When the all-new Elantra came about in early 2011, it looked to me like the engineers at Hyundai had just rehashed one of their previous designs. By pulling and stretching the Accent's basic shape to the necessary dimensions, they've managed to come up with a new compact car. But in my mind, the Accent was already the mini-Sonata, and therefore had no room left for another car to sit between the two. Add to this Hyundai's habit of recycling design concepts, which made me take the Elantra not so seriously.
Fast forward a couple of months ahead and I found myself in South Korea, sitting behind the wheel of an automatic 1.6 Elantra for a media test drive experience. This was my chance to get acquainted with Hyundai's latest compact, away from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila's streets. For first impressions, I was quite impressed at how its 6-speed auto behaved very much like a manual transmission would, and how good it was for an affordably-sedan. That experience left me thinking, "If the auto's this good, I wonder what the manual's like?"
The 6 speed manual is indeed a great feature, but if you like to shift frequently to maximize fuel economy like I do, playing with six gears in city traffic is a bit hard. Instead of adding an extra gear to a 5-speed manual, what Hyundai did was to stretch the 5 ratio's into 6 gears.
It was good fun though and the extra short gear ratio made up for its 1.6 liter engine.
The feather-light gearshift and clutch make it easier to row than most, but I wish they'd made 6th gear a double-overdrive... it's a bit too low for best economy, but it's still pretty decent on the highway.
ABS and driver's airbag, at least. Don't know about passenger airbag, but that's not so important for me... as that limits who I can carry in the front seat (You can't have short people in the front seat with a passenger airbag unless it's a two-stage or has an on/off switch).