Quick Take: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport

A cheap, cheerful, and fun compact sedan

DEATH VALLEY, California — The Hyundai Elantra is an honest, if slightly boring, automobile. It is however, better than its competitors. Yet, when Hyundai announced the 2017 Elantra Sport, I just uttered, "Why?"

This didn't feel like the right platform, the right engine, or even the right company for the job. But on a drive through the desert ahead of the 2016 SEMA show, I was proven wrong. Not only is the Elantra Sport a good car, it holds its own against the likes of the Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

We started behind the wheel of a 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport Premium with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission attached to its turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4, which produces 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The gearbox provides predictable, crisp, quick shifts with quality similar to Volkswagen's great DSG gearbox. The Elantra Sport's chassis with fully independent suspension feels very competent and is never nervous at speed, rarely twitching or swaying on the road. The all-season tires aren't as capable as the car, so if you push too hard into a corner, the tires will lose traction and the Elantra Sport will understeer. Fortunately the brakes work well, even if not with the urgency the rest of the car's sportiness implies. We love the Elantra Sport's near-perfectly weighted steering and its fantastic-feeling D-shaped steering wheel, which neither too big nor too small and is just the right thickness.

After a lunch stop in the middle of a desert oasis, we switched into another Elantra Sport with the same 201-hp turbo-four but a 6-speed manual transmission. While the shift-it-yourself Elantra Sport is more engaging, it feels less eager to accelerate. It's a satisfying gearbox — not too notchy, not perfectly smooth — that lets the driver be more in tune with the car. When our 300-mile tour of Nevada and California's deserts ended, we weren't tired of the Elantra Sport. Hyundai has taken an honest economy car and turned it into a lukewarm sports sedan. It's not quite a Subaru Impreza WRX, but it's a heck of a long way from a standard Elantra. Is it perfect? No, but it's cheap, cheerful, and a heck of a lot more fun than some of its rivals.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $21,650
Engine: 1.6L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/201 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 1,560-4,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic, 6-speed manual
Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine FWD sedan
EPA Mileage: 22/30/25 (manual), 26/33/29 (7-DCT)
L x W x H: 179.9 x 70.9 x 56.5 in
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Weight: 3,109 lb
0-60 MPH: N/A
Top Speed: 132 mph (est)
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