KUALA LUMPUR - The latest Hyundai Elantra has won many accolades since it was launched in mature markets and it's not difficult to see why after a few days with it.
If you are expecting the new Elantra to be similar to the Kia Forte which shares a similar roof, so to speak, you are in for a surprise.
Firstly, the Elantra's development is more recent than the Forte and the Hyundai engineers had an existing base to work on to come up with an even stronger product.
Moreover, the Elantra runs on a longer wheelbase, although the length and width are similar. That usually translates to better interior space and a more comfortable ride over bumpy stretches. A big visual difference is of course the body styling: they are worlds apart, each crafted by the respective carmaker's design team, who may share the same R&D facility in Korea but obviously, not the same ideas and approach.
Looks are subjective but we prefer the Elantra for the more elegant flow of lines without losing that punchy or organic look, enhanced perhaps by its lower overall height.
Having sampled what the new Elantra had to offer last year in Korea, we found the Malaysian-badged model to be equally endearing, especially in the ride.
It was clearly the better of the so-called "siblings": while the Forte tend to be hard and gets even harder over successive bumps, the Elantra's suspension is tuned to be more absorbent of road impact, giving it better ride comfort for all on board.
This doesn't mean the Elantra is soft and wallowy: it stays firm, which is enjoyed on the highway as well as for driving through winding stretches, but it doesn't degenerate towards the hardness that its sibling rival brings about over a series of bumps.
It boils down to suspension tuning as both share a MacPherson strut front and double link torsion beam rear axle with coil springs and dampers.
The higher-specification Elantra 1.6 GLS, which we had a weekend with, runs on 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55 R16 Goodyear NCT 5 tyres.
Adding to the appreciable ride is the reasonable quiet drive, again another comfort feature we had experienced in Korea: wind noise is noticeably reduced even at above legal speeds and the lack of intrusive road noise complements the low-decibel ambience.
On the occasions that we hit the accelerator pedal hard to pick up the pace, the engine revs up smoothly to 5,000rpm and beyond: no loud roar from engine or exhaust.
With 130PS available at 6,300rpm and more than 140Nm of torque coming in from about 3,300rpm, the 1.6-litre engine is adequate for general motoring.
As the six-speed automatic transmission often upshifts to a higher gear quickly for a more economical drive, you sometimes need to kick down to downshift a couple of gears for a quick "pick-up-and-go charge".
The Elantra 1.6 GLS justifies its higher ranking with such goodies as leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob; steering tilt and telescopic adjustment; aluminium pedals; and Vehicle Stability Mechanism (VSM).
Features common to all three 1.6-litre models are the leather seats (black for the 1.6 GLS); steering wheel audio control; driver auto power window (up and down); although the push button stop-start item is standard only to the automatic transmission cars.
The small turning circle of 10.8 metres may give you the edge in making easy U-turns in tight areas over many front-wheel drive cars.
The Elantra seems to have a lower than usual ride height, which may give it a sporty kind of look, but you have to be wary of kerbs when you angle park at designated lots due to the low under bumper spoiler in front.
In accommodation, everyone on board is well catered to with a good spread of room head, elbow and leg.