Tough act to follow: Hyundai Elantra (UPDATED)

5th gen Hyundai Elantra

For many successful manufacturers it’s easy to point to their breakout car – Ford has its Model T, VW has the Beatle and Golf, Toyota the Corolla. What about Hyundai, currently the world’s 4th largest automaker (along with Kia)? There are a few candidates: there is the 2nd gen Santa Fe, as well as the 6th gen Sonata, but for me it’s the current (5th gen) Elantra that really stands out. While the previous generations of the other two cars were still pretty good, the current Elantra was a giant leap over its dowdy predecessor. With a giant injection of style the car went from an also-ran to close to the top of the US compact class, jumping over cars such as the Corolla and Civic in tests if not quite in sales. Still, as the chart below shows the sales of the 5th gen grew quickly and peaked at double that for the 4th gen model.

Elantra sales

So, what can we expect from the 6th gen Elantra? The signs are not too promising – the 7th gen Sonata is a dull follow-up to the swoopy 6th gen, and the sales have been slow as a result. And the spy shots of the Elantra are not exactly promising either, with the stylish lines of the 5th gen will replaced with a more blocky design in an attempt to appear more “premium”, while the front grille seems to cross that thin line from “characterful” to “too big”. This is the car Hyundai should not screw up, but while the technology will doubtless take a step in the right direction, I’m afraid the unique style that made the current car a firm favorite of mine will be gone.

6th gen Hyundai Elantra spy shot

UPDATE: just after I wrote this the supposed image of the new Elantra leaked online, confirming my fears:

  1. Hi Krzysztof,
    for me, the 5th gen Elantra is still a bit over-designed, as Korean brands tend to do (with the Santa Fe I as a low, this vehicle doesn’t have a single straight surface). The Sonata 6th gen is the best looking car to have come out of South-Korea, before they screwed it up with the 7th gen.
    As far as calling the Elantra a breakthrough vehicle, it probably is so for the US and China (Elantra Langdon), as the underwhelming 3rd gen Elantra is the last to have been available in Europe, where I would nominate the Tucson as the breakthrough vehicle.
    The Tucson I put Hyundai on the map in Europe as a maker of more than just economical small cars and a few unsuccessful attempts at anything else. It was probably the most stylish Hyundai to date and offered great value for money.
    For Russia there’s no other choice than to give that title to the Solaris (Accent), the first-ever foreign model to top the sales charts in a single month.
    But considering the US and China are the largest in the world, and the Elantra has been successful in other countries and continents as well, I’d have to agree with you it may as well have been the breakthrough for the brand.

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