2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport Review

A bona fide compact sports sedan on a budget


Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer



Positives: Slick body touches give it sporty appeal, interior is well-executed, strong acceleration, more than respectable handling, a great daily driver.
Negatives: Dual clutch transmission feels slow in low gears, some cheaper-looking hard plastics on doors, dash and center console.
Bottom Line: The Hyundai Elantra Sport is one of the best truly affordable small sporty sedans out there. It's a car that works as an everyday commuter car but also has the power and handling capabilities to entertain on a twisty road. The car makes you want to drive it hard and fast. It has a lot of tough competition from American, Japanese, and European brands, but the car manages to stick right up there near the top of the segment.
 View Our 2017 Hyundai Elantra Overview
Hyundai’s Elantra is now in its sixth generation, and it’s the best it’s ever been. The Elantra Sport takes the success of the base car and builds upon it by adding a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, a slightly revised interior and exterior, and better suspension and front brakes. Hyundai’s car does this at a very affordable price, too, giving shoppers a tough choice to make when it comes to picking a sporty economy car. We wanted to see just how good this car stacks up to the competition, so we drove it for a week. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.3

 

The Elantra Sport is quick and fun to drive without being a so fast that you’ll rack up speeding tickets. It’s a car you’ll genuinely want to drive each and every day, and a car that you can push the limits in and be rewarded. It manages rough pavement with ease and tight curves and bends with aplomb. While it can’t hang with legitimate sports cars, it can compete with other sporty compacts from Volkswagen, Ford, Honda, and Nissan.

Ride Quality: The sporty suspension is on the firmer side, but it still does a good job of reducing the effect of bumps and gaps in the road. Overall, it’s an impressive mix of sportiness and comfort.

Acceleration: The dual clutch automatic transmission is a little slower than expected, but the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is plenty powerful enough. The car can shoot from 0-60 in under six and a half seconds.

Braking: The larger 12-inch front brake rotors mean that the Elantra Sport stops with more authority than the other trim levels. The brakes are powerful and on par with other vehicles in this segment.

Steering: The Elantra Sport’s steering is quick and precise with sharp turn-in. The steering is considerably better than the regular Elantra. It’s easy to place the car in the turns, and you always feel in control.

Handling: The updated suspension system on the Elantra Sport serves it well. The car corners flat and instills confidence in curves. Coming out of a corner, the car isn’t as planted as the GTI, but it still does a good job.

Technology

8.7

 

The Elantra Sport comes with a 7-inch display audio system as standard equipment. Our tester came with the Premium Package which replaces that with an 8-inch infotainment system that offers more features, including Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system and navigation. It’s a robust system and easy to use.

Infotainment System: The 8-inch touchscreen is quick and smooth. The graphics are crisp and clear, and the user interface simple. Hyundai has one of the most straightforward infotainment systems out there.

Controls: There’s a good mix of buttons and touchscreen controls. They’re easy to use and find, with the only poorly placed control being the audio volume knob, which hides behind the steering wheel. The steering wheel controls are also easily laid out and clearly labeled.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing an Android phone was simple and quick, and re-pairing easy, too.

Voice Call Quality: We noticed some echoes during calls on our end of the line. This didn’t happen all the time, and it was unclear if the issue was with our phone or the car’s system.

Styling

8.7

 

The former Audi design boss Peter Schreyer is the man behind the Elantra’s latest generation’s styling. Not surprisingly, the car kind of looks like a small Audi. The Elantra Sport takes things up a notch from the standard model, with a more aggressive front and rear end that hints at the model’s sport-minded demeanor. This is the best-looking Elantra ever, and one of the best-looking cars Hyundai has ever made.

Front: The front features a grille that’s shaped similarly to the Audi A3’s. The car has LED fog lights and a low hood. Set this next to the regular Elantra and you can easily see how the minor revisions to the fascia give it the sporty appearance it needs.

Rear: The rear features a bumper that’s different and more interesting looking than the standard Elantra. Also, the rear twin exhaust on the right side of the vehicle is more easily visible. It’s a more dramatic rear end that doesn’t look totally different from the standard model.

Profile: From the side, the car is basically identical to other Elantra trim levels, save for the 18-inch alloy wheels. They’re an eye-catching element.

Cabin: The interior styling of the car is simple and attractive. Hyundai does a good job of making a cabin that isn’t too busy or cluttered. The red stitching throughout the interior and sportier-looking instrument cluster is also a nice touch and helps reinforce the car’s overall aesthetic.

Comfort

8.5

 

The cabin of the Elantra Sport offers a high level of comfort even though the car carries a low price tag. Hyundai generally does an excellent job when it comes to interior ergonomics and the Elantra Sport is no exception. This is one of the most comfortable sporty small cars out there.

Front Seats: The front sport seats offer plenty of support and bolstering. The leather upholstery feels soft and accommodating, and there’s plenty of leg and hip room.

Rear Seats: In the rear, the seats offer the same leather and similar support, but they’re considerably flatter. Legroom isn’t massive but is on par for the segment. Headroom is good, too.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Elantra Sport feels tight, compact, solid, and well-built. Nothing shook or rattled while we whipped this car around bends and zoomed over Chicago’s mildly rough pavement. The engine does make a fair amount of noise, but it’s not overbearing or unpleasant.

Visibility: Front, rear, and side visibility is good. The car’s rear deck isn’t so high that it obscures rearview sightlines, and the backup camera is there for tight parking situations.

Climate: Our tester came with the optional dual-zone climate control system included in the Premium Package. It had no issue keeping the cabin of the car at the optimal temperature. The standard heated seats were powerful and came in handy on a couple brisk mornings.

Safety

9

 

The Hyundai Elantra is one of the safest small cars out there. The Elantra Sport is as safe if not safer than the typical Elantra, thanks to bigger and better front brake rotors. The car received top marks from the IIHS.

IIHS Rating: The Elantra is a Top Safety Pick+. It received "good" ratings in all the crashworthiness tests, a "good" rating for the headlight test, and a "superior" rating for crash avoidance and mitigation technology. Child seat anchor ease of use was only rated "acceptable."

Standard Tech: Our test model came well equipped. Standard safety tech included, airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, park assist, and a backup camera.

Optional Tech: The car we drove also came with the optional Premium Package. It included auto-dimming mirrors and blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert.

Storage/Cargo

7.5

 

The standard Elantra offers quite a bit of space for items, and these storage spaces make it into the Elantra Sport. A hatchback like the Ford Focus ST or the VW Golf GTI will offer more cargo space, but Hyundai’s car is right on par with sedan competitors like the Nissan Sentra SR Turbo.

Storage Space: The space in front of the gear shifter is suitable for a phone, keys, or other small items. The cup holders are generously sized and the space beneath the armrest is good for larger items, though not large enough for a bag or purse. Aside from that, the only other spaces are the glove box and door pockets. This amount of storage space is normal for the segment.

Cargo Room: Hyundai equipped the Elantra Sport with a hands-free smart trunk that opens automatically when you stand behind the car with the keys in your pocket for about three seconds. The trunk has over 14 cubic feet of space, which is about as much as its sedan competitors.

Fuel Economy

7.1

 

Because the Elantra Sport is a sporty car, fuel efficiency isn’t a top priority. Still, Hyundai realized efficiency is important. The Elantra Sport has a lot of competitors, including the Volkswagen GTI, Nissan Sentra SR Turbo, and Ford Focus ST. It beats or ties these cars when it comes to fuel economy. However, sit it next to cars like the Honda Civic and Mazda3 – cars with great driving dynamics but less of a focus on sportiness – and it comes up short.

Observed: 27.4 mpg combined.

Distance Driven: 276 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove the car primarily in the city with a few trips on the highway. We were fairly heavy on the throttle for most of the week and didn’t try to get the best mileage possible. If driven conservatively, we expect real world results would be close to the EPA estimates.

Audio

8.5

 

The Infinity premium audio system comes with 8 speakers, including a center channel unit and subwoofer. This system is very good with rich and full sound at all volumes. We would expect it is a major step above the standard 6 speaker audio system.



Final Thoughts

The Elantra Sport shows how far the automaker and this particular nameplate has come. Hyundai has a car that can genuinely compete with the other sporty compacts out on the market without losing its everyday usability and comfort. Because it’s priced so well and genuinely a fun car, we think it will build its own base of fans quicker than some of its competitors. If you’re looking for a sporty alternative to a basic commuter car, this is one of the best options out there. If you want to compete with the more aggressive affordable sporty cars out there like the VW GTI or the Focus ST, the Elantra Sport may not be your first choice.

Check out our 1-Minute Video Review:

Buying Guides

Featuring Hyundai Elantra

The 5 Best Cars Under $20,000

Shopping for a used
Hyundai Elantra?