THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Punchy engine and expectedly good handling from what is basically a simple family compact sedan
- What’s Worst: Needs a more jazzy look and a tuned exhaust note to set it apart from other Elantras
- What’s Interesting: Hyundai Sport comes with a full spare tire which is a buying decision maker for me as it should be for everyone
Since it first bowed as a 1990 model, the Hyundai Elantra has been a sales success.
More than any other Hyundai vehicles, the Elantra and Sonata helped wash away the stigma of the Pony, a plucky little sedan Hyundai sold in Canada back in 1975, when the Korean carmaker first came to Canada.
Rust literally gave the Pony, and Hyundai, a less than glowing reputation.
But I always maintained that if you kept the Pony engine oil levels up, they could last a decade. In fact, one of my neighbours had one and it really did last about 15 years.
Then the Pony was followed by the Excel, that didn’t, and the Stellar, that wasn’t.
Elantra is now a leader in Canada’s still strong compact sedan market, but the segment is changing with people wanting more trim options.
To that end, Hyundai is adding two Elantra variants – the “Safety” Special Edition (SE) and the “Sport” sedan.
The new SE incorporates advanced safety features normally seen only on high-end models like Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist System and a Lane Departure Warning System.
The first difference is upfitting Hyundai’s next generation “Gamma” 1.6-litre, twin-turbo direct injection inline four-cylinder with 201 hp, and more to the point, 195 lb/ft of torque that reaches its peak at just 1,500 rpm.
Driving the front wheels is an owner choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. With the auto comes steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Visually on the outside, the grille is blacked out and the HID headlights are encased in a black inner housing along with horizontal LED running lights.
From the rear, the LED taillights, twin chrome exhaust tips and rear decklid spoiler continue the design trend.
Inside, the driver is greeted by a flat-bottom leather- wrapped steering wheel with red stitching with red pointers on the main gauges and alloy pedals.
Opt up to the Sport Tech version and it includes an eight-inch navigation system, eight-speaker Infinity audio system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Rear Park Assist System (RPAS) and dual-zone automatic climate control with auto defogger.
Suspension is MacStruts at the front but the twist-base rear suspension in the sedan is dropped and replaced by a multi-link unit for improved response and handling.
Except for the subtle exterior changes, the Sport looks like an everyday compact sedan, but the minute you step on the gas, you know there is more than plain Jane under the hood.
My tester was a six-speed manual with very light effort needed to move the shifter, while the clutch pedal travel and degree of bite was progressive, which is what most people want. I prefer it at the bottom, but that’s me.
Despite a lusty 195 lb/ft of torque, there was no tendency for the Sport to veer left or right from launch in what is known as torque steer.
Power response was good in most circumstances, except starting up a long grade in fourth or fifth when the engine really bogs. But of course, the normal thing would be to select a lower gear, or if you had the dual clutch, let the DSG do all the work.
Out along some sparsely travelled back roads, the Sport could be pushed without a sense of over- or under-steer which is pretty good for a compact starting at under 25 grand.
And speaking of pretty good, how about the sport steering wheel being heated?
The Sport is one of those cars you actually have to physically drive to appreciate all you’re getting for the money.
At the recent AJAC (Automotive Journalists Association of Canada) Car of the Year semi finals, the Elantra Sport was named the best 2017 sports/performance car beating out the redoubtable Ford Focus RS.
And, for what it’s worth, the Elantra sedan was named 2017 small car category winner, with some AJAC members telling me they won’t be surprised if the Elantra doesn’t take overall car of the year honours when the winners are announced in February at the Toronto International Auto Show.
Hyundai, meanwhile, is concentrating on bread and butter models such as the Elantra, which has served the brand well for all these years and just keeps getting better.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport
BODY STYLE: Compact sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission
ENGINE: 1.6-litre, DOHC twin-turbo direct injection inline four-cylinder (201 hp, 195 lb/ft)
CARGO: 407 litres
TOW RATING: Not recommended
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) manual, 10.7/7.8/9.4L/100 km city/highway/combined; DCT, 8.8/7.0/8.1L/100 km
PRICE: Sport manual, $24,999; Sport DCT, $26,499; Sport Tech manual, $27,499; Sport Tech DCT, $28,999