Hyundai’s latest sedan now packs hot hatch turbo power and dual clutch box. It sounds like a recipe for a Korean Clio RS with a boot. But has it got the legs and soul to deserve over 200hp? Short answer, Yes.
Making my way to Hyundai, what I had in mind at first was an Elantra that would drive like a mash up between the clinical Ioniq and gimmicky Veloster. Both of which are Hyundai’s first attempts at making their first hybrid and a hot hatch.
The Ioniq was a ground breaking hybrid contender overflowing with cutting-edge autonomous driving tech, made accessible. It offered superb hybrid driving experience, and one that is noticeably more pronounced than its competitors. Also making a debut at the time was their dual clutch box, which actually felt decent for a virgin try.
The Veloster on the other hand is undoubtedly a Megane knock off that offered a whole lot of flair but is far from hot. Despite the show over go attitude of the Veloster, it still is a good candidate for a daily, fast hatchback with innovative 3-door configuration, moonroof and all that.
So, based on my impressions on Hyundai’s recent offerings, I wasn’t expecting the Elantra Sport to blow my mind at all, but I was still eager to try their new 200hp DCT combo. That was all before I drove it. So here goes.
It is noticeably firm, the kind where you can immediately tell is off to a sporty start. Rest assured it’ll soak in road acnes and conquer undulations like a champ, all while serving a confidence inspiring drive. There’s hardly any roll and it negotiate bends with notable poise.
Power is good and has the pull of a 200hp engine although it does get a little noisy approaching the higher revs. Not a big bother because it does make up with smooth surge of acceleration. Rest assured the Elantra Sport will out gun just about anything in its class.
2017 HYUNDAI ELANTRA SPORT
Engine: Gamma Turbo 1.6L 4 Cylinder, Direct Injection
Power: 203.6ps @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 264nm @ 1,500-4,500rpm
Zerotohundred: 7.7 seconds
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Can it Turn?
The Elantra Sport is undoubtedly the best handling Korean produce I’ve ever driven. It feels as if they’ve specced some heavy duty underpinnings to deliver a taut ride. That firmness isn’t there to feign sportiness either. It is more than capable at entertaining corners. Yes, better than the already good Civic Turbo it competes with, by more than a mile.
Don’t expect Civic Type R ability here though. It isn’t, not even close. Then again, unlike serious hot hatches that are built to run and expected to perform, the Elantra Sport on the other hand is a simpleton, more of a mid size sedan with decent amenities, but is one that performs unexpectedly well. To a certain extent, even encouraging when at play, and possesses the spirit of a hot hatch. Just don’t go too far as its talent graph does decline rather steeply.
It is a case of mixed feelings. Interior, ergonomics and such sees improvements but has a long way to go before reaching that of a new Civic. It is where plastics are used that remain plasticky in feel. As for the upholstery, they’ve generously laid patches of red and embroidered “sport” on each of front the seats.
To be honest, these effort would have been better put at keeping the Elantra more sedate and let the great engine and tranny do the talking. But as for buttons and functions, the Elantra packs just about every feature drivers demand these days. Yes and wow, It’s even got Apple Carplay support.
Shifts are precise anywhere, be it at the urban commute or the highway cruise. Dual clutch being dual clutch, there is zero slip and every input feels direct. It is also evident that power isn’t lost in transition. You can bet it’s better than any automatics or CVT cars in its class.
However, unlike the hot GTIs we are all used to, the DCT in the Elantra is a lot more timid. So no pops and bangs here. Steering paddle shifters work and clicks just as well as any proper car these days so no qualms there.
In default the car feels over governed. Whether it is for eco or mechanical sympathy. Surprisingly, At full throttle in default driving mode, the shifts felt more like an automatic. Lacking the sensation of clutch release and re-engagement.
Sport mode is where this DCT really shine. The shifts are actually fast, inspiring when in operation. If they had only tuned the default mode to be somewhere in between sport and default, that’ll be perfect.
For the first time, Hyundai’s Sport badges and embroidery aren’t just for show. The Elantra has definitely arrived at a new milestone with its Sport variant. It feels very capable and confidence inspiring at speed. Its talent show at the corners, where it is flat in demeanour and planted at the sweepers.
7-speed DCT is pretty super compared to infuriating CVT in the Civic. With it bolted to Hyundai’s 1.6L Turbo 4 just translates that 200hp far better than they’ve ever achieved with the Veloster. It doesn’t just feel like a simple improvement in power either, this one’s like a different engine, almost.
It’s quite unbelievable how the Elantra has suddenly become a worthy contender in the world of fast saloons, even if it’s not anywhere near perfect. We’re in the early days of performance Hyundais for sure, and the Elantra Sport is a sign of good things to come. Just like early Samsung Galaxy “iPhone alternatives”, very powerful although unrefined. But look where they are now, all ultra sleek and even more desirable than the latest iPhone X
This or CIVIC?
At the end of the day it’s what tempts you. In short, Elantra Sport for performance or Civic Turbo for practicality.
In the Elantra Sport you get a lot more power, pace and smiles per mile trashing every Civic out there. It offers good handling characteristics, quick and direct DCT transmission and hot-hatch like attitude, but very little of anything else. It looks presentable but is in fact decades behind the Civic’s mega-modern everything.
Now why did I term the Civic Turbo practical? Simply because it’s the safer bet being a Honda obviously, where just about every aspect has been refined to perfection, having evolved from when it first began in 1972 into the 10th generation Civic that it is now.
Although it will never be as athletic as the Elantra Sport, the Civic Turbo is far more superior in terms of build and ride quality, and yes, even social standing. So, the choice is yours.