We get some seat time in Hyundai's latest model and conclude that the words "Elantra" and "Performance" are no longer a contradiction in terms.
Ride and handling
Bang for the buck
Fit and finish
Advanced safety tech an expensive option
Sunroof part of the options package
Steering could use more feedback
2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport
For 2017, Hyundai not only gave its best-selling sedan a complete makeover, the Korean manufacture will enter the hot compact sedan market to take on the likes of the Jetta GLI and Sentra Nismo while angling for owners of the previous-generation Honda Civic Si.
Although it is more go than show, there are a few notable changes that separate this Hyundai from more mundane Elantras.
Up front, there's a more aggressive fascia with a unique grille, horizontal LED running lights and standard HID high/low headlights. The sides feature more aggressive lower sill extensions and standard 18-inch alloys shod in 225/40 R18 Hankook Ventus S1 Noble ultra high performance all season tires.
In back, the LED taillights have their own signature shape, while a unique rear diffuser features dual chrome exhaust outlets.
Sport model interior highlights include unique trim panels, a leather-wrapped shift knob and flat-bottom sport steering wheel, leather seating with red stitching and more aggressively-bolstered heated front sport seats, a sport instrument cluster, alloy pedals, a black headliner and a proximity key with push-button start.
A 7-inch touchscreen is standard, as is Bluetooth phone capability, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The only option offered is a Premium Package that adds an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, 8-speaker Infinity audio system, tilt and slide moonroof, dual automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and Hyundai's Blue Link connectivity system.
Under the hood
There's good news under the hood: it's a 1.6-liter direct injection turbo shared with the Veloster Turbo that generates 201 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and a maximum 195 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. That engine is mated to either a standard 6-speed manual transmission or optional 7-speed dual clutch manumatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Even better news can be found in back where the Sport model eighty-sixes the rear torsion beam suspension found in the rest of the lineup for a more sophisticated multi-link setup. Aiding and abetting this is a larger front stabilizer bar, a rear stabilizer bar, higher spring and damper rates all around, quicker steering, larger front brake rotors and model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels.
EPA figures have yet to be released, but the same engine in the Veloster Turbo produces 25/33/28 city/highway/combined mpg with a 6-speed manual and 27/33/29 city/highway/combined when mated to a 6-speed automatic. Although 250 pounds heavier, the Elantra Sport should produce results no more than a couple of miles per gallon below those figures.
On the road
As with other models in the lineup, the latest Elantra now sports a more rigid chassis that is manufactured with 53 percent advanced high-strength steel, compared to 21 percent for the outgoing model. Not only that, the way the body is put together also differs. The outgoing model featured about 10 feet of glue bead compared to 394 feet for the new one.
Those changes, plus the upgrades to the Sport model, were especially apparent on the winding back roads we drove near South Bend, Indiana. The new suspension offers a firm yet forgiving ride over rough pavement that's well controlled. Hit the accelerator and there's no apparent turbo lag. The steering is vastly improved and while the system could use more feedback, it in no way feels artificially weighted (something we have noted in previous Elantras).
In addition to those features previously mentioned, standard equipment includes power windows (with driver's auto-down), locks and outside mirrors air conditioning, automatic headlights, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, dual USB ports and heated outside mirrors.
Standard safety features include stability and traction control, 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS, brake assist, EBD, and seven airbags (including driver's knee).
2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport prices
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport sedan, including an $835 destination charge, is priced at $22,485 for the 6-speed manual and $23,585 when equipped with the 7-speed dual clutch automatic.
The Premium Package, available with either transmission, is priced at $2,400.
The Bottom Line
In our short time behind the wheel, we found that there's a lot to like about the 2017 Elantra Sport. Not only is it nicely-styled with a high-quality interior, it's something you could easily use to commute to and from work and autocross on the weekend.
Don't get us wrong, however. It isn't a GTI or Focus ST, but Hyundai doesn't see those models as its competition. To paraphrase John "Bluto" Blutarsky from Animal House: Kia Forte, dead. Toyota Corolla, dead. Most Nissan Sentras and any with a CVT, dead. Any Honda Civic with a CVT, dead. Dodge Dart, dead (even if it was still alive).