Elantra’s Power Options Expand Appeal

By Lee Pang Seng

THE latest Hyundai Elantra is made available with two power options – turobocharged and normally aspirated - to expand its appeal. Being the mid-range models, its reach with the younger set clearly allows Hyundai to provide a more exciting alternative in the Elantra Sport Turbo.

This also reflects the progressive changeover to turbo power for the mainstream range that the German automotive manufacturers subscribed to much earlier and are currently enjoying success with. For the Elantra, Hyundai still maintains the turbo option in a more dynamic and exclusive light as the Sport model.

Helping that strategy is the fastback leaning of the rear for a long front, short rear profile that scores with a racier outlook than a conservative one (this body profile is standard to the Elantra range). It’s a body design that is often used in modern car styling to achieve an aerodynamically efficient profile while exuding a youthful vigour without sacrificing interior space and practicality.

Outwardly, the only tell-tale signs to the Elantra Sport standing are the ‘Turbo’ badge on the front grille and ‘Sport’ badge on the rear panel. Aiding well to its sporty notes are the sharply angled headlamps, each underlined by a large air vent with chrome outline and the prominent day-time running lights.

The Elantra 2.0 GLS has a calmer frontage although this also depends on the model variations, as there are two: Executive and Dynamic. The latter comes with a sport kit that includes the prominent day-time running lights (DRLs) positioned vertically (against horizontally for the Sport Turbo) within an enclosed partition.

These DRLs actually complement those that are part of the headlamp, which Hyundai calls LED (light emitting diode) positioning lamps; those in the Sport Turbo looks more dynamic while that in the 2.0-litre normally aspirated variants toes a more conventional form. Comparing them, we prefer the design for the Elantra 2.0 due to its simplicity besides looking cleaner and attractive. The turbo has HID headlamps and the non-turbo projector halogen units.

Another visual difference between turbo and non-turbo models comes in the surround for the large central front grille; the turbo model has a dark border presumably to impress with a more forceful aura while the chrome outline of the non-turbo Elantra strikes one as more elegant to support a less exciting role, power-wise.

Viewed from the rear, the changes are subtler being the respective badges – Sport against GLS. A clearer distinction is in the red reflectors located on the wraparound plastic bumpers. The Elantra Turbo has straight slim ones while the non-turbo model has angled reflectors that flow with the curvature of the bumpers downwards.

Hyundai has also provided these Elantra models with different tyres to suit the respective dynamic performance. The turbo model came with Hankook Ventus Prima2 with sportier treads while the non-turbo Elantra was shod with Goodyear EfficientGrip that is noted for its comfortable ride. Both tyres are sized 225/45 R17 and of course, they are fitted on different design alloy wheels; but we like the ones on the non-turbo model more.  

There is also a clear distinction in the interior to separate the Sport model from its normally aspirated cousin. This comes mainly in the full leather seats with red sections that are loud enough to stamp the turbo’s power profile, helped by complements from the red accents on the four doors. Metal foot pedals complete the racy package along with the flat-bottom steering wheel.

The turbo model also has more standard functions such as auto cruise control, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and 60:40 split rear seatrests to extend boot space. However, with a boot space of 460 litres, there is still ample room in the non-turbo Elantra to accommodate quite a bit of luggage.

The non-turbo Elantra is more conventionally fitted with fabric-leather seats, a round but thick rimmed steering wheel, normal foot pedals and common air-conditioning system. The Turbo Sport comes with individual control for the air-cond system allowing either the driver or front passenger to select the temperature that’s most comfortable. Activating the system in the turbo is via pushbuttons while that in the non-turbo is by turning the dedicated knob.

Of course, the significant difference between them lies in the power units. The engine in the Sport Turbo is the newer Gamma 1.6T-GDi; it’s undersquarely configured with long 85.44mm stroke and 77.0mm bore to displace an exact 1591cc. It delivers 149.7kW (203.6PS) at 6000rpm and 264/7Nm peaking early at 1500rpm and holding strong till 4500rpm. A seven-speed dual clutch transmission, which is also newly developed, is standard.

The non-turbo model gets the older engine series, this being the Nu 2.0 MPi that is also undersquare in configuration with 97mm stroke and 81mm bore to displace 1999cc. With normal indirect fuel injection and no turbocharger to force air in, power outputs are lower despite the larger engine displacement; 111.7kW (152PS) at 6200rpm and 192Nm that peaks at 4000rpm. This Elantra comes with a six-speed automatic transmission.

We believe that both Elantra variants would probably share a similar kerb weight and the thrill of the drive is definitely in the Sport Turbo. With maximum torque peaking early at 1500rpm and available right till 4500rpm, we could feel that the Elantra Sport Turbo was ever ready to sprint away at the slightest prompt of the accelerator.

When we did ease on the accelerator, the turbocharger quickly rammed up air charge into the combustion chamber and we picked up speed quickly. This was enjoyed when we wanted to overtake quickly or simply to sprint away from the traffic lights like a leopard going after its prey. That surge of speed was the thrill factor that is hard to give up on. As we took the turbo model first, you could imagine the dismay we had when taking the Elantra 2.0 next.

This is not to say the non-turbo Elantra is any less fun to drive but we give ourselves a greater margin of error when overtaking. The normally aspirated 2.0-litre power is good for picking up speed too, with a heavier dose of engine roar, but at a slower rate. We had to be more careful when merging with moving traffic as well as we couldn’t get to mainstream speed as quickly as we could with the Elantra turbo.

Both turbo and non-turbo engines would return good fuel mileages if you are prudent in using the accelerator. We found the turbo model a little bit peakier at crawl traffic speeds; it was like having a mild turbo lag on picking up speed when traffic flow gets going again. This was less noticed in the Elantra 2.0 with a smoother and more immediate engine response when driving in urban traffic snarls.

For the winding roads, the Elantra Sport Turbo seemed to take the corners on a flatter level with the steering turn-in as accurate as we would prefer for the respective bend. Perhaps it has slightly thicker anti-roll bars; both cars are independently sprung front and rear with MacPherson struts in front for both though the rear for the Sport Turbo is a tubular rod (or torsion beam) set-up while the non-turbo model has a multi-link design.

That could also account for the Elantra 2.0 having a more comfortable ride when encountering potholed road surfaces or going over speedbumps. We could feel the nice cushioning effect especially when going over speedbumps with the Elantra 2.0 while the experience with the Sport Turbo was of a firmer one, while remaining comfortable as it was not jolting. Both models have the electrically powered motor driven power steering.

The difference in price between them is about RM11,000 with the Elantra Sport Turbo commanding a tag of RM131,488 on the road without insurance. The Elantra GLS Executive that we drove carried a price of RM116,388 (add RM4200 for the 2.0 Dynamic). These are competitive prices in the mid-range car market and if we had to choose between them, the Elantra Sport Turbo would be the one as we like an exciting drive.

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