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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Russ Heaps December 2016

Don't expect to be dazzled by the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport, but do prepare to be impressed. This goes especially for those who've taken a test spin in the very competent but somewhat vanilla Elantra sedan, redesigned for 2017 and introduced near the start of 2016.

We thought the reimagined sedan was much improved but a bit of a yawner. No one, though, will be bored piloting the jazzed-up Elantra Sport that launched this fall. The Hyundai presenters who introduced the vehicle to the gaggle of media assembled in Las Vegas to drive it emphasized that unlike last year's Sport, the new model is much more than an appearance package. Where the previous Sport was ultimately a gussied-up version of the sedan with a unique engine, the 2017 does much more to live up to its Sport designation.

Those presenters didn't need to drum that fact into us -- a few minutes behind the wheel of the updated Sport on a drive that wandered into the depths of Death Valley made the point decisively.

Curbside Presence

All the protests about the Hyundai Elantra Sport being more than an appearance package aside, its exterior is noticeably more stylized than the sedan's. Hyundai could have been content with a minor tweaking of the sedan's wrapper, dropping it over the performance upgrades and calling it a day. But that's not what they did.

In addition to the standard 18-inch alloy wheels covered in high-performance rubber, the standard HID headlights and the blacked-out hexagonal grille, other unique design cues include decidedly more sculpted flanks punctuated by prominently butched-up front and rear fascias. You can find less noticeable changes as well, such as the Sport's LED daytime running lights arranged horizontally rather than vertically, as they are on the sedan. In back, dual chrome exhaust outlets peek out from the rear-bumper diffuser insert.

Inner Sanctum

Although the Elantra Sport's interior doesn't reflect its performance mission quite as dramatically as the exterior, there are still a number of unique elements separating it from the rest of the Elantra lineup. Red stitching on the standard leather highlights the contours of the front seats' beefed-up side bolsters. The red stitching also accents the shifter boot, the center armrest and the flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel, also unique to Sport.

Other cockpit Sport enhancements include a black headliner, perforated alloy pedals and red needles (rather than white) in the main gauges.

Thrust Maker

Where the sedan makes due with a 147-horsepower 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, the Elantra Sport derives its go from a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder delivering 201 hp. Not only does the Sport's turbo provide a jump of 54 hp, it also ups the torque from 63 lb-ft in the sedan to 195 lb-ft.

This is a version of the 1.6-liter turbo engine found in the Veloster and the Sonata, with a tweak or two. If it sounds a bit more intimidating in its Sport form, that's due to a bit of porous material that engineers introduced into the air intake to enhance the exhaust note.

A 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters is available for a $1,100 premium, but there's good news for those wanting to stir the transmission themselves: A 6-speed manual is included in the Sport's $22,485 base price.

Fuel economy isn't quite as good as the sedan's government-estimated 26 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, but it's still respectable at 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual and 26 mpg city/33 mpg hwy with the automatic.

Performance Infrastructure

To help stiffen the chassis, engineers increased the amount of high-strength steel in the Sport's construction from 21 percent in the previous version to 53 percent in the 2017 model. They also introduced nearly 400 feet of structural adhesive to further tighten things up, providing a stabler and more rigid platform.

Higher spring rates and larger front-brake rotors do their part to support the Sport's performance mandate.

Although wheel size, high-performance tires and greater engine output all buttress the Sport moniker, arguably the most significant factor in boosting Elantra Sport's creds is its rear suspension. Here, Hyundai yanked out the torsion-beam rear axle used in the sedan, replacing it with a fully independent multilink suspension with a stabilizer bar.

Road Manners

Logging nearly 300 miles in combined driving of Elantra Sport models equipped with the manual and automatic transmissions, my driving partner and I were impressed with its determined acceleration and pleasing ride quality.

Many of the roads that day were sparsely traveled and arrow-straight, ideal for airing things out a bit. Hyundai packed more insulation into the Sport, which kept things remarkably quiet. Only with a glance at the speedometer did we realize how fast we were going -- neither ride quality nor noise provided any clue to our velocity.

Even at speed over some of the rougher pavement we encountered, the Sport remained stable and well-planted. The highly contoured seats held us upright in the curves we did encounter. Handling is vastly improved over the 2017 Elantra sedan, as well as over the previous Sport.

What's in the Box?

In addition to the features already noted, the Elantra Sport comes well-equipped with heated fold-away outboard mirrors, full power accessories, heated front seats, dual USB ports, trip computer, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, a 7-in touchscreen, a 6-speaker audio system, 7 airbags and a rearview camera.

The only factory options are bundled into the $2,400 Premium Package, which includes a larger 8-in touchscreen, an 8-speaker Infiniti audio system, a navigation system, Hyundai's Blue Link connected-car suite, a power sunroof and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Big Finish

You won't blow the doors off a BMW M3 with the Elantra Sport, but you will put a grin on your face. It has more than enough go for most of us, at a very accessible price. Good-looking, fun to drive and offering plenty of value -- what's not to like?

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport: First Drive Review - Autotrader