Kia Cerato 2019 review
The Kia Cerato is the car that keeps the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Ford Focus awake at night. Here's why.
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What does 'Sport' or 'GT' or 'RS' even really mean anymore?
It used to mean legitimate go-fast aspirations. Famous warmed-over or properly red-hot versions of Japanese and European sedans of days past have worn those badges or similar.
But there's nothing like a global financial downturn to change all that. Now your GTs and RSs and Sports are all about the small luxuries. Leather seats, a big media screen, a sunroof.
Oh, and don't forget the body kit. You'll need one to remind people of what could have been.
Enter Korea. Thanks to something economists refer to as the “miracle on the Han River” the southern portion of the peninsula is flush with cash and they're keen beat some of the world's most established automakers at their own game.
Makes sense then, that it can afford to take a risk on a car like this, the Elantra Sport, which not only wears the badge and the body kit, but has a little spice to justify it, too.
|Hyundai Elantra 2019: Sport|
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Now, I wouldn't call the Elantra Sport cheap. The Elantra range is already a tad pricey compared to competitors, but the Sport – at $31,490 – is costly for a small sedan.
At this price all those cars are offering impressive kit, and the Elantra Sport delivers with highlights like aggressive-looking 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, full LED front lighting (which looks amazing and kicks out photons far better than the halogen equivalent in lesser grades) and the majority of Hyundai's 'SmartSense' safety features.
There's a bit of an asterisk surrounding the safety suite which we'll get to in the safety section.
Other standard features include an impressive 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support as well as DAB+ digital radio, eight-speaker premium audio system, built-in nav, sporty seats with leather trim, leather steering wheel, gear knob and door inserts, and full climate control as opposed to the lower grade's air-conditioning.
It's also worth noting that at this price the Elantra Sport actually earns its badge a little bit with a different engine and transmission, bigger brakes, a sporty (at times inconvenient) bodykit, paddle-shifters and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Our car also had a red leather interior ($295) which is only available as an option when the car is painted white (free), grey ($495) or black ($495).
This is the angriest looking Elantra ever built. Finally arriving at the Sport grade is the blacked out pattern grille shared with the rest of Hyundai's range and those blue-tinged LED front lighting clusters which look the business.
Like properly sporty sedans of old, the Sport is lent presence through the addition of flared side-skirts, a lower front bumper and those massive alloys which dominate the wheelarches.
The 'Polar White' paint on our car (the only free colour) actually works brilliantly with the black plastic contrast bits strewn about the car's body and black paint on the lower layer of those complex wheels.
Detracting from the look a little is the seam across the bonnet and the dorky extruded reversing camera on the boot lid.
Inside, the slick sensibility of the rest of the Elantra range is augmented with lashings of standard 'Sports' fare. The flat-bottomed steering wheel (a cause of debate in the office) I find to be a slick touch, although the red leather interior I would argue is a bit much.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen looks fantastic and is easy to operate, but the choice to keep it embedded in the dash like the last-generation car is a little dated.
Looking past the red leather, the seat design is a significant leap over the already comfortable and practical cloth Elantra seats, with some hard-wearing synthetic leather trim.
At this price I was expecting the seats to have electric adjustment and for the analogue handbrake to be replaced by a digital counterpart much like similarly equipped versions of the i30, but oddly that's not the case here.
The less-than-impressive looking air-conditioning controls have been replaced in the sport by a much more attractive climate control panel with a digital display, lifting the cabin design over lesser variants.
Here's the real catch when it comes to this 'Sport' grade. There's no avoiding how low the angry bodykit makes this car.
I was fully expecting the front and maybe the rear to scrape, but they were less of a problem when compared to the side skirts.
While the ride height of the Sport is only 10mm lower than the regular Elantras, the area where the side-skirts flare out near the rear wheels is far too low to the ground. No matter how slowly I took it over some speedbumps and ramps, I would hear the extra-low bit of plastic skim across the top of them.
Less forgiving owners will no doubt end up with ratty bent and cracked sporty bits in a few years. I shudder to think of what P-Platers will do to them in a decade or so.
Thankfully the Elantra remains practical elsewhere. It has a spacious cabin with plenty of leg and headroom, lots of generously-sized bottle holders and sneaky trenches and storage areas for everything else.
Once you get to the Sport grade, rear passengers benefit from dual vents on the back of the centre console, as well as more legroom than they'll probably ever need.
The boot is large when compared to hatchbacks or small SUVs but is about standard for a small sedan. Max capacity is stated at 458 litres (VDA) which is a good amount of space, but still sees the Elantra bested by the Impreza (460L), Civic (517L), and Cerato (520L).
The Elantra Sport is powered by a far zestier 1.6-litre turbo than the run-of the mill 2.0-litre unit used in the regular Go and Active grades.
It produces a whopping 150kW/256Nm which is hard to compete with in this segment. The upcoming Mazda3 gets pretty close with its 2.5-litre engine option (139kW/252Nm) and the Civic isn't too far away (RS and above, 127kW/220Nm).
The only car which really competes (without spending a lot more money) is the Elantra's mechanical relation with which it shares an engine, the Kia Cerato GT sedan (150kW/256Nm).
Both the Elantra Sport and the Cerato have the same seven-speed dual-clutch auto. It's a sportier set-up than the continuously variable transmissions in the Civic or Impreza, and much faster than the six-speed torque converter available further down the range, but is yet to score a similar reliability record.
Acolytes of the old-school drive experience will be surprised to know a six-speed manual transmission can still be optioned on the Sport.
That's a marginally better number than ones produced by 2.0-litre versions of this car, but if you have as much fun flinging the Sport around as I did, you'll see real-world figures of around 9.0L/100km or above.
If driving for enjoyment sounds good to you, it will come as a relief to know that despite its more sophisticated set-up the Elantra Sport still drinks base-grade 91 RON unleaded petrol. Take that VW.
The Elantra Sport lives up to its look by being generally a blast to drive.
The turbo does have a smidge of lag, but once it's making full use of its 265Nm between 1500-4500rpm it makes short work of its seven available gears.
I expected it to be skittish with so much power being channelled through just the front wheels, but thanks to a wider set of wheels over the Active (225s compared to 205s) and those sticky Michelin Pilot Sports, it handles itself with a surprising amount of grace.
Torque steer is present, but entirely manageable. I'll take a risk getting flamed in the comments to say that the amount of available power, the solid and direct steering, combined with the imminent threat of understeer channels the nature of front-drive Japanese sports sedans of the late '90s and '00s.
It's a compliment for sure, but I think we're past the point of asking whether Korean manufacturers can do it.
Credit is also due for the locally-tuned suspension, although the giant alloys make the ride a bit harsher and increase the amount of tyre noise entering the cabin at any speed.
The most annoying thing is always looking out for those darned sporty bits over every single bump and ramp. If you have a lot of speed humps near you or have a particularly steep driveway or even spend a lot of time in shopping centres, expect to be slowing to a crawl often.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Although its most recent Elantra assessment was conducted in early 2016, ANCAP still rates it a maximum five-stars (classifying the 2018 update model as a facelift rather than all-new car).
While the Go and Active which sit below the Sport have very good safety suites (provided you tick a $1700 option box) the Elantra comes with most of it as standard. But, there's a catch.
You see, while you'll get a very good suite consisting of city-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), blind spot monitoring (BSM), driver attention alert (DAA), lane departure warning (LDW) with lane keep assist (LKAS) and rear-cross traffic alert (RCTA) as standard, the Sport can't even be optioned with radar-based systems.
What does that mean? It means the Sport can't have active cruise control or Hyundai's more advanced version of AEB which can detect pedestrians and slow you to a halt from freeway speeds.
An odd omission, especially since those features are optionally available on lower grades, and one that hampers the Sport's score in this segment.
Hyundai's five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise seems on-par nowadays, with most Japanese and some European competition now offering the same warranty terms.
However, it's the fixed service pricing which allows Hyundai to shine. Most scheduled factory services (occurring once a year or every 15,000km) sit at around $273 per visit, with select visits reaching to between $330 and $460. Hyundai covers the Elantra with scheduled servicing all the way out to 168 months/210,000km and beyond that with pre-paid 'iCare' packages.
It boils down to this: sedans are less popular now than they've ever been and precious few are truly 'sporty' in quite the same way as the Elantra Sport.
There are some compromises – it's too low, it's a bit expensive, and it misses out on some advanced safety, but the commitment to the drive experience has to be admired.
It'll never compete with a fully-fledged performance sedan like a Subaru WRX, but for those looking for a more affordable front-wheel drive sedan with more than a little fight to it, the Elantra Sport won't disappoint.
|Active||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$16,300 – 22,660||2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Active 2.0 MPi||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||No recent listings||2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 Active 2.0 MPi Pricing and Specs|
|Active Smartsense||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$17,400 – 24,200||2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 Active Smartsense Pricing and Specs|
|Elite 2.0 MPi||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||No recent listings||2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 Elite 2.0 MPi Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||8|