• 2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven

Manual transmission brings joy to the Elantra.

LISTEN 19:49

The Hyundai Elantra isn’t exactly a spring chicken, being on the market for two decades as of 2020. Over the years, it’s gone through five generational shifts, with the most recent taking place in 2015 with a major facelift happening in 2019. The Elantra of today is completely different than the car it once was and has moved on from its econobox roots into all-new territory where its design and driving dynamics can compete with great authority over the models it competes with, including the Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, and even the Volkswagen Jetta. These days, the range-topping model in the lineup is the Elantra Sport, and we’ve been wondering just how sporty it really is. Well, we’ve finally had a chance to spend some time with it, and this is our experience.

Hyundai Elantra Sport Exterior Design

  • Subdued design doesn’t match Sport name
  • LED lighting is a plus
  • Fair amounts of chrome
  • 18-inch wheels increase appeal
  • Hard to distinguish from other models in the lineup
2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865211

To the untrained eye, the Elantra sport isn’t different from any of the lesser models in the lineup. In fact, the front end of the sport is almost identical to that of the entry-level SE trim (some $5,000 cheaper, mind you) save for a revised grille.

Hyundai claims the Sport trim has a different front fascia and grille and, while the grille is sportier thanks to a different design, there is no real change to the front fascia.

There is a new lip at the bottom, but it’s so obscure that you don’t really notice it. The other difference here is that there is a hole on either side of the insert that surrounds the Hyundai emblem. The headlights, fog lights, and even the trim next to the fog lights are all the same. The only thing to note about any of these is that the Sport trim shares LED headlights with the limited trim while the lesser models have projector headlights. Overall, the design is the same, though, and you won’t notice the difference visually. This isn’t all bad, though, as the front end of the Elantra is attractive, especially compared to the first few generations.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865149

Looking at the Elantra from the side reminds us that we’re looking at more of an economy car than a sports car. It does have a gently sloping roofline, so it does have a fastback design of sorts, but the hood and front clip are very short and slope downward as well. This gives the car a slightly off-centered appearance. It isn’t really that bad, but nobody will mistake this for anything but a FWD Hyundai. If you look at Hyundai’s spec list for the Elantra sport, you’ll see that it has just one feature that it doesn’t share with any other trim level – the “sport side sill extensions.” That’s fancy talk for side skirts, but don’t be fooled, there’s nothing sporty about them. The only difference between these side skirts and those on the lesser model is that they are just a hair longer in the front and rear… by like 1 cm. They also seem to be a little wider in the rear, but the overall design is nearly indistinguishable from the lesser models. The Elantra Sport shares the mirror-mounted turn signal indicators with the Limited trim, which is the same story for the chrome trim that runs along the beltline. This, by the way, is only on the bottom of the windows, the chrome treatment doesn’t extend upward as it does on most cars.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865156

Around back, the Elantra Sport follows the same routine.

Hyundai would have you believe that the Sport is really different from the other models, listing the “sport rear fascia with rear diffuser element” as being unique to the trim.

However, we set our tester next to a limited, and it’s pretty clear that the rear fascias are identical. Even the rear diffuser is identical. The only real difference here is that the Sport has a cut out on the passenger side of the “diffuser” for an oddly shaped exhaust outlet that really could be mounted better. Honestly, it feels like it was added as an afterthought due to that big gap between it and the trim and the downward angle. The black trim insert was extra glossy, though, so it had that going for it. The LED taillights are shared with the Limited trim but are a welcome addition as they are quite a bit brighter than the standard taillights on the lesser models. Finally, the Sport as a little black lip on the decklid that does help it stand out to some extent. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s nice to have.

Overall, the Elantra Sport is pretty attractive for what it is, but given the “Sport” nomenclature, we really expected it to have sportier styling in person. To be honest, if looks are all that matters to you, the lesser trims will probably suffice all the same. We just don’t like how the vehicle is boasted as having unique features when there really isn’t anything all that different.

How Big is the Hyundai Elantra Sport?

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865149

The Hyundai Elantra is a compact car that measures 181.9-inches long, 70.9-inches wide, and 56.5-inches tall. It rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, which is pretty standard in this segment.

In comparison to models like the Civic SI and Jetta JLI, the Elantra Sport is the shorter of the bunch but is one-tenth of an inch wider than both.

It’s exactly one-inch taller than the Civic but 0.3-inches shorter than the Jetta. In terms of garage storage; you should find that the Elantra Sport will fit in a one-car garage without a problem. Depending on the depth and width of the garage it could be kind of a tight fit, but you shouldn’t find yourself smacking the doors into walls or accidentally closing the garage door on the rear deck lid.

Hyundai Elantra Exterior Dimensions Comparison
Hyundai Elantra Sport Honda Civic SI Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Length 181.9 182.8 185.2
Width 70.9 70.8 70.8
Height 56.5 55.5 56.8
Wheelbase 106.3 106.3 105.6
Front Track 60.8 60.5 60.7
Rear Track 61.4 61.2 60.4
Curb Weight 3,131 2906 lbs 3217 lbs.

Hyundai Elantra Sport Interior Design

  • Sporty interior
  • Red stitching improves appearance
  • Supportive seats up front
  • Rear seats not so comfortable
  • Cargo room compromised by design
  • Infotainment system could be better
  • Great driving position
2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Interior
- image 865158

The exterior design of the Elantra Sport might not be as sporty as we like, but the interior is a whole different story.

Our biggest gripe here is that the infotainment screen isn’t very crisp and is actually quite boring, but its ease of use should be commended.

Back to the point at hand, the Elantra Sport evokes the feeling of a sports car interior despite its economical roots. Our tester featured plenty of leather with red contrast stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and door trim panels. We were also welcomed by some fake carbon fiber trim on the face of the dash and around the passenger side HVAC vent. The steering wheel featured a flat bottom with a vertical red stripe at the bottom and perforated side sections. Believe it or not, this actually felt worthy of being found in much more expensive cars from Porsche or BMW – I kid you not. The manual gear shifter has a matching red stripe along with a black leather boot and red stitching.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Interior
- image 865191

We have to admit that Hyundai came up with the perfect blend of accenting here. The black headliner and black trim panels would be too much on their own, but the limited amount of red contrast sets things off just right. However, even with the occasional bits of leather time there is a lot of cheap-ish feeling plastic here as well, specifically along the bottom of the dash, around the shifter and e-brake handle, and the bezel around the infotainment system and instrument cluster. It’s not 1995-Hyundai bad, but if the automaker needs to improve anywhere it comes down to improving the cheap plastic trim.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Interior
- image 865201

There’s really nothing to write home about in the rear. The front seatbacks have little storage nets, and there is decent storage in the door panels. Outward visibility here sucks, though, thanks to that elevating beltline. The rear side windows seem impressively small, and younger kids may not even be able to see out of them at all. The rear seats are fairly comfortable but lack any real support, with the rear backrests being almost completely flat. The angle of the headrests can be a little annoying too if you’re just the right height, but it’s nothing to really complain about. Rear space, overall, is acceptable, but it’s also very boring back here. If you’re taking the kids on a long trip, you better bring the tablets along with some extra battery packs as there are no USB or 12-Volt socks for rear passengers.

Hyundai Elantra Interior Specs Comparison (in inches)
Hyundai Elantra Sport Honda Civic SI Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Front Headroom 40.3 37.5 38.5
Front Shoulder Room 56.2 56.9 55.9
Front Legroom 42.2 42.3 41.1
Rear Headroom 37.3 36.8 37.2
Rear Shoulder room 55.3 55 37.4
Rear Legroom 35.7 37.4 54
Minimum Cargo Room (cu-ft) 14.4 14.7 14.1

Hyundai Elantra Cargo Room

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Interior
- image 865208
The Hyundai Elantra offers up 14.4 cubic-feet of cargo room in the rear.

If you lower the rear seatback, that room probably doubles, however, there’s a major drawback here as the opening between the trunk and the rear passenger area is quite small. Due to the car’s structural design (that horizontal brace between the two C-pillars) and the design of the suspension, total cargo room is greatly reduced, as is that opening into the rear passenger area. Overall, the amount of cargo room isn’t bad, but it could be much better. If you really need to haul something, you could consider the Elantra Hatchback as it offers some 55 cubic-feet with the rear seats laid down.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Interior
- image 865209

Hyundai Elantra Infotainment System

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Interior
- image 865164

We really liked the angle of the Elantra’s infotainment system. It is aimed in a way that you can use its various features while driving without having to reach too far or take your eyes off the road. However, it’s not the best-looking system out there, and it’s not the fastest either. Ease of use, on the other hand, is commendable. The premium audio upgrade wasn’t anything to write home about, so if you’re an audiophile , it may be best to skip on that option and go with some aftermarket speakers – you’ll definitely get better performance and clarity. The native wireless calling system is adequate, but we’d still recommend using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Voice recognition works okay too, but you can’t really do a whole lot with it, so don’t expect Mercedes MBUX level of command control.

Hyundai Elantra Sport Drivetrain and Performance

  • 1.6-liter four-cylinder
  • 201 horsepower
  • 195 lb-ft of torque
  • No AWD available
  • 60 mph in 7.7 seconds
  • 145 mph top speed
  • Little turbo lag
  • Decent acceleration
  • Handles well
2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Drivetrain
- image 865216
The Elantra Sport is the only model in the lineup that can be had with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder.

It’s also the most powerful of the lineup with 201 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 195 pound-feet of torque as early as 1,500 rpm. To put this into perspective, all other models, sans the Eco model, have a 2.0-liter that’s good for just 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. So, on paper, the Elantra Sport’s performance creds are undisputed. Our tester, as you’ve probably noticed, had a manual transmission, but if you’re a fan of three pedals, don’t intend on going beyond the 2019 model year as, for 2020, Hyundai discontinued the six-speed manual altogether. Now, the Elantra sport is available with the same not-so-amazing Ecoshift seven-speed DCT that’s also found in the 128-horsepower Eco trim level. All other models come with a CVT that you really don’t want.

2019 Honda Elantra Sport specifications
Engine GAMMA 1.6 Turbo GDI 4-cylinder, DOHC
Transmission 7-speed DCT
Power Output 201 @ 6000
Torque 195@ 1500~4500
Driveline Front Wheel Drive
Fuel Gas
Fuel Capacity 14
Fuel Economy 26/33/29
0-60 mph 7.7 seconds
Top Speed 145 mph

In terms of suspension, most Elantra models feature front MacPherson struts up front and Torsion beam in the rear. The Elantra Sport gets the same front setup but is the only model to feature a rear multi-link independent rear suspension. This does improve the driving dynamic to some extent and, outside of the power output, is one of the big things that makes the Sport stand out from the pack. The Elantra Sport features the same power steering and turning diameter (34.78 feet curb-to-curb) but does ride on trim-specific 18-inch wheels and larger front brakes. According to Hyundai, the Elantra Sport can hit 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and tops out at 145 mph.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865147

To put this performance into perspective, you need to look at the competition. In this case, we’ll compare it to the Honda Civic Si and the Volkswagen Jetta GLI. The former offers up 205 turbocharged horses at 5,700 rpm and 192 pound-feet of torque at 2,100 rpm. Meanwhile, the Jetta GLI will get you 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The Civic SI comes exclusively with a six-speed manual, but the Jetta GLI can be had with the same or a seven-speed automatic. The Honda Civic SI will get you to 60 mph a whole second quicker than the Elantra Sport at 6.7 seconds while the Jetta GLI will make the same 60-mph sprint in 6.1 seconds, an impressive 1.6-seconds faster than the Elantra. So, now we can say that the Civic Si and Jetta GLI will get to 60 mph faster, but if you’re in a top speed race, you want the Elantra all day long. It tops out at 145 mph, while the Civic SI tops out at 130, and the Jetta GLI is limited to a very boring 126 mph.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865160

With all of this said, the Elantra Sport may be sporty among its own kind, but from a performance standpoint versus the competition, it’s not really worthy of the Sport name. That holds true on paper at least, but how does it really drive? Well, we’re glad you asked

Hyundai Elantra Sport Driving Impressions

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Drivetrain
- image 865218

We have to admit that we went into this week with the Elantra Sport with little hope of being impressed. Then we sat down inside and realized it was a lot more comfortable than we expected. Even better yet, it drove better than we expected as well.

The Elantra Sport feels like it has more power than it does, and it’s driving dynamic is rather decent as well.

It doesn’t drive like a sports car, and it can’t keep up with a BMW, Audi, or Porsche, but it can hold its own in bends as long as you don’t push it too hard. The steering wasn’t exactly on point – it’s a little torque will no real feedback, so that does hurt confidence a bit. Overall it was pretty fun to drive, but the cabin can be deceiving as you might occasionally forget that you’re in a Hyundai.

For 201 horsepower, that 1.6-liter under the hood is pretty responsive, and it doesn’t seem to experience much in terms of turbo lag. Our tester has the six-speed manual, and it was a dream to row through. The throws were considerably short for a Korean car, and the gearbox felt accurate. To be honest, it’s one of the better manual gearboxes on the market. Unfortunately, Hyundai did away with it for the 2020 model year, so make sure you buy a 2019 Elantra Sport if you really want decent performance. At this power point, the seven-speed DCT is probably just short of disastrous when it comes to performance.

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865146

Overall, the Elantra Sport is actually a pretty decent car. You won’t mistake it for something higher on the luxury chain, but it certainly makes for a good family car that’s also fun. It’s not something you’d want to track on a regular basis, but it’s perfect for safe, semi-spirited drives. Part of that comes thanks to the comfortable and supportive front seats.

The steering wheel was a dream to hold as well, and we have to admit that we’re surprised that it comes with things like radar cruise control and lane-keep assist as standard equipment – on a $23,000 car.

In the end, we have to say that the Elantra Sport is definitely the model to get – you don’t want to mess around with the lesser models. It even does pretty well in the fuel economy department as we were able to meet EPA estimates. We managed 26 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway – 1 mpg more than expected. On the combined cycle, you can expect about 29 mpg, which really isn’t bad given the nature of the car.

Hyundai Elantra Sport Fuel Economy

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865160

The Hyundai Elantra Sport is rated at 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. In comparison, the Civic SI can match in the city but pulls 3 more mpg on the highway and 30 mpg combined. The Jetta GLI proves inferior in this department, managing just 25 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined.

Hyundai Elantra Pricing

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865162

Our tester was the Hyundai Elantra Sport, and it starts out at $22,300. The Elantra lineup itself, however, starts out at just $17,700 (barebones SE trim) and increases incrementally to SEL, Value Edition, ECO, Limited, and Sport. In comparison, the Civic Si starts out at $25,930, while the Volkswagen Jetta GLI starts out at $25,995. In other words, the Elantra Sport is the cheapest of the bunch, but it’s also lower on the performance totem pole outside of top speed where it reigns supreme among the three.

Hyundai Elantra Pricing
Hyundai Elantra SE $17,700
Hyundai Elantra SEL $18,200
Hyundai Elantra Value Edition $19,350
Hyundai Elantra Eco $20,000
Hyundai Elantra Limited $21,300
Hyundai Elantra Sport $22,300

Hyundai Elantra Sport Competition

Honda Civic SI

left right

Obviously, the Civic Type R is the car to have but, when it comes to sedans, the Civic Si is the fastest you can buy. It’s powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that’s good for 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. That’s 4 ponies more and three pound-feet shy of the Elantra Sport. However, where the Elantra Sport weighs more than 3,100 pounds, the civic SI tips the scales at just 2,906 pounds. With this power output, the Civic SI sedan is capable of beating the Elantra Sport to 60 mph by one-second flat (6.7 seconds vs. 7.7 seconds). On the other hand, the Elantra Sport will go much faster in the long run as the Civic Si tops out at 130 mph, some 15 mph slower than our main contender. In the Civic SI’s defense, however, it does manage to meet or beat the Elantra Sport’s fuel economy, and it looks much more aggressive. It’s even differentiated from the rest of the Civics in the lineup, something the Elantra Sport really can’t lay claim to. Pricing for the Civic SI starts out at $25,930, just over $2,000 more than the Elantra Sport.

Read our full review on the 2018 Honda Civic SI

Volkswagen Jetta GLI

left right

The Volkswagen Jetta GLI is, essentially, a Golf GTI Sedan, and as of the 2020 model year it’s now faster and better than ever. It might say Jetta on the outside, but it really does ride on Golf GTI underpinnings, and it’s powered by a 2.0-liter four-banger that delivers a cool 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It has a very low, limited top speed of 126 mph, so it won’t win any top-speed races, but it’ll get you to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, more than half a second faster than the Civic Si and 1.6 seconds faster than the Elantra Sport. The interior is also nicely done with a similar theme to that of the Elantra sport, including a flat-bottom steering wheel, red contrast stitching, and supportive seats. On that note, Volkswagen’s infotainment system is also significantly better than what the Elantra Sport offers on even its best day. Pricing for the Jetta GLI starts out at $25,995 making it the most expensive of the three offered here, but it’s significantly more powerful and newer as well.

Read our full review on the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Final Thoughts

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Driven Exterior
- image 865156

We went into our week with the Elantra Sport with low expectations, but it didn’t take long for us to realize that the Elantra Sport was much better than we anticipated. It’s not a car that should be mistaken for something like the Subaru WRX, but it makes a perfect family car that offers decent performance. We really appreciated things like radar cruise control and blind-spot alert as standard equipment when that’s not always the case with more expensive cars. The Elantra Sport’s driving dynamics are on par or better than the cars it competes with and, while it’s not the most powerful car on the block, it has its own qualities that make it stand out as a strong competitor in the segment. With a starting price of around $23,000, it’s easily affordable on a budget, and there’s plenty of room and performance to keep the average joe happy.

  • Leave it
    • Hard to differentiate from the models below it
    • No USB or power sockets in the rear
    • No manual transmission available after 2019 model year
Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
About the author

Related Articles

2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line Sedan

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT – Driven

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

2017 Hyundai Elantra

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: