Test Drive: Redesigned Elantra Sport — powerful

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport

Long and low-slung, the Hyundai Elantra — redesigned for 2017 — has a sharp, sculpted look and credibility earned over more than 15 years in the U.S. market. The new Elantra lineup also features a legitimate sleeper, with a turbocharged 201-horsepower engine lurking under the hood.

We’ve test-driven quite a few Elantras over the years, and found them bland but easy to live with. Not so the 2017 Elantra Sport, which features a sport-tuned suspension, the most powerful engine Hyundai has ever bolted into a compact sedan, and a choice between a 7-speed stick shift and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters.

The Sport starts at $22,750. With options, freight and handling — including navigation system, power sunroof, audio upgrade, additional infotainment features, blind-spot warning system and carpeted floor mats — brought the sticker price to $26,110. The base Elantra SE, with the standard 147-horsepower Four and 6-speed manual gearbox, has a base price of $17,150.

The Sport is the thirstiest Elantra; it’s rated at 26 mpg city, 33 highway. The Elantra Eco gets 40 mpg on the highway. The less expensive SE is rated at 38 mpg with the optional automatic transmission.

Interior view of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport.

Interior view of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport.

The Elantra’s strengths include ample leg room in front, comfortable bucket seats, simple, straightforward climate, audio and navigation controls, a roomy back seat and spacious trunk. Also drawing customers to Hyundai dealerships is the 100,000-mile, 10-year power-train warranty, as well as the long list of standard features that many other automakers charge extra for.

We seldom fall in love with dual-clutch automatic transmissions, and we didn’t fall for the Elantra Sport’s. It seemed to deliver inconsistent throttle response — sometimes lagging, sometimes surging, sometimes reacting the way it should. If we were to buy an Elantra tomorrow, we’d choose the stick shift or the conventional automatic with the 147-horsepower engine.

Our experience with the audio, navigation and infotainment system was more positive. It’s easy to use and responsive. The optional dual-zone climate-control system also was easy to operate.

Elantra shoppers will find they can add luxury and safety features that are unavailable in competing models such as the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota Corolla. For example, Hyundai is the only automaker to offer rear-seat heaters in its compact economy sedan. Among others competing in this class are the Ford Focus, Kia Forte and Mazda3.

The market on this redesigned model has been receptive. The Elantra is Hyundai’s leading seller so far this year, with 29,139 units sold through February, almost 7,300 higher than the corresponding period in 2016.

The new Elantra has been rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute gave the Elantra top marks in every category except ease of use of child-seat anchors — “Acceptable.” In government crash tests, the Elantra earned four of five stars in every category except front-seat side crash — five stars.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

 

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport

Price: $26,110

Engine: 1.6-liter inline turbocharged Four, 201 horsepower, 195 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic with paddle shifters

Drive: Front-wheel

Weight: 3,131 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 18-in. alloy

Tires: 225/40R18 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 14.4 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 14 gal.

Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded gasoline

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