A Fun Little Gem Hiding in Plain Sight
When you think of sporty compact cars, Hyundai might not be the first automaker that comes to mind. Honda, Volkswagen, Mazda, and Ford have sport compacts that are well-regarded among enthusiasts for their blend of practicality and fun. The 2017 Elantra Sport aims to put Hyundai in the sporty compact car conversation with a dose of turbocharged power and a totally overhauled suspension.
You can distinguish an Elantra Sport from a standard 2017 Elantra with its 18-inch alloy wheels shod in Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2 all-season high performance tires, lower side skirts, horizontal LED daytime running lights, dual exhaust tips, and a more aggressive front fascia. Under the hood of our tester is a 1.6-liter turbo-four with 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque paired to a six-speed manual, but Hyundai/Kia’s quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is also available. The EPA rates the manual-equipped 2017 Elantra Sport at 22/30 mpg city/highway, but in our Real MPG testing the car yielded an impressive 28.2/36.9 mpg, making it one of the more fuel efficient sporty compacts available.
At the track, the 2017 Elantra Sport sprinted to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds at 90.7 mph. This makes it slightly quicker than the Honda Civic Sport hatchback we recently tested but slower than the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Jetta GLI and the previous generation Honda Civic Si, all of which hit 60 mph in under 7.0 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15 seconds or less at well over 90 mph. Road test editor Chris Walton noted that the Elantra Sport’s grippy tires made it tricky to launch. He also said that adding too much throttle can easily overpower the front tires due to the car’s prodigious low-end torque.
Despite having larger front brakes, the Elantra Sport stopped from 60 mph in 120 feet, which is 5 feet longer than the Civic hatchback but just a smidge longer than the prerefresh, current generation Mazda3 2.5, which took 117 feet. Even though its braking performance was consistent throughout multiple attempts, Walton found that there’s a lot of vibration and pulsing from the tires that caused bobbing. He suspects that the antilock braking system’s calibration wasn’t tweaked for the Elantra Sport’s tires.
The biggest change made to the Elantra Sport is the independent rear suspension in place of the standard car’s torsion beam to improve its handling. The Elantra Sport finished the figure-eight course in 26.7 seconds with an average of 0.65 g and produced a lateral acceleration of 0.86 g, putting it on par with the Mazda3 2.5 and Civic Sport hatchback. Testing director Kim Reynolds was impressed with the Hyundai’s handling dynamics and found that you can drift it slightly by lifting your foot off the throttle. Reynolds concluded that the Elantra Sport’s balance is its best attribute and said that no one attribute stands out ahead of the others.
Because the test numbers don’t tell the Elantra Sport’s entire story, we took it to the winding roads around Los Angeles where we found it to be a willing dance partner. Throw the car into a corner and there’s plenty of grip and minimal body roll, allowing you to confidently string corners and maintain your momentum. Understeer is present but you have to push the car hard to get any. The Elantra Sport’s brakes proved up to task and didn’t show much fade despite spending nearly an entire weekend attacking winding roads. Even with the stiffer suspension setup, the Elantra Sport rides well and does an excellent job of keeping road imperfections out of the passenger cabin. The Elantra Sport’s steering is a major improvement, offering great feedback so you know what the front wheels are doing. However, the system can sometimes add too much weight when you’re driving normally, making it feel artificially heavy.
Hyundai’s 1.6-liter turbo-four offers plenty of low- and mid-range torque, and it has a deep, raspy exhaust note complete with burbles and pops in this application. Like most modern small turbocharged engines similar to the one found in the Honda Civic, this mill pulls strongly with minimal turbo lag and has plenty of usable power. That being said, there’s not much oomph in the upper part of the rev range. The six manual has well-spaced gates, a smooth and precise shifter with reasonably short throws, and a clutch that’s light and easy to predict, making it effortless to drive the Elantra Sport hard on your favorite winding road.
Much of the 2017 Elantra Sport’s interior is similar to the standard car with a few minor changes such as a flat bottom steering wheel, sport seats with more aggressive bolstering, carbon fiber-like trim and black leather upholstery with red contrast stitching. However, the lack of other colors makes the interior appear plain. There’s plenty of space for four passengers and a generous 14.4-cubic-foot trunk that’s expandable via the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats, making the Elantra Sport a good choice to pitch as a practical fun car. Build quality is solid with a mix of soft-touch materials and padding in areas where your arms would fall, and hard plastics but in the lower areas of the dash, center console, and door panels. Cabin insulation is excellent with minimal road and wind noise; however, we do wish the car’s raspy exhaust note could be a little louder to emphasize its sporty character.
Hyundai’s infotainment system remains one of the easiest to use and has one of the best integrations of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay available, with your smartphone completely taking over the head unit and multimedia duties. Available with a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen or a larger 8.0-inch unit with navigation when equipped with the Premium package, the system responds quickly and has shortcut buttons to other functions such as phone, audio, and interface settings. The optional Infinity premium audio system offers crisp, clear sound on all music genres and is one of the better units in the mainstream segment. Active safety features such as automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and forward collision warning aren’t available in the 2017 Elantra Sport and are exclusive to the Limited trim for the sedan and the upcoming 2018 Elantra GT Sport hatchback. Blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert are part of the Premium package, and a rearview camera is standard.
Our tester checked in at $25,010, making the 2017 Elantra Sport a great value, especially considering how fun it is. Although its performance numbers aren’t up to par with the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI, the Elantra Sport is still a solid entry. It gives you a lot of car for the money and best of all, it’s a well-balanced car with a nice blend of power, agility, and comfort so you can easily drive it during the week and take it to an autocross over the weekend. Sure, a limited-slip differential and stronger brakes would be nice, but even without them the Elantra Sport is able to put its power down effectively and scrub off speed quickly when needed. Until the first vehicle from Hyundai’s N sub brand arrives, the Elantra Sport is the brand’s most entertaining car, raspy exhaust notes and all.
|2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$25,010|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||1.6L/201-hp/195-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,034 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||179.9 x 70.9 x 56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.4 sec @ 90.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.7 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||22/30/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.78 lb/mile|