Up until now, the Hyundai Elantra has served as an excellent first car for students, fresh grads, and young adults, offering plenty of features, rock bottom prices, and a drivetrain that rivals even the Honda Civic. It’s not hard to see then, why the Elantra is such a strong entrant for the everyday commuter.
With a laser focus to knock down the champion of beige – the Toyota Corolla – Hyundai showed the world what could be done when they fixated on one goal. Having the practicality and reliability fundamentals pat down, the brand has shifted their eyes on refinement and fun with their sixth-generation Elantra.
To prove they are serious (and probably to whet your appetite about their upcoming N division) the brand has injected an Elantra Sport to supplement the desires of those who want a sportier sedan – comparable to the Civic Si or Focus ST, if you will. As if to further accentuate (see what I did there) that they aren’t fooling around on the topic of “fun,” this Elantra Sport gets its own designation on their website separate from the rest of the Elantras. They mean business all right.
The Elantra Sport carries a starting price that is $9,000 above an entry level Elantra-L – few automakers, if any, could ask such a premium for just cosmetic changes (except BMW, apparently they can do that). So let’s take a look at what else is on the table.
For starters, the front bumper receives an aggressive update featuring horizontal mounted LED daytime running lights and a set of side skirts. Out back, the rear bumper gets a subtle but substantial revision including a pair of polished exhaust tips and a diffuser. The visual changes are rounded off by a set of Sport-trim exclusive 18-inch wheels.
The new Elantra takes a step back from the radical styling of the outgoing generation with a more conservative design but the proportions are excellent and these new exterior changes, although subtle, add just the right amount of Sport to let others know that this isn’t your average econo-box.
Inside, the occupants are reminded of this Hyundai’s sporting pedigree with a set of leather seats embossed with “sport” (no, seriously) and red highlight stitching. Heated seats and steering wheel come standard for all Sport models. In addition, Bluetooth, Navigation, and Apple Carplay/Android Auto are thrown into the mix. It’s a well-packaged model but let’s not forget the price, which at $24,999 is just a bit more than an equivalently optioned Elantra SE.
But the Sport model’s premium doesn’t stop at visual modifications. Under the hood, the standard 2.0L four cylinder gets swapped out for a 1.6L twin-scroll turbocharged four cylinder. The extra shot of adrenaline brings performance up from 147 hp to 201 hp. Peak torque comes on at the same point in the rev range but the subsequent shunt is far more noticeable than the 2.0L.
As this is still an Elantra, power gets routed to the front wheels via your choice of a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch. Those who opt for the dual-clutch will have to pony up an extra $2,000. Opting for the manual means a life of reasonably lengthed throws and less than palpable shift gates. The clutch is light but detectable, making grab points easy to locate. Overall, the experience isn’t bad. Hyundai has learned its lesson from the now defunct Genesis Coupe’s abysmal manual gearbox, and this example should not detract purists from vying for it.
In cramped city traffic, the Elantra’s turbo four is more than adequate to satisfy the needs of most drivers. Tip in on the throttle and the motor suffers from a large amount of lag. Peak torque comes later in the rev-range at 4,500 rpm and when it does come, it diminishes the drama of the drive. However, the mill generates enough go without the help of boost to exploit the ebbs and flow of the freeway.
Exit the city and the Elantra comes into its own on the twisty switchbacks. High speed cornering feels stable while maintaining a compliant ride. Come into a turn with a bit more enthusiasm and the rear end maintains its composure. Hyundai’s engineers have outfitted the rear axles with a multi-link suspension instead of the semi-independent torsion beam found in other Elantras. Body roll is minimal and dialed back by the sport tuned suspension.
The Elantra Sport is a solid entrant to the sport compact market but it doesn’t quite handle like some of its rivaling sport-tuned economy cars. One of its closest competitors, the Ford Focus ST, offers a lot more grunt from its four-pot but at a $9,000 premium. The Honda Civic Hatchback with its smooth turbo and predictable manual combination also gives the Elantra a run for its money, but the Civic is rather underpowered and doesn’t have that kick-in-the-back acceleration.
The Elantra Sport may not be perfect but it does offer a good blend of practicality, performance, and just enough quirks to make it worth a look for anyone considering a vehicle with a heavier focus on drivability.