An exciting, well-executed pocket-rocket from Hyundai.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Hyundai Elantra
Base price (Sport trim): $24,999
Hyundai’s now-familiar Elantra sedan (an excellent vehicle in its own right) has received a little shot in the arm. The injection is a tonic called Sport, and it cures what ails you, if you felt the Elantra wasn’t quite sporty enough for you.
The styling of the Sport is very close to the Elantra sedan’s but there are some enhancements that are worth noting. In addition to the smooth, flowing lines, the Sport gets an aggressive-looking front end (with a subtle Turbo badge), including HID headlights, side sills and a revised rear fascia/bumper – with a staggered dual-tip exhaust that looks like it means business. The LED tail lights are pretty slick and the Sport-specific 18-inch rims are a nice finishing touch. They are shod with saucy 225/40-sized rubber.
With all that said, it’s not the most eye-catching design – it’s a clean, slick sedan and it looks just fine.
As with the exterior, the Elantra Sport’s interior will feel familiar but with a few additions. Hyundai gives the Sport a flat-bottom heated steering wheel with red stitching (which you will also find on the excellent leather seats – they are comfortable and very well bolstered), some faux carbon fibre accents and they even black out some of the trim pieces.
Otherwise you won’t find anything particularly new in this cabin, which is perfectly fine. Materials are decent – the Elantra gets a mix of hard and soft plastics. It has nice, clear gauges, a manual climate control system (which feels a bit unusual these days) and a sunroof overhead.
The dash houses the 7-inch touchscreen, along with a few hard buttons to access the main functions. It handles the phone and media and is Apple Car Play/Android Auto compatible, so you can use your phone’s navigation capability.
The driver assistance technology is a bit limited in this base Sport trim – you get a backup camera as well as blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
There are three seats in the back. I was very impressed with the leg room, but the head room was tight, even for me at 5’10”. If you’re transporting little ones, you’ll find two sets of LATCH anchors, and that’s about it. There is nothing else back there in terms of comfort or convenience.
At the front of the console, the Elantra has a nice drop-in bin, complete with USB, auxiliary and two 12V plugs. I also found a carpeted bin with a charging USB plug under the armrest (which slides to adjust for your comfort). The Elantra’s trunk is a decent size at 407L and the rear seats do fold down in a 60/40-split to add some cargo space if required.
Under the Hood
The biggest change in the Sport model lurks under the hood. It’s a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder that cranks out 201HP and 195 lb.ft of torque at a super-low 1500 RPM. My tester came with a 6-speed manual transmission – a dual-clutch transmission is optional.
Hyundai rates the Elantra Sport at 10.7 L/100km in the city and 7.8 L/100 km on the highway. I averaged a remarkably efficient 8 L/100 km. This surprised me because I drove it quite aggressively at times, and made no efforts to save fuel otherwise.
Fire the Sport up and you get treated to an aggressive snarl which settles to a nice burble. Once you’re driving, it doesn’t sound quite as aggressive inside as it does from the outside, but when you’re cruising by a fence or building, you can definitely enjoy the raspy exhaust note as your revs build up.
I liked that the Sport is a dual character car. It is very easy to live with on a daily basis, and makes for a great, docile commuter car. But when you step on it, it flexes its muscles and doesn’t hesitate. The power comes on quickly and the delivery is very linear. The car pulls hard and feels faster than it actually is, which makes it tremendously entertaining. And please don’t get me wrong – the Sport is not slow. But it feels even quicker than it is. The manual transmission is a great one. It’s not the sportiest in the world, but that makes it easy to live with. Clutch take-up is smooth and makes for a nice, clean launch as well as comfortable commuting. You could easily teach someone to drive stick with this transmission, but it’s sporty enough to make it a very enjoyable drive.
Power isn’t everything though, and without a capable platform, it is often wasted. Not so in the Sport, which benefits from a very rigid chassis as well as a Sport-specific multi-link rear suspension. The car inspires confidence in the driver immediately, and always feels confident itself. It’s hard to overstate how dynamic and fun-to-drive this car is. And yet, it also rides nicely and always remains comfortable and composed. Hyundai has done an outstanding job in tuning this chassis and suspension.
Braking is very effective – the Sport models get bigger front discs. Visibility out of the Elantra is excellent.
Every once in a while, I take delivery of a car that surprises me. The Elantra Sport is one of those cars. Numbers and specs on paper don’t even come close to telling the story here.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was low. First of all, she doesn’t drive manual transmission cars, so she was only a passenger. And my wife doesn’t appreciate cars that boast excellent driving dynamics – she’s a pretty conservative driver all around. And she thought I was having too much fun in this car.
Anyway, back to my opinion. The Hyundai Sport is simply a fantastic car. It offers remarkable value in this base trim, and even loaded up, it will not break the bank. It has all the necessary components to make for a thrilling driving experience, yet it pulls it all off while being comfortable and fully-equipped for the daily drive.
I’m having a hard time thinking of another vehicle that’s this much fun to drive at this price. If you need a small sedan, but you want to feed your soul when you’re driving it, you owe it to yourself to drive an Elantra Sport. You won’t be disappointed.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Hyundai Canada.
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