Compact four-door sedan has plenty to offer NZ drivers
The key word for Hyundai New Zealand for 2014 is big: more big sales of its big SUV; the introduction of a big, luxury car; and a small sedan making a big impact in its segment.
The company finished 2013 in third spot in the passenger segment, just knocking out Ford from the position. It also had the top passenger diesel vehicle for 2013 - the Santa Fe SUV - which also was the top-selling large SUV.
The company has already seen a confident start to the year with 665 passenger vehicles registered last month - an 8 per cent increase over January last year.
This year, Hyundai NZ expects to see continuing demand for the Santa Fe, though fans of the top-spec $79,990 Limited won't face the three-month wait as experienced last year due to high international demand.
Hyundai NZ general manager Andy Sinclair hopes that his "erratic" supply will be long forgotten as he prepares for the arrival this year of his first luxury sedan, the Genesis.
Production in South Korea of the right-hand-drive version starts in July with the vehicle set to arrive in New Zealand around August or September.
We'll be getting the 3.8-litre, V6 model, with the much-hyped all-wheel-drive 5-litre, V8 version only in left-hand drive "at the moment", said Sinclair.
The large sedan will be priced around $100,000 and, like Lexus in New Zealand, will be aimed squarely at European brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Just after the arrival of the Genesis, Hyundai NZ will be welcoming back the Sonata name plate after branding the sedan the i45 for the past four years.
The 2014 Hyundai Elantra is deceptive with its space and performance.
"The vehicle has always been known as the Sonata in the US, and in Europe and Asia-Pacific it was the i45," said Sinclair.
"So it's a case of consolidation of the name plate."
The first model of the Sonata will be the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder sedan.
But the company will be continuing for now with the combination of name or number-letter combinations for its vehicles. The recently launched ix35 mid-sized SUV - which was previously badged the Tucson here - may have the letter-number combo name but when syncing your phone via Bluetooth with the SUV, the name that comes up is "Tucson". Oops.
But one vehicle that doesn't have an identity crisis is the Elantra. While it sits in the small sedan segment alongside the top-selling Holden Cruze, second-placed Mitsubishi Lancer and Toyota's Corolla, this vehicle is deceptive with not only its space but engine and suspension performance.
As large sedan sales decline, more car companies are looking to promote small to medium four-doors with the likes of Audi New Zealand releasing its luxury small A3 sedan last week.
2014 Hyundai Elantra
So to accommodate the trend, Hyundai has launched the Elantra Series II here, available only with a 1.8-litre petrol engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, upgraded from the previous model's five-speed auto, plus Flex Steer. This gives three settings for steering - comfort, sport and normal - and the impact is immediate when in use, with the sport mode tight for tackling those tight corners while comfort is ideal for motorway driving.
The entry-level Elantra is priced from $35,990 with 16in alloys, ESC, ABS and six airbags while the Elite model is priced at $39,990 and gains 17in alloys, leather seats, electric driver's seat, push start and smart key plus reversing camera and touchscreen audio.
The Limited model, seen here soon, has a $4000 increase over the Elite and for that you get satnav and a power sunroof.
The Elantra had its suspension especially adjusted for Australia and New Zealand roads to "improve feel, improve the fun", said Hyundai NZ product manager Conrad Healy.
Testing was undertaken in Australia with the vehicle calibrated for our differing road surfaces and the needs for drivers Downunder.
"It's a fun car to drive and with the increased rural buyers in Australia it's not just a car for about town," said Healy.
At the recent New Zealand launch, what immediately impressed me were its interior space - there is nothing small with this sedan - and the power of the engine.
But that testing in Australia showed when driving through the back roads of Clevedon, handling the winding, often bumpy, tarmac at speed.