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Hyundai Elantra 2019 review: Sport

The Elantra puts a bit of meaning back into 'Sport'.
EXPERT RATING
7.5
If you see a 'Sport' badge on a car nowadays, there's a good chance it's meaningless. Thankfully, Hyundai hasn't forgotten to put some meaning behind this one.

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
Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.2L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$31,490

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

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.

Competitors include flagship versions of its mechanical twin, the Kia Cerato GT ($32,990), the Honda Civic (VTi-LX - $33,590), and Subaru Impreza (2.0i-S - $29,740).

Huge and angry alloy wheels wear aggressive rubber. (image credit: Tom White) Huge and angry alloy wheels wear aggressive rubber. (image credit: Tom White)

There will also no doubt be high-spec versions of the soon-to-land new-generation Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 sedans. Stay tuned for those.

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.

The full-LED lighting adds even more aggression to the Sport's face. (image credit: Tom White) The full-LED lighting adds even more aggression to the Sport's face. (image credit: Tom White)

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.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen, flat bottomed steering wheel and red leather interior dominate the interior of the Sport. (image credit: Tom White) The 8.0-inch touchscreen, flat bottomed steering wheel and red leather interior dominate the interior of the Sport. (image credit: Tom White)

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).

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

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.

With the bodykit, big wheels and black accents, this is easily the most aggressive the Elantra has ever looked. (image credit: Tom White) With the bodykit, big wheels and black accents, this is easily the most aggressive the Elantra has ever looked. (image credit: Tom White)

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.

The styling is a significant departure from the Active and Go that sit below the Sport in the variant line-up. (image credit: Tom White) The styling is a significant departure from the Active and Go that sit below the Sport in the variant line-up. (image credit: Tom White)

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.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen has one of the best user-experiences on the market, plus great built-in nav. (image credit: Tom White) The 8.0-inch touchscreen has one of the best user-experiences on the market, plus great built-in nav. (image credit: Tom White)

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.

Even the slick climate control panel adds extra class to the cabin. (image credit: Tom White) Even the slick climate control panel adds extra class to the cabin. (image credit: Tom White)

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

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.

Up front there's plenty of storage areas and the Sport's seats offer extra support over the standard ones in the Active and Go. (image credit: Tom White) Up front there's plenty of storage areas and the Sport's seats offer extra support over the standard ones in the Active and Go. (image credit: Tom White)

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.

Finally rear air-conditioning vents arrive at this grade! (image credit: Tom White) Finally rear air-conditioning vents arrive at this grade! (image credit: Tom White)

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 boot has good depth and length, although it is bested slightly by others in this segment. (image credit: Tom White) The boot has good depth and length, although it is bested slightly by others in this segment. (image credit: Tom White)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

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 Elantra's premium engine helps put a bit of gumption behind that 'Sport' badge. (image credit: Tom White) The Elantra's premium engine helps put a bit of gumption behind that 'Sport' badge. (image credit: Tom White)

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.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Thanks largely to the turbocharger and extra gear ratio, the Sport has a claimed combined fuel usage figure of 7.0L/100km.

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 Sport's premium engine still drinks regular fuel. (image credit: Tom White) The Sport's premium engine still drinks regular fuel. (image credit: Tom White)

What's it like to drive?   8/10

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.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

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.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

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.

The 1.6 turbo carries service pricing that's only slightly more expensive than the old 2.0-litre available in lesser variants. (image credit: Tom White) The 1.6 turbo carries service pricing that's only slightly more expensive than the old 2.0-litre available in lesser variants. (image credit: Tom White)

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.

Verdict

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.

Do you think the sporty offerings from Hyundai and Kia can take the place of warm sedans of old? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$27,888
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$21,490
Highest Price
$34,285

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Active 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $25,990 2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 Active Pricing and Specs
Active 2.0 MPi 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,250 2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 Active 2.0 MPi Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE SMARTSENSE 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $27,690 2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 ACTIVE SMARTSENSE Pricing and Specs
Elite 2.0 MPi 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,990 2019 Hyundai Elantra 2019 Elite 2.0 MPi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety7
Ownership8
Tom White
Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$31,490

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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