The Road Ahead : June July 2014
ROADAHEAD.COM.AU 48 THE ROAD AHEAD JUN/JUL 2014 MOTORING | CAR COMPARISON IMAGES, FROM LEFT: KIA CERATO SI, HYUNDAI ELANTRA ELITE. Both cars have smooth, well-calibrated transmissions. Working in unison with a torque converter, the Toyota's CVT is one of the most impressive Continuously Variable Transmissions we have driven, to the point where it could nearly be confused with a conventional auto. And Mazda's six-speed auto is one of the best going. So that's new Mazda3 and Corolla, what about our other starters -- Elantra Elite and Cerato Si? Both are similarly well-equipped as the Japanese pair, have a five-star safety rating, share a common platform of McPherson strut (front) and coupled torsion beam (rear) and drive through the front wheels. Elantra Series II brought with it a refresh: some minor styling changes, a revised interior, more standard equipment and re-engineered suspension and steering. Unlike its competition in this comparison, Elantra is available in sedan only, as Hyundai markets its small hatch as the well- regarded i30. Crunch the numbers across the 20 broad criteria that we use in our road testing and 'third' comes up consistently in evaluating the Elantra Elite. It's third best on price positioning, highest power and engine torque outputs (110kW/178Nm) fuel consumption -- both ADR combined (7.1 litres/100km) and average on test (8.4) -- GVG star rating (3.5) and for practicality. And, in our acceleration tests, it finished behind the bigger (2.0-litre) Mazda3 and Cerato, but ahead of the similar-sized (1.8-litre) Corolla. However, for value for money, Hyundai is always at the pointy end and Elantra is no exception. It boasts equal best warranty of five year/unlimited km (with Kia), equal best Glass's Guide residual figure of 42 percent (with Mazda) and attracts the cheapest insurance. Like Mazda3 Touring, its 'extras' include DCCA, NAV (with 7" touch screen) and RSW. The interior is comfortable and roomy and, at 485 litres, the Hyundai can claim the biggest boot. The heaviest on test at 1309kg, it rides and handles competently, rather than challenges for best-in-class. Elantra took the longest distance to stop from 80km/h (24.2m), but produced the quietest noise reading at a constant 80km/h. With 129kW/209Nm under its bonnet, Cerato Si is the most powerful and torquey of our gathering. Add that to the lowest weight (1244kg) to carry and little wonder it feels lively and responsive. The Kia proved a match for Mazda3 from 0-80km/h and was just one-tenth of a second slower from 0-60 and over the standing 400m. It stopped as well as it went, topping our 80km/h-stop brake test in an impressive 22.9m. Handling and ride-wise, it's a more dynamic drive than its kindred cousin, Elantra, though not as good as the Mazda. Good quality tyres no doubt help its cause. Like the Hyundai, Cerato comes with FlexSteer which offers the choice of three modes (Comfort, Normal and Sport). FlexSteer weights the steering accordingly -- lighter for manoeuvring around town; heavier for stable turn-in at speed through corners -- and works well though it's not a game changer. The six-speed automatic that can be optioned with Elantra and Cerato is a smooth shifter. The mapping is intelligently set to keep the engine spinning in the sweet spot of its torque curve when you need to power on, and it also kicks down readily without drama. Crunch the numbers across the 20 broad criteria that we use in our road testing and the word 'third' comes up consistently in evaluating the Elantra Elite...