Mambaonline Motoring Editor and 2012 Car of the Year Judge Brent Ellis concludes his overview of the contest with the tenth and last finalist in the running for the title: the Hyundai Elantra 1.8 GLS.


In this, the final instalment of my Car of the Year testing reviews, I’ve saved the best for last; the car I reckon is going to win. Hyundai’s new Elantra is something of a marvel. Not only is it up for our COTY title but in January this year (while I happened to be visiting the Hyundai Motor Company in Korea), it won the North American COTY title. It’s also sold one million units in its first year of production and that is one amazing feat.


On looks alone, this car deserves to win design awards the world over. In my opinion this is to date the best example of Hyundai’s new “fluidic sculpture” design language, and the way the Elantra has been designed around the wind and water, makes it look truly beautiful. Nothing is overdone though, and that means the design should age very well. I just love how everything is connected and the various design elements flow into one another – two thumbs up from me.

The interior is also well-designed, with swooping surfaces and tranquillity brought about by bright detailing and blue back lighting. The steering wheel in particular is a highlight for me, and seems to bring a lot of the car’s character through to your senses. Cloth upholstery features simple but pretty patterns and overall, the Elantra is ergonomically sound – the blue backlighting perhaps being my only complaint as it’s difficult to focus on at night.

Comfort and Features

This particular version of the Elantra is the range-topper, and as such comes with a fairly decent list of standard equipment, with no options available. Standard kit includes, amongst other items: folding rear seats, a centre armrest, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic dual-zone climate control, a 6-speaker radio / CD / MP3 / USB / iPod/aux audio system, a multi-function leather steering wheel, a multi-info trip computer, cruise control, electric and heated exterior mirrors, electric windows all-round and rear parking sensors.

Ride and Handling

Despite the fitment of 17-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tyres, the Elantra 1.8 GLS performed well on the road and provided a comfortable ride with decent amounts of road feedback. NVH levels (noise, vibration and harshness) are excellently low, making even horribly corrugated driving surfaces easy to manage. Indeed, I came away extremely impressed after testing the Elantra on a rough road simulation test track at Gerotek, where the suspension smoothed out the ride and the light steering meant I didn’t sprain my wrists. The trade-off, however, is a slightly numb steering feel, meaning that enthusiastic driving is a little disappointing when the road is smooth and your speed is higher.

The Elantra handles well too, thanks in large part to wide 215/45 tyres. I enjoyed thrashing it around Gerotek’s Dynamic Handling Track, although I found the traction control a bit too invasive, as it cut the power too early through corners. Switching the system off solved that problem of course, but a large amount of “safe” understeer was the result. It might not be a track enthusiast’s first choice, but it sure is going to keep you safe in sticky road driving situations. At high speeds as well, the Elantra is sure-footed and errs on the safe side of having fun.

Performance and Economy

Featuring a powerful naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, the Elantra sure doesn’t leave you wanting for power or speed. Sure it’s not a pocket rocket, but as a compact sedan the 110kW/178Nm engine does a fine job of driving the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox. The claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.3 seconds and supposed top speed of 205km/h are also not disappointing.

What I found particularly impressive though was this car’s fuel efficiency. After a few days of driving I actually began to wonder when the fuel gauge would start to drop, and after a decent week of testing I returned an average of 7.4-litres per 100km; a proposed 650km on the 48.5-litre tank wasn’t at all disappointing. Hyundai claims the Elantra will use 6.5-litres per 100km on the combined cycle – almost a litre lower than what I achieved, but I don’t doubt there is merit in their claims should one drive efficiently. Carbon emissions are claimed to be 155g/km.


With the rest of the car setting quite a high standard, safety hasn’t been left to drown in the Elantra. Along with the traction control I mentioned, safety systems include ABS with EBD (anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution), six airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors, remote central locking with auto-locking doors, an alarm and an immobiliser.


This is where the Elantra’s party piece comes out to whack you in the face. With all its standard specification, great design features and inherent quality which comes with the Hyundai badge these days, the Elantra 1.8 GLS retails for a truly modest R224 900, including a fantastic 5-year/150 000km warranty and a 5-year/90 000km service plan. Compared to its rivals, this is an extremely difficult car to say no to…

Price-wise this Elantra competes with the likes of the Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 LS (R223 400), the new Ford Focus 1.6 Trend 4-door (R233 490), Honda’s latest Civic 1.8 Comfort sedan (R229 900 and with fewer features than the Elantra), the Kia Cerato 2.0 SX sedan (R213 995), the refreshed Mazda3 1.6 Active (R225 780), Renault’s Fluence 1.6 Dynamique (R224 900), the new MG6 1.8T Comfort sedan (R229 900) and the VW Jetta 1.2 TSI (R222 000 and not nearly as feature-laden as the Hyundai).

Honestly, amongst these competitors I definitely wouldn’t say no to the Elantra. The Chevy, Civic and Jetta represent perhaps its stiffest competition but especially in the case of these specific versions of the Honda and VW, the Elantra simply trumps them on specification and therefore value for money. At this price level, the Elantra is simply the best car in its class in my opinion and I would actually buy one. I also believe it will walk off with this year’s COTY crown, and with just a few days to go until the results are announced, we don’t have to wait long to find out…


Car: Hyundai Elantra 1.8 GLS 6MT
Price: R 224 900
Warranty: 5yr/150 000km
Service/maintenance plan: 5yr/90 000km
Power: 110kW
Torque: 178Nm
0-100*: 9.3s
Top Speed*: 205km/h
Airbags: 6
Fuel economy*: 6.5-l/100km
CO2: 131g/km
Chance of winning: Very good

*Manufacturer’s claims

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