantra vs Elantra 1

While it may not seem so, the Malaysian C-segment sedan market is still very much alive.  It may seem like a one-sided affair favouring a certain Japanese powerhouse, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of competitors – and not only from Japan. Case in point, the sixth generation Hyundai Elantra that debuted here earlier this year.

Obviously, the locally assembled Korean alternative aims to give its chief Japanese rivals a run for their money and position. And having spent an entire weekend in the hotseats of both the base 2.0 Executive and the flagship 1.6 Sport, we’re certain they have enough in them to stir the desires of the targeted buyers.

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To start, Hyundai has certainly put effort into ensuring the new Elantra has appeal. It’s especially evident in the range-topping Elantra 1.6 Sport which shows off a pair of gleaming bi-xenon HID headlights, integrated LED daytime running lights (DRLs) and sharp 17-inch alloy wheels, as well as an array of sporty exterior trim that includes a faux rear diffuser.

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The Elantra 2.0 Executive base model has it attractions too, even though it’s clearly different to its sporty twin, notably with its projector halogen headlamps with supplementing LED position lights, it’s simplified silhouette (minus racy trimming), and the set of simpler yet still attractive 17-inch alloy wheels it rolls on. Overall, it can be said both variants are pleasing to the eye.

Inside both, other differences are evident. With the Sport, the cabin takes on a racy approach with a red-coloured theme for its leather seats and contrasting trim. The Executive, on the other hand, has an understated black theme with leather and suede combination seat covers. Again, there’s little to loathe in either as they’re adequately spacious and somewhat plush.

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The divide only gets drastic once both cars get going. In the Executive, Hyundai has retained its venerable and robust 2.0-litre Nu MPi four-cylinder petrol heart and 6-speed conventional automatic setup, sending 150bhp and 192Nm to the front wheels.

Yes, it sounds old, but this setup has powered many other Hyundai (and Kia) models with great success. We reckon it’s also Hyundai’s way of practising that old credo of “if it ain’t broken, why fix it”. We agree it isn’t the liveliest setup around, but it’s a properly smooth operator and quite frugal too.

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The slightly muted feel of the powertrain and typical deadness of the electric power steering system aside, the Executive’s road manners will be appreciated by those who desire an adequately comfortable ride and decent handling abilities akin to a comparable continental rival.

Switch to the Elantra 1.6 Sport range-topper and things take a more dynamic turn. This sporty expression has the 1.6-litre direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder Gamma GDi heart and 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) that also powers the Veloster Turbo hot hatch, but offering bigger headlining figures of 201bhp and 265Nm.

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Naturally, the Sport is a lot zippier. Peak torque is in play from as low as 1,500rpm. Hitting triple-digit, Autobahn-like speeds is a cinch. It lives up to its ‘Sport’ name and badge. What deserves praises too is its DCT box that feels slick through all seven cogs.

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In handling, however, the Sport could do with a little more precision, but that doesn’t make it any less fun and refined. Appropriately, Hyundai has equipped it with larger brakes than its Executive twin and you can carve up the corners with confidence, but it feels more at home as a fast cruiser than as a B-road fighter, given its good and plush ride.

Our take is that no matter which one you choose, it will provide long-term ownership satisfaction, which will no doubt be boosted by the number of standard features and safety equipment it also offers.

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Among the standard features are a neat touchscreen infotainment system offering Apple Carplay and Android Auto functions, power-adjustable driver seats, cruise control and rear air-conditioning vents. As for safety, they are on equal footing with most of their segment rivals – features include ABS brakes, six airbags, stability control, hill-start assist, and even blind-spot warning in the Sport. It may not sound like much, but it’s enough to satisfy most.

Overall, Hyundai’s new Elantra twins are neither spectacular nor dull. But in a segment where the competition is stiff, both have enough to warrant a second or even a third look, and perhaps justify their somewhat steep and questionable asking prices.

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At RM116,388, without insurance and registration, the Elantra 2.0 Executive is priced slightly higher than the rival Honda Civic 1.8S base model. The Elantra 1.6 Sport’s RM131,4388 is marginally cheaper than the range-topping Civic 1.5 Turbo. But considering both figures include a 5-year or 300,000km warranty, we reckon that’s enough to put some at ease.

If anything, these two Korean alternatives prove that C-segment buyers have a choice, other than the usual Japanese suspects. And they look tempting enough.


Elantra 2.0 Executive

Elantra 1.6 Sport

While they aren’t bargains, they drive as good as they look, especially in range-topping ‘Sport’ form

- Mazda3
Base model Mazda3 is cheaper and has GVC. Crucially, it’s not a Civic.

- Peugeot 408 e-THP
Very pricey, but very left-field and turbocharged. Crucially, it’s not a Civic too.

Thoriq Azmi
Author: Thoriq Azmi
Former DJ. Driver, rider & word-stringer @ Top Gear MY. Geek. Leftie. #fuelledbythoriq