Car Review: Hyundai Elantra Sport excites at a nice price

WTOP car guy Mike Parris says the normal Elantra is a solid compact but not very quick or sporty to drive. The Hyundai Elantra Sport steps in to add some spice to the small sedan.

WASHINGTON — The compact sedan is normally a fuel efficient, value buy but driving excitement often has to be compromised.

Recently, some manufacturers have added some more performance-based models to their normal compacts to add some spunk to the class. The only problem with the sporty models is they tend to get pricey if you’re budget conscious.

Luckily, Hyundai is making a big name for itself by selling cars with many features buyers want at a seemingly reasonable price. The compact sports sedan is no exception.

The normal Elantra is a solid compact, but not very quick or sporty to drive, so the Hyundai Elantra Sport steps in to add some spice to the small sedan. Adding power seems to be a good place to start and the Elantra Sport is equipped with 201hp from a small 1.6L turbocharged engine. Power is plentiful for once in an Elantra and there isn’t much turbo lag either.

There are also two transmission choices: a manual or a $1,100 optional dual clutch automatic.

I drove the manual. It’s not the best shifter ever but it does a pretty good job with slightly long throws between gears. The clutch is light and it’s easy to modulate for smooth operation. Handling isn’t VW Golf GTI good but more competent than most of the compact sedans in its class.

The Elantra Sport has bigger brakes than other Elantra models so it stops quicker and more confidently. It treats you nicely in daily driving with a quiet cabin and the tuned suspension that doesn’t beat you up on bumpy roads. It is only slightly more firm than other Elantra models.

Fuel economy was a surprise. I managed 30.3 mpg in a week and 315 miles of mixed driving; better than the 25 mpg of mixed driving on the sticker.

Looks are important for sportier versions of compact cars and Hyundai gave the Elantra Sport a little makeover. It’s not a huge difference from other Elantra models but it’s a little bolder with a unique front grill and lower fascia, which gives it a more aggressive face.

From the side, you notice large 18-inch wheels and blacked- out trim pieces around the door. There are also side sill extensions on the bottom of the car and a diffuser at the rear end to give this a more menacing look from behind. What it doesn’t have is a large rear spoiler and or some crazy color. For someone like me who’s not 24, it seems to make more sense. But I’m not sure it’s flashy enough for some buyers.

The Elantra Sport is easy on the wallet with a starting price under $23,000. For that, you get a nicely equipped car with sunroof and heated leather sport seats — a surprise at this price.

Other nice standard items are push button start and proximity key entry; leave the remote in your pocket and just open the door. The hands-free trunk is nice with full hands. Standing near the trunk for a few seconds will trigger its opening for you. If you want to add things like NAV with 8-inch touch-screen and an Infinity Premium audio system, the price will still be around $25,000, about where other hot compacts start before any options.

Space is good for a compact with room for adults — front and back. I put three kids and their assorted child seats in the back seat without much hassle. The only hassle was the doors not closing all the way, sometimes taking several tries to fully close. It could have been this car because I don’t remember this with other Elantra models.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is the value sports compact sedan. A bit of joy can be had on the mundane commute with its peppy turbo engine, improved handling and well-appointed interior. And no one will really know just how little you paid.

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