Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Hyundai is making no bones about its ambitions to improve its sporting credentials that, it has to be said, are a fair way down the list of things the company has achieved in its first 30 years in Australia.

Having said that, though, the company is essentially the only mainstream player left in the local market to spend time and money localising and improving the quality of ride and handling in its cars – and its Korean masters are paying very close attention to the successes of those changes.

The brand is set to launch its first range of serious sports machines under the N banner next year, but in the meantime, Hyundai Australia has added another model to its small band of moderately made-over SR models – and the Elantra SR Turbo is being touted as a high water mark when it comes to handling dynamics.

The HID bi-xenon lights are a new addition to the Elantra.The HID bi-xenon lights are a new addition to the Elantra.

Design

The small SR Turbo four-door sedan tops the local Elantra line-up, which now features three cars. The SR Turbo differs from the Active and Elite on the outside thanks to its new front and rear bumpers, side skirts and redesigned front array.

Essentially the sedan version of Hyundai's very successful i30, the small four-door Elantra adds more wheelbase and interior room.

The HID bi-xenon lights are new for the Elantra, while the LED daytime running lamps have been moved to reside over the top of large, fully functional air intakes on the lower half of the front bar. The integrated bootlid spoiler is a carryover from the regular Elantra.

The twin-spoke 17-inch alloys are unique to the car, though, as is the twin-outlet exhaust system.

The twin-spoke 17-inch alloys are unique to the Elantra.The twin-spoke 17-inch alloys are unique to the Elantra.

Practicality

Essentially the sedan version of Hyundai's very successful i30, the small four-door Elantra adds more wheelbase and interior room, along with a bootlid.

Head and leg room for front seaters is adequate and comfortable, and the pedals are well placed. There is a tall bin between the front seats as well as a pair of cupholders, and USB and 12v charging points.

Bottle holders are also present in all four doors. Rear room isn't plentiful for tall occupants, but there's a decent amount of toe and knee room. Rear door access is good, too, and there are two ISOFIX child seat mounts installed on the split/fold rear seats.

The boot is 458 litres in volume, though thanks to a new independent suspension arrangement that takes up more room under the rear of the car, the spare is now a space saver and not a full size unit.

The Elantra can also be ordered with a bright red leather interior treatment for just $295 more. It would pay to pick wisely when choosing an exterior colour to match with it, but it's an early clue that the Elantra is not all that it seems.

There is a cargo net in place on the floor, along with rear seat back flipper switches. It's worth noting that the net on our test car, however, broke free on one of its corners, allowing a cabin bag to be flung around the boot unimpeded.

The SR Turbo steps things up a notch, with a pair of more heavily bolstered front seats that feature heating and driver's side power operation, along with a flat-bottomed steering wheel with shifter paddles, red detail stitching and a made-over instrument cluster.

Not only that, the Elantra can also be ordered with a bright red leather interior treatment for just $295 more. It would pay to pick wisely when choosing an exterior colour to match with it, but it's an early clue that the Elantra is not all that it seems.

Price and features

The Elantra SR Turbo kicks off at $28,990 in six-speed manual form, which is $2000 on top the previous top-spec automatic Elite. A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox-equipped SR Turbo is $32,190 before on road costs.

It comes stock with a darkened instrument cluster design, a ten-way powered driver's seat (both front seats are heated), automatic lights and wipers, LED taillights, keyless entry with alarm, push-button start, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a sunroof.

The 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen comes with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.The 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen comes with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

Metallic paint costs $495, while a set of Pirelli-equipped 18-inch rims will soon be available as an option, according to Hyundai.

Engine and transmissions

The SR Turbo uses the 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged GDI engine that's used in the Veloster Turbo, which makes 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm of torque from 1500 to 4500rpm.

That's 38kW and 73Nm up on the 2.0-litre Elantra.

Where Hyundai's previous SR offerings like the i30 SR have perhaps been a little undercooked, the Elantra SR Turbo has moved the game on for the company.

The outputs are the same as the Veloster Turbo, despite the SR's engine scoring a larger intercooler, bigger single-scroll turbocharger and new electronic turbo wastegate.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is $2300 extra. The dual-clutch version of the SR Turbo also scored a three-mode drive select switch, which sharpens throttle response and gearshifts and firms up the steering feel when switched to Sport mode.

The SR Turbo uses a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged GDI engine.The SR Turbo uses a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged GDI engine.

Fuel consumption

The manual is rated at 7.7L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, while the dual-clutch version returns 7.2.

Our 220km of high-revving testing in the dual-clutch version saw a dash-indicated figure of 9.7L/100km.

Driving

Hyundai is calling the SR Turbo a "high water mark" when it comes to its chassis dynamics and handling prowess, and its local tuning team have certainly sweated the details, with more than 50 combinations of shocks, springs and dampers thrown at the car in the course of testing.

Where Hyundai's previous SR offerings like the i30 SR have perhaps been a little undercooked, the Elantra SR Turbo has moved the game on for the company. In short, Hyundai is right; it's the best work the team has done to date.

It's reasonably firm in its ride around town, but it's more than acceptable thanks to the taller sidewalls of the stock 17-inch tyres. Once you lean on the car a bit, though, there's an immediate sense of compliance and connection to the road, thanks to the new independent rear end that will be seen in the i30 next year.

The SR Turbo differs from the Active and Elite on the outside thanks to its new front and rear bumpers, side skirts and redesigned front array.The SR Turbo differs from the Active and Elite on the outside thanks to its new front and rear bumpers, side skirts and redesigned front array.

The Elantra flows from one bend to the next, with excellent balance front to rear. There's a little bit of bodyroll built in to keep grip up, and the stock Hankooks – while still a good fit with the package – are the limiting factor when things get heated.

The SR Turbo is a nicely balanced balanced package that blends modestly brisk pace with excellent handling dynamics.

Larger-than-stock front brake rotors are still worked pretty hard, such is the ability to carry more speed into and out of bends, and the relatively modest power output is actually sufficient to keep the SR Turbo hustling over the blacktop.

The SR Turbo is a nicely balanced balanced package that blends modestly brisk pace with excellent handling dynamics, better brakes, decent steering and a well-behaved driveline.

In short, it's a surprisingly entertaining little jigger than brings to mind cars like the old Ford Escort RS2000; it probably wasn't meant to be as much fun as it turned out to be, and that's not a bad thing at all.

Safety

The SR Turbo's safety kit includes rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot detection with lane assist, a rear-view camera, front parking sensors and six airbags.

It misses out on driver's knee airbags and automatic emergency braking, which do feature on other Hyundai models.

The Elantra SR Turbo scores a maximum rating of five stars from ANCAP.

Ownership

The Elantra Turbo has a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km, with the first three visits capped at $259 each, while the fourth climbs to $299, before the $399 fifth service for a total of  $1475 over five years or five services.

Hyundai also offers roadside assist packages when cars are serviced via Hyundai dealers.