Mon | Feb 19, 2018

2017 Elantra superb to drive

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2016 | 12:11 AMMel Cooke
A front view of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra sedan.
A rear, side view of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra.

It took less then five minutes for Magna Motors’ Andrew Channer’s ‘make-sure-Elantra-is-in-motion-before-motoring-with-thy-mouth’ approach to my drive of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra to make perfect sense.

You see, we journalist people like to ask questions, so I started shooting from the lower lip as soon as we approached the top-level red model parked outside the Hyundai dealership’s Old Hope Road premises. However, although I remarked on striking, gleaming grill work and small – even demure – fog lights which exuded the class of understatement as much as the brilliant illumination they promised, Channer would not be drawn into much conversation.

He smiled, opened the passenger door in subtle but undeniable prodding to get into the sedan and said he would have me drive before we spoke.

Fair enough. I got in, got the seat adjusted with the smooth all electronic action (backward and forward, height and legs angle), pressed the button to strike up the 1600 cc engine and pulled out onto Orchard Road. The sensors beeped as a small box truck driver took the corner too close to our pristine newness and showed subsequently that they work rather sensitively.

Given carte blanche over our route I headed up Old Hope Road, plotting a path to the Palisadoes strip. Then I got a phone call, did the right thing in pulling off the road and Channer’s approach paid off.

With my right hand holding my cell phone (not to my ear), I twitched my left wrist and the and the Elantra inserted itself neatly into the space created by someone’s driveway, parallel to the road. It was so effortless that it felt like a transfer of thought into motor vehicle’s motion without the interface of the body.

I don’t remember if I said damn, but I am sure I thought DAMN! Naturally I remarked at the ease of that driving experience and Channer, with a smug semi-grin, said “that is why I said drive it first.”

So that is what I continued doing, as he explained about the steering set-up which creates the exquisite handling. It makes pothole dodging fun. More than that, though; having cleared the dual carriageway to Harbour View roundabout (and – ahem  - the cops) it made pushing the Elantra a bit on the ‘airport road’ a joy.

That pushing is better done in manual mode. At 1.6L (naturally aspirated) with the air-conditioning on (dual zone up front), the Elantra was always going to be less than a spirited sedan in full automatic approach. Switch to manual, requiring a hand on the shifter, and it is a different ball game. Paired with that steering it is bliss.

So there I was heading towards the airport roundabout, taking the gentle curves (no braking, even for I, the self-confessed not-the-best-driver-in-the-country) and thinking this is smooth. I look down at the speedometer and it is at 128 kph. That happened without any loss of stability, intrusive cabin noise or sensation of pushing the sedan anywhere near, much less past, its speed and handling capabilities.

I back off (it is, after all, a busy roadway with a limit and Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) students) and look around a bit. The gaze begins at the steering, where the top level 2017 Hyundai Elantra puts the entertainment system and cruise control controls, among others, literally at the fingertips.

The dual climate air-conditioning controls sit below the touchsceen display/interface. Above that, the dashbioard plastics could be a bit more refined. Visibility is excellent, forward, sideways and over the trunk through the rear-view mirror. Leather can be had; the dark fabric is of sufficiently high quality to satisfy all but the most pernickety of posteriors.

I had intended to turn back at the airport roundabout, but was tempted to head in Port Royal’s direction by that most justifiable of reasons – a tall lass in blue jeans who was going about her business with not a clue that her lithe legs and long stride have extended a test drive by a few hundred metres.

Turning back, I turned twice. For one good turn really deserved another, circling in the road precisely (in more ways than one) as I should not. Breaking the rules should always be this enjoyable.

Back in the city, on Wellington Drive I find that the sound system I nudge up with a thumb is excellent. I venture into the lower reaches of Beverley Hills and again manual mode makes a big difference and I am pushing up the slope, the handling making me feeling like a rally driver without the dirt.

Channer says there are seven air bags (knee protection is included). But there is something that is not there. An antenna. It is all smooth lines, as I observe yet again when I get out of the Elantra in the parking lot of the basic school my son attends.

Trunk space is adequate, though not cavernous. The spare is full-sized, with a sport rim.

At $3.9 million entry level and topping off at $4.2, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra is not basic transportation. No sireee.