by: Jag Dhatt
Toronto, Ontario: I remember my first Hyundai in 1989; much to my displeasure, we bought a 4-door Pony, complete with power windows (hand power that is) and a manual choke. Yes, a manual choke. The car was bought for commuting to UBC and for some time, it did the job. It had some issues, but for the most part, it suited my needs. In the couple of years we had the car, I didn’t think the Korean brand would amount to much. Ask me today and boy, I couldn’t have thought more wrong.
Hyundai has come a long way from the first-generation Pony, Elantra and Sonata models. Now, the brand builds vehicles that go head-to-head with, and at times surpasses, Honda, Mazda, and Toyota. Last week, I was invited to Toronto, Ontario to partake in Hyundai’s almost annual Fun Day. Each time, the Fun Day has something different, and for this year, it was Geocaching in the new Elantra GLS and then test driving the all-new turbocharged Elantra Sport, which will be in showrooms soon.
For those unfamiliar with the term geocaching, think of orienteering, but for the modern age. Orienteering used to take place in the woods, with a hand-held compass for guidance. Now, it’s a global phenomenon, with caches waiting to be found using smartphones. Think of it as like Pokémon GO.
For Hyundai’s Fun Day 2016, our task was to find 12 hidden caches in the GTA area. On a crisp sunny morning, we exited the hotel, got into our assigned Elantra and were off to the races, because after all, it was a competition. Not only did we have to find a cache that gave us directions to the location of the New Elantra Sport, but there was some word of a trophy as well.
Those who haven’t seen or driven the 2017 Elantra will be in for quite the surprise. With each generation, the car has only gotten better and better, both in terms of design, fit and finish, and engineering. Long gone are the days when owners of the brand were poked fun at; now, thanks to a great design team, almost every model is tastefully done. Even a German-brand loving friend of mine, who is an interior designer, gave up his Audi and Mini and went for the new Tucson. Although I don’t admit it often, his taste in design is quite good.
My driving partner, Mathieu Thomassin, and I plotted our route for efficiency and time. Rather than go and search for the caches closest to the hotel, we attacked the ones furthest first. I was in the driver’s seat and Mathieu was the navigator, both of us itching to accomplish our task. Since our first cache was almost a 35-minute drive away, it gave us ample time to test the Elantra.
One of my pet peeves, for this day and age, is a noisy cabin. People should be able to carry on a conversation without irritating their voice boxes – it’s not much to ask for, is it? In the new Elantra, Mathieu and I didn’t need to raise our voices, whether on city roads, back roads, or the highway. That’s pretty good for an entry level compact car. Speaking of the cabin, it is much more refined and almost trendy. Unlike the previous edgy generation, it’s pleasant on the inside, with all controls and switches well laid out.
Hyundai is doing a great job at appeasing the Canadian market by adding features that would normally be extras. For example, all Elantras have a 7” touch screen and heated front seats. Above the GL trim, rear heated seats and a heated steering wheel are standard. The best value model has to be the GLS trim, which adds a sunroof, keyless entry with push-button ignition, hands-free Smart Trunk, door handle lighting and 17” wheels. One gripe is that Bluetooth is not standard on the base model.
Power for the Elantra comes from a 2.0L MPI Atkinson DOHC in-line 4-cylinder engine, which is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual mode. While this engine provides enough power for most daily driving, it is a little sluggish. Even Sport mode is a little lack-lustre when comparing it to the Civic or the Mazda3. But don’t frown just yet, because if you want more umph, the new turbocharged Elantra Sport may just tickle your fancy.
The first cache was located on a dirt road and here’s where one of Hyundai’s evolutions can be felt. Even though the underlying structure of the vehicle is still mostly unchanged, Hyundai has doubled the amount of high-strength steel and structural adhesives. What does this mean? Well, torsional rigidity is up by 30%, which not only gives better performance in crash-resistance, but also a quieter ride on dirt roads that you can feel.
Within a few minutes of searching, Mathieu found the cache and of course, it was a Polaroid…well, let’s say a Samsung, moment. They say the first one’s the hardest but we troopers didn’t think so. It was off to the remaining caches, so we hurried back into the Elantra and took off.
Since Mathieu had already driven the new Elantra, we decided he should be the permanent navigator and me, the driver. As we navigated from finding one cache to the next, the Elantra began to grow on me, quite a bit actually. Not only could this car be a great option for a single person or a couple, but it could suit a small family as well. It doesn’t have as much space as a Nissan Sentra or the Chevy Cruze, but does surpass the Ford Focus.
After finding all the caches, we made our way to view and drive the new Elantra Sport. The bright red car looked great at the Powerade Centre and it was great to whip it around the turns on the temporary track. Although the Elantra Sport will be featured in a separate review, I can say it definitely has a sportier look and more power. Both Mathieu and I turned in some pretty good lap times as well.
As the 2016 Hyundai Fun Day came to a close, it was time for dinner and announcement of the winning team. To our surprise, we won the challenge of finding all the caches and having a great Autocross score. Hyundai Canada presented us with a great home-made trophy, which we raised proudly.
Hyundai Canada did a great job by combining a great activity with a drive event. We look forward to the next Fun Day.