The sportiest member of the Elantra trinity

The Hyundai Elantra is completely new for 2017, including its chassis, suspension, powertrain, and interior. But Hyundai didn’t stop there. The Korean automaker added two distinctive trim levels atop the standard Elantra compact sedan. In fact, it might be more appropriate to consider them sub-models thanks to their deep changes and laser focus. They are the fuel-sipping Elantra Eco and this, the road-hugging Elantra Sport. I recently spent two weeks with the Elantra Sport, driving it around familiar roads along my daily commute and throwing it around corners on quiet country roads.

This isn’t my first foray into Hyundai’s newest Elantra. Actually, it’s my third, having driven both the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited and 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco soon after the car’s launch. These three cars couldn’t be more different despite being cut from the same cloth. As their titles suggest, each has its intended function, with the range-topping Limited trim being the swankiest and most plush, the Eco being the most frugal with fuel, and the Sport being, well, the most willing dance partner of the trio. The 2017 Elantra Sport is up against some stiff competition, found mostly in the Honda Civic Si and Nissan Sentra NISMO. But perhaps the Elantra Sport’s biggest rival will be its own recognition in this niche segment. The Civic Si rules with the weapon of a household name – something Hyundai will have to establish for its compact sports sedan. Thankfully, the Elantra Sport has all the right makings for success. Keep reading to see what I mean.

Continue reading for the full review.

  • 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    six-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    201 @ 6000
  • MPG(Cty):
    22
  • MPG(Hwy):
    30
  • Torque @ RPM:
    195 @ 1500
  • Displacement:
    1.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.3 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    125 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.3/10

Video Review

Exterior

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Its appearance helps denote its athletic intentions without calling too much attention to itself or looking overly youthful.

The all-new Elantra has a handsome face regardless of trim level, but Hyundai paid extra attention to the Elantra Sport. Its appearance helps denote its athletic intentions without calling too much attention to itself or looking overly youthful, like say, the Honda Civic Si.

The Elantra Sport’s main changes happen up front, in back, and with the wheels. The unique grille has chrome slats that are bolder and larger stylized air intakes on either side give a more aggressive grimace to the Elantra’s face. The Sport also has its own headlight design with HID bulbs and small red accents below the clear lens. Around back, the taillights are also only found on the Sport. They have a more detailed and aggressive light signature, as well. The rear bumper is new, too, and features pronounced scallops with faux air ducts and a diffuser panel. Then there’s the dual, chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. They’re connected to a louder exhaust system Hyundai says barely passes under its maximum volume limit.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Rounding out the exterior improvements are the 18-inch alloy wheels. The combination of both machined and painted spokes gives the appearance of depth and a higher level of class. They’re certainly some of the prettiest wheels Hyundai has every used. But not only do they look good, the larger size accommodates larger brakes and wider tires. The Elantra Sport uses 225/40-series Hankook Ventus S1 Noble² ultra high-performance all-season tires.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (Inches) 106.3
Length (Inches) 179.9
Width (Inches) 70.9
Height (Inches) 56.5
Minimum ground clearance (Inches) 5.5

Interior

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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Its inspiration clearly comes from the larger, Hyundai Sonata, which is not a bad thing.

Like the outside, the 2017 Elantra’s interior is completely new. Its inspiration clearly comes from the larger, Hyundai Sonata, which is not a bad thing. Ergonomics are fantastic and controls are all user-friendly and logically placed. But for the Elantra Sport, Hyundai upped the ante with a few “sportier” touches.

Foremost of these are the heavily bolstered front seats and flat bottom steering wheel. Both have red contrast stitching holding their leather together. The steering wheel goes a step further with red accent at the six O’clock position and perforated leather along the sides. The red stitching carries onto the rear seats, too, along with the center console armrest and shifter boot. Alloy pedal covers add brightness to the driver’s floorboard and faux carbon fiber trim spans across the dashboard.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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Though relatively minimal, the changes are definitely welcomed. The front buckets are excellently designed, too, with just the right amount of side bolster without being confining or making entries and exits difficult. Rear seat comfort is surprisingly good, as well. The seat cushions are sloped in a mild reclined position and the folding center armrest falls at the perfect height. Leg, head, and hip room are all generous for a compact sedan. Sadly, Hyundai doesn’t see fit to include HVAC vents or power outlets for rear passengers.

Thankfully, disappointments are few inside the Elantra Sport. I do wish things weren’t so dark. Besides the small amount of chrome, the dashboard, seats, door panels, and carpet create a never-ending sea of black. Perhaps some brighter trim on the door panels would help. Beyond aesthetics, I like Hyundai’s eight-inch infotainment system. It offers navigation, SiriusXM, Bluetooth, and smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car system is present, too, allowing for voice searches using Google, remote vehicle access through a smartphone, and Hyundai’s telematics services in case of an emergency. Blue Link even has Apple Watch and Android Wear apps that allows for remote access to lock and unlock the doors, start the engine, flash the lights and honk the horn for finding the car, and makes calls to Blue Link for roadside assistance through the watch. That’s pretty cool.

Interior Dimensions

Head room (in., front/rear) 38.8 / 37.3
Leg room (in., front/rear) 42.2 / 35.7
Shoulder room (in., front/rear) 56.2 / 55.3
Hip room (in., front/rear) 53.4 / 51.9
Passenger volume (cu. ft.) 95.8
Cargo volume (cu. ft.) 14.4
Total interior volume (cu. ft.) 110.2

Drivetrain

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
- image 723086
The Sport’s 1.6-liter is peppy, adding credence to the Elantra Sport name and putting it within four horsepower of the Honda Civic Si.

The 2017 Elantra offers three engine choices: the standard 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a 128-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbo-four in the Elantra Eco, and the 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo-four in the Elantra Sport. Of course, the Sport’s 1.6-liter is the peppiest of the bunch, adding credence to its name and putting it within four horsepower of the Honda Civic Si.

The Elantra Sport’s 1.6-liter “Gamma” engine uses an all-aluminum construction for weight savings and direct fuel injection for a better burn while keeping combustion chamber temperatures a bit lower. Aiding in temperature control is an intercooler for the twin-scroll turbocharger. Dual overhead cams operate four valves per cylinder without Hyundai’s D-CVVT variable timing system. The compression ratio is set at 9.5:1. The result is 201 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 195 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 through 4,500 rpm.

A six-speed manual transmission comes standard with the Elantra Sport, while a seven-speed dual clutch automatic is a $1,100 option. Regardless of gearbox, power is sent to the front wheels via an open differential. Adding a limited-slip diff would certainly help even the match against the Honda Civic Si. Still, the Elantra Sport manages to hit 60 mph in roughly 6.3 seconds and onto a top speed of 125 mph.

Fuel economy isn’t the greatest, though. The EPA estimates the Elantra Sport with the manual transmission gets 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. Thankfully, things improve with the dual clutch, with EPA estimating 26/33/29 mpg in each category.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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But Hyundai didn’t just upgrade the powertrain. Rather, it completely reworked the rear suspension system, fitting stiffer dampers, springs, and sway bars. Larger, 12-inch brake rotors replace the conventional 11-inch discs, while disc brakes replace the standard drums out back. (The Elantra Limited also uses these rear disc brakes.) As for the rear suspension, the standard Elantra comes with a coupled torsion beam axle with coil springs. This setup works well for daily driving, but isn’t up for more lively activities. As such, the torsion beam was completely ditched in favor of an independent, multi-link setup with a 15-milimeter sway bar where there was none. The coil springs are 22-percent stiffer than before and the dampers are 30-percent stiffer. The front dampers are also 30-percent stiffer, while the coils need only 14 percent more spring rate for better control. The front sway bar is also larger by two millimeters, now measuring 24 millimeters in diameter.

What’s this technical jargon mean? Read on to find out.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine Turbocharged Inline 4-cylinder
Displacement 1.6 liters
Horsepower 201 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 195 LB-FT @ 1,500-4,500 RPM
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Valve train DOHC 16-valve
Fuel system Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI)
City/Highway/Combined (manual transmission) 22 / 30 / 25
City/Highway/Combined (Dual Clutch Transmission) 26 / 33 / 29

Behind the Wheel

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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Hyundai’s suspension improvements translate into a better driving experience around twisty roads with less body lean and brake dive. The car feels more stable at higher speeds and is less prone to understeer. Both front and rear ends feel planted to the road yet playful enough to have fun. Even with 201 horsepower and a curb weight around 3,000 pounds, the Elantra Sport is a momentum car – meaning its more advantageous to maintain speed through a corner than to rely on horsepower to pull you out.

But despite the suspension being significantly stiffer, the Elantra Sport does not ride rough. In fact, it does just fine scooting around town on mixed road surfaces without penalizing its passengers. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive grandma back home after a Sunday dinner. There is more tire noise compared to the Elantra Eco and Limited I previously tested, but it’s only noticeable on rougher pavement. And that’s to be expected with wider, sport-oriented tires.

Hyundai says it reworked the electronic steering system, too, but there’s almost no feedback through the wheel. Thankfully there is no major play, even on-center. Turning lock-to-lock only takes 2.6 rotations, whereas non-Spot models take 2.7 turns. Perhaps that’s the “retuning” Hyundai did. Still, the steering doesn’t detract from the Elantra Sport’s overall character and lively nature.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Interior High Resolution
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Where the Elantra Sport excels is adapting to how it’s driven. Leave the drive mode in Normal and the transmission in Drive for a calm, no-nonsense experience anyone would expect from a compact sedan. It simply does daily life really well. But slip the dual clutch into manual mode and enter Sport Mode via the button by the shifter, and the Elantra Sport comes alive. Its wide torque curve extended from just above idle at 1,500 rpm to towards 4,500 rpm. Horsepower peaks at 6,000 rpm, though power quickly falls off towards the 7,000-rpm redline. The dual clutch responds quickly to the paddle shifters in both up- and downshifts. The 1.6-liter turbo spins willingly and has a raspy, Audi-like exhaust note I think could be a bit more pronounced. (Let it sing, Hyundai!)

Of course, no vehicle is perfect, but shortcomings with the Elantra Sport are few. The dual clutch can give rough shifts when driven slowly, especially before it’s warmed up. Then again, that’s the nature of a dual clutch transmission and that characteristic isn’t exclusive to Hyundai. Outside of driving and more towards the ownership aspect, I wish HVAC vents were included for rear passengers. USB and 12-volt power ports would be nice, too. Lastly at more subjectively, I think the cabin needs more color. The red stitching helps, but there’s just something missing.

Pricing

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Hyundai continues its legacy of being a value-leading automaker. The 2017 Elantra Sport carries a starting price of just $21,650. That’s impressive! That price includes the six-speed manual transmission a seven-inch infotainment system, and all the Sport-specific body and interior upgrades. Adding the seven-speed dual clutch adds $1,100 to the bottom line.

The $2,400 Premium Package bundles the majority of upgraded creature comforts. These include the eight-inch infotainment system with navigation, an Infinity premium audio system, Hyundai’s Blue Link system, the power sunroof, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, automatic dual-zone climate controls, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and a digital compass. My tester came equipped with both the dual clutch automatic transmission and Premium Package, pushing its price to $26,110, including a $835 destination fee.

The Competition

2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan

2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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Like the Hyundai Elantra, the Honda Civic is all new for 2017. It’s the Civic’s 10th generation and Honda has vastly improved the car’s chassis while improving its interior and updating the exterior styling. The Si model has a colorful history in America from 1985 through the mid-2000s, but sadly Honda hasn’t offered the model since. Thankfully those days are done. The new Civic Si offers a sporty ride and 205 (turbocharged!) horsepower combined with everyday livability. Best of all, it’s offered in a two-door coupe and four-door sedan.

The 2017 Civic Si is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 205 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 192 pound-feet of torque at 2,100 rpm. Direct injection, Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing, and an intercooler for the turbo are all present on this all-aluminum engine. The relatively high 10.3:1 compression ratio doe require premium gasoline, though. The Si comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission and sends power to the front wheels via a helical-gear limited-slip differential. The sprint to 60 mph takes only 6.2 seconds and its top speed hovers around 130 mph. The EPA rates fuel economy at an impressive 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined regardless of door count.

Pricing starts at $23,900 for both the coupe and sedan. There’s no big option package that bundled a slew of features together, so customers can cherry pick what they want. Major options include a different set of wheels, a sunroof, and a wireless phone charger. Other things like splash guards, floor mats, and cargo nets are available, too.

Read more about the 2018 Honda Civic Si Sedan here.

2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO

2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO High Resolution Exterior
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Rounding out this section is Nissan’s newest sporty thing – the Sentra NISMO. What?!? Yeah, Nissan has slapped a NISMO badge onto the dull Sentra sedan. But thankfully, things don’t stay dull. Nissan reworked the suspension for a sportier ride, gave it better steering, and even reinforced parts of the chassis for more rigidity. Lastly, 215/45ZR-series Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ tires are wrapped around 18-inch wheels. The NISMO also looks better, too, with a more aggressive exterior and tons of red accents through the interior. Heavily bolstered suede front buckets and carbon fiber-like trim further the sporty theme.

Unfortunately, Nissan didn’t follow Hyundai or Honda’s lead by including a more powerful engine. Rather, the Sentra NISMO makes do with the Sentra SR Turbo’s 1.6-liter turbo-four with 188 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. The all-aluminum mill has all the prerequisite hardware like 16 valves operated by dual overhead cams, direct fuel injection, and an intercooler. Still, the engine simply falls short against the competition. A six-speed manual transmission is standard (and the choice for enthusiasts), while a CVT is a no-cost option. (Told you). The sprint to 60 mph happens in 7.0 seconds – nearly a full second behind the others – and top speed is drag-limited at 131 mph.

Pricing starts at $24,990. The Premium Package adds $1,220 to the bill and brings NissanConnect with navigation, SiriusXM, Travel Link, and a Bose sound system. Beyond that are standard-fare accessories like floor mats and door guards. With just the Premium Package selected and the $885 destination fee added, the price comes to $27,095.

Find out more about the 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO here.

Conclusion

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is one smokin’ sweet deal. Not only does it carry the lowest price between the Honda and Nissan, it boasts competitive power with the Civic Si without needing premium fuel, performance-oriented handling, and a sporty appearance without being overcooked. Combine that with the everyday usability carried over from the standard Elantra, and the Sport makes a darn good case for itself. Optioned with the six-speed manual, the Elantra Sport is an affordable compact sedan most budget-conscious enthusiast would be thrilled to own.

Now if Hyundai would build an Elantra N with the powertrain and upgrades from its new i30 N hot-hatch. Imagine the Elantra with a 2.0-liter turbo making 272 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. And let’s not leave out the adaptive dampers, variable exhaust valve, lap timer, rev matching, and launch control! C’mon Hyundai, build it!

  • Leave it
    • * Interior is gloomy
    • * Dual cluch unrefined at low speeds
    • * Fuel economy
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