Is there still life in the sedan and hatchback markets? Despite consumers’ mad rush to crossovers in the mainstream market, Hyundai thinks there are plenty of buyers looking for ‘old school’ alternatives.
The Korean brand points out that the mid-size sedan market still accounts for 2.1 million units. And the company quotes market studies showing that sedan buyers typically will repurchase a sedan, but that crossover buyers want to switch to sedans.
When it comes to hatchbacks, Hyundai argues that the compact hatch is a viable alternative to a crossover. Mike Evanoff, Hyundai product planning manager, contends that a hatchback is nimble and practical. “The number one reason for purchase of a hatchback is ‘fun to drive’,” notes Evanoff. “With a crossover the purchase is value driven.”
Given that premise, Hyundai has set out to reinvigorate its Elantra hatchback line and Sonata mid-size sedan with substantive improvements for 2018.
In the Elantra GT’s case, the 2018 model benefitted from some technical development assistance from Hyundai’s European division. For a hatchback with sporting aspirations that’s an important factor as nobody knows how to build a hot hatchback like the Europeans. The latest Elantra hatchback comes in two flavors, the GT and the GT Sport. The GT, priced from $19,350, comes with a 161-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. It’s a decent performer, but for more impressive acceleration and mid-range response, enthusiasts would opt for the GT Sport, which offers a 201-hp 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder motor. Transmission choice is between a six-speed manual and a seven-speed, dual clutch shifter. The GT Sport starts at $23,250.
But for its price, which is considerably lower than the VW, the Elantra GT Sport does provide a decent alternative, with a comfortable, roomy cabin and excellent cargo space (better than most rivals). Like most Hyundai models, the Elantra is well equipped with a comprehensive set of safety and infotainment systems.
As for the Sonata, its facelift is pretty comprehensive with a much more striking front grille treatment, redesigned rear end and interior upgrades.
Under the hood, a new, lighter eight-speed automatic replaces the previous six-speed unit, giving the car improved fuel economy. There are three four-cylinder engines to choose from; a 1.6-liter, 2.0-liter turbo and 2.4-liter.
The interior improvements extend to the instrument panel and center stack which is redesigned and features Hyundai’s easy to use infotainment system. Like the Elantra, the suite of safety features and driver aids is impressive. And with a starting price of $22,050, the new Sonata is not only much better looking than it used to be but maintains its value for money status.
Dynamically the 2018 Sonata makes some progress over its predecessor; it’s fairly composed when the roads turn twisty but it’s not exactly rewarding to drive. However the same can be said of just about all the contenders in the mid-size sedan class, with the notable exception of the sharp-handling Mazda6.
For those not wedded to the idea of a crossover vehicle, it’s true that the Elantra GT and Sonata do offer interesting alternatives. Good for Hyundai for keeping the faith.