Hyundai's Elantra is one of the Korean manufacturer's all-time best selling models and often the second- or third-place finisher in the knock-down, drag-out rivalry that is Canada's compact car segment (Hyundai sold 41,957 Elantras during the first ten months of 2015, trailing the Honda Civic at 55,881 sales and the Toyota Corolla at 42,208 sales). So the debut of the redesigned, sixth-generation 2017 Elantra at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show was a big deal indeed for the marque.
The new Elantra is longer by 20 mm and taller and wider by 5 mm compared to the fifth-generation model, providing interior room that actually ranks as midsize. This keeps the Elantra competitive with the recently upsized Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, and ahead of the Ford Focus and Mazda3.
Stylistically, the Elantra now bears a distinct family resemblance to the Sonata, with smoothly sculpted sides, a steeply sloping rear roofline, and Hyundai's familiar-looking hexagonal grille up front, flanked by LED headlights that Hyundai president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer says are "shaped to give the car an alert expression."
The bodywork is underpinned by a more rigid chassis thanks to the use of 53 percent high-strength steel (up from 21 percent in the fifth-generation Elantra) and a 40-fold increase in the use of structural adhesives (a construction technology originally developed in the aviation field). Hyundai tells us these changes provide a 29.5 percent increase in the car's torsional rigidity and allow fundamental improvements in ride, handling, noise levels and durability. At the back, the rear suspension geometry has been redesigned for improved comfort and stability.
Power for most models comes from an all-new 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine, cunningly named the "Nu" series. The new engine features multi-port injection and a host of fuel-saving technologies including intermediate valve cam phasing, electronically-controlled thermostat, high energy ignition coils, and piston cooling jets. Power is rated at 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission options include either a six-speed manual or a new six-speed automatic that Hyundai says is 4.4 percent more efficient than the previous automatic. Combined with the car's front wheel air curtains, full underbody cover and exceptionally low 0.27 coefficient of drag, the new Elantra promises to deliver significant fuel economy improvements, although actual numbers won't be available until closer to the market launch date.
For those seeking the ultimate in efficiency there will also be an Eco model available featuring a 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a dual-clutch transmission. As well, Hyundai vice president Mike O'Brien promised that a powerful Sport model will be introduced later next year. All models will receive Hyundai's new Drive Mode Select, which adjusts both steering feel and now powertrain performance as well, providing Eco, Normal and Sport modes.
Inside the Elantra, Hyundai has canted the centre stack slightly towards the driver for what it calls a "fighter jet" inspired driver-centric cockpit layout, and the company continues to woo buyers with features more typically expected in larger and more expensive cars. Available features in the 2017 Elantra include a driver's seat memory system, adaptive cruise control, automatic High Beam Assist, Infinity premium audio, Clari-Fi digital music restoration technology, Android Auto smartphone connectivity, "Eyes Free" Siri integration, rear-view camera with dynamic guidance, and a hands-free proximity trunk.
Available advanced safety features include autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian detection with auto braking, lane keeping assist and more. Combined with the car's seven airbags and structural improvements made to improve crashworthiness, this allows Hyundai to target good crash safety performance and a Top Safety Pick+ rating when the car undergoes official testing.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra will be assembled in both Montgomery, Alabama and Ulsan, South Korea. It will arrive at Hyundai dealerships in February 2016, with pricing to be announced closer to that date.