VICTORIA: Elantra has been a good thing for Hyundai Canada, with almost 500,000 models sold here since it was introduced in 1991.
So good, in fact, it is now the number two best selling compact sedan in Canada edging out the Toyota Corolla last year.
Hyundai makes no bones about the Honda Civic, Canada’s best selling compact for 17 straight years, being the target.
RELATED: 2016 Honda Civic Review
So for the 2017, sixth generation Elantra, Hyundai pulled out all the stops, with just about everything new you can think of. It starts with the exterior including signature hexagonal grille, but with emphasis on aerodynamics.
First seen on the Sonata Hybrid, where the fog lights normally would be found, there are airflow openings that channel cooling air to the brakes and manage wind resistance around the front wheels.
Underneath is a full underbody cover and aero spoiler on the bottom, yes the bottom, of the rear bumper.
With another spoiler on the top of the extended trunk, the Elantra has a better coefficient of drag than the Nissan Leaf all-electric.
The interior is big. With a passenger volume of 2,713 litres and trunk capacity of 407 litres, it totals 3,120 litres, which qualifies it as a mid-size sedan although it is officially a compact.
The body is also big news, with a 53 per cent increase of Advanced High Strength Steel. New age adhesives augment spot welds for what Hyundai now calls its Super Structure.
Hyundai has switched its 2.0-litres twin cam inline four-cylinder to the Atkinson Cycle, which improves fuel economy and is widely used in hybrids, although Hyundai is not planning a hybrid version of the Elantra.
The down side of the Atkinson Cycle is less power, but Hyundai has done something with the injection and variable valve timing so it produces a creditable 147 hp and 132 lb/ft of torque.
There are no fuel ratings at this writing, as the Elantra is still under NRCan testing although Hyundai officials expect something around 7.0L/100 combined.
There is a six-speed manual on the base L model, but all other trim levels get a new six-speed automatic, which is also optional on the L.
According to Hyundai, the new automatic gives a 4.4 per cent increased in fuel efficiency.
In addition, all Elantra trims are equipped with the new Drive Mode Select feature, which adjusts both powertrain performance and steering calibration, allowing the driver to customize the driving character by selecting from three modes: Eco, Normal or Sport, using a switch on the centre console.
One other major objective is to tackle noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) — the bane of most compact cars — with a myriad of little things such as expandable foam in all pillars, felt rear wheel well liners and thicker front door glass.
It all adds up a very quiet ride, which my co-driver and I experienced during the press launch in Victoria.
We both agreed the mid-range GLS model we drove was luxury car like in this respect.
The front MacPherson Strut and rear twist beam suspensions have been revised, notably the struts, which are now more perpendicular for more direct up and down travel.
The power steering was quite communicative and very neutral with no sensation of oversteer, which you come to expect from a front-driver.
All that work done to create the Super Structure results in a 29.5 per cent rigidity improvement over the outgoing model which really comes true in the ride and handling department.
My co-driver lauded the simplicity of the instrument panel, which reminded me very much of the Audi/Porsche IPs of the 1990s which are still admired for their utility.
All trims levels have heated front seats and all seats are made from SoyFoam made from soybean oil instead of petroleum based products.
Normally found on luxury cars, Elantra offers a suite of available safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking with class-exclusive Pedestrian Detection. That is a technology that utilizes both front forward facing radar and camera to detect a vehicle or pedestrian, and warn the driver of a potential collision. If the driver does not react to avoid the impact, the system will apply emergency braking.
Another segment-exclusive feature is an available Hands-Free Proximity Trunk which allows drivers to conveniently open their trunk if their hands are full by simply approaching the rear of the vehicle with the key fob in a purse or pocket. An audible beep will sound three times, and the trunk will automatically open.
There will be six trim levels, but the only announced price is $15,999 for the base L with six-speed manual transmission.
As this is being written the Elantras are Canada bound on the ship, and final pricing was still being worked out.
You can bet Hyundai is going over this trim-by-trim in order to match or better Civic.
And don’t be surprised if they do it. Hyundai has shown a 17 per cent increase in growth annually since 2011 and is now the fifth largest automaker in the world.
It will be very interesting to see who is at the top of the sales ladder by the end of 2016.
Hyundai Elantra 2017
Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic (six-speed manual on base L model only)
DOHC 2-0-litre inline Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder with GDI (147 hp, 132 lb/ft of torque)
Base L 6MT $15,599; all other trim models, not announced