This is not the 2017 Hyundai Elantra GT3 Superleggera Stradale Competizione with an optional N Performance Package.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is not hardcore. Itâ€™s not SCCA-certified. Itâ€™s not extreme. Itâ€™s not uncompromising. And thankfully, itâ€™s not obnoxious, ostentatious, outlandish, or overcooked.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is not a Ford Focus RS alternative; itâ€™s not a replacement for your Subaru WRX STI; it wonâ€™t satisfy your Renault Sport 230 Renault F1 Team R26.R import cravings.
The $21,650 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is, instead, a remarkably balanced junior sports sedan with classy styling and a terrific value quotient, priced $5,100 below the top-spec Elantra Limited.
Itâ€™s the best version of Hyundaiâ€™s best product.
WHAT DO YOU GET?
Installed under the hood of the Elantra Sport is the 1.6-liter turbo encountered elsewhere in the Kia Soul, Kia Forte, and Hyundai Veloster. The Elantraâ€™s 1.6T is worth 201 horsepower, an impressive figure in the recent past but now only just enough to garner interest in a car this size. 195 lb-ft of torque peaks at 1,500 rpm.
Itâ€™s enough, particularly with a pleasingÂ six-speed manual shifter and a friendly clutch, to put clear distance between itselfÂ and the regular Elantra and itsÂ 147-horsepower 2.0-liter.
A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic costs $1,100 extra, and based on our experience with that powertrain combo in the Veloster, we strongly urge you to save $1,100.
Rather than the rear beam axle of other Elantras, the Elantra Sport makes use of multi-link rear suspension, plus a 15mm rear stabilizer bar, rear disc brakes like the Elantra Limited, and bigger wheels than any other Elantras wearing 225/40R18s.
With unique tuning of the suspension and steering plus 54 extra horses, the Elantra Sport is operating in an entirely different sphere from regular Elantras: quicker turn-in, even-keeled cornering, sufficient shove out of corners, and a surprisingly evocative exhaust note that urges you on.
WHAT DONâ€™T YOU GET?
You donâ€™t get a Volkswagen Golf GTI. You donâ€™t get its pace, you donâ€™t get its immediate responses, you donâ€™t get its communication.
Thatâ€™s not a chink in the Elantra Sportâ€™s armor. At this low price point â€” GTI pricing starts $4,800 north of here â€” the Elantraâ€™s dynamic repertoire is noteworthy.
But livelier steering, which will surely be helped when the Michelin X-Ice tires come off, would dramatically improve the Elantra Sportâ€™s somewhat isolated personality. A modest increase in roll stiffness wouldnâ€™t go amiss. Slightly shorter shifter throws would add to the performance aura. 20 additional lb-ft of torque would allow the Elantra to never feel wanting for extra gumption.
Yet the items from my wishlist missing in the Elantra Sport permit Hyundai to build a balanced car with a low price of entry.
For a car with this much corneringÂ appetite, ride quality is exemplary. Less aggressive steering response enables the Elantra Sport to be a possible alternative for less enthusiastic Elantra consumers who want the extra power without any edginess. Hyundaiâ€™s noise/vibration/harshness work resulted in a car that feels far more closely linked to the Sonata than the previous Elantra.
WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER GET?
At $21,650, you canâ€™t easily and objectively compare the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport with distinctly more costly performance-oriented compacts such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, forthcoming Honda Civic Si, aging Ford Focus ST, and rather obvious Subaru WRX.
The comparably priced Ford Fiesta ST is undeniably the better driverâ€™s car, but given the Elantraâ€™s expansive rear seat, the Fiesta ST is a less family friendly vehicle.
Like the Elantra Sport, the 2.5-liter-equipped Mazda 3 is lacking a degree of outright performance. But while the 3 is the more willing partner, the Elantraâ€™s turbocharged powerplant is noticeably more flexible at every point on the rev counter.
WILL ANYBODY KNOW YOU GOT WHAT YOU GOT?
For some buyers, whether real performance is the goal or a superficial styling statement is sufficient, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sportâ€™s subtle exterior alterations may not be enough.
The Sport badge isnâ€™t hiding, but nobody actually thinks â€œSportâ€� means anything anymore, do they? The turbo text in the front grille is partially hidden by slats, and again, even turbos donâ€™t automatically suggest performance the way they did in 1987.
Yet the fact that the Elantra Sport provides only faint enhancements to an already attractive car is an intrinsic aspect of its appeal. Far too many pseudo-performance cars shout loudly about levels of sportiness they donâ€™t actually possess.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport, on the other hand, styles softly and carries a medium-sized stick.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.