For 2014, Hyundai introduced a new “Sport” version of its Elantra compact car with a more powerful engine and handling enhancements meant to make it more fun to drive. The Elantra Sport also comes with a few exterior tweaks to set it apart in Hyundai’s line.
|Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six speed manual is standard and a six speed auto is optional.
Fuel Economy: 24 MPG city, 35 MPG highway and a combined 28 MPG.
Pricing: Elanta Sport starts at $22,510 with a stick or $23,510 with an automatic.
Bigger Engine, Better Acceleration
The biggest change occurs under the hood where you would normally find a 1.8-liter engine. In the Sport model, you get the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder that also powers the Elantra GT hatchback. Making 173-hp and 154 lb-ft of torque, this engine helps make the compact compete with some of the other high-end compact cars in the segment. While we never really complained about the 145 hp 1.8-liter unit in the standard Elantra, it’s nice to have a little bit more oomph.
A few other features help separate the Sport model from the Limited model. Around back you’ll notice a subtle rear-lip spoiler and a single exhaust outlet. Additionally, Sport models get special 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels specific to the package.
Inside, the car comes standard with a sunroof and aluminum pedals, but lacks the dual-zone automatic climate control and heated rear seats that are available on Limited trim.
A More Engaging Elantra
While classy looking inside and out, the Elantra Sport’s biggest advantage over other models in the line-up comes with the spruced up driving dynamics. Calling it “sporty” might be a stretch, but it’s more engaging than other versions of the Elantra. The more powerful engine helps as does revised steering calibration, a thicker front stabilizer bar and re-tuned suspension.
The engine boost helps the Elantra keep up with other more powerful compacts like the 2.5-liter equipped Mazda3. With 173-hp the car can pass with ease on the highway. The only downside to the engine is that the direct-injected mill gets a bit rattled at higher RPMs, feeling unrefined at the 6,500 RPM mark, when the peak power arrives.
Our model came with the optional six-speed automatic, which shifts smoothly and doesn’t feel particularly sporty. Fortunately, enthusiasts can opt for a six-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 24 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway with the automatic. Those numbers stay almost the same with the stick, but highway fuel economy drops to 34 MPG. We saw 29 MPG during our week of testing, which is one MPG more than the EPA’s combined rating.
Same Great Look, Inside and Out
The exterior additions to the Sport trim help it look like a more complete package. The exhaust tip and rear lip spoiler for example, really tie the rear end design together.
The interior is equally well executed. Soft-touch materials are used liberally and leatherette inserts on the doors add to the cabin’s premium feel while hard plastic surfaces are mostly hidden. Leather seats are standard with the Sport model and are heated for the driver and front passenger. The driver seat also comes with power adjustability and lumbar support.
A proximity key with push-button start is standard, which is nice because it means you don’t need to worry about fiddling with a key fob to unlock the car when your hands are full. The 4.3” touch-screen is crisp and responsive, while also acting as a display for the rear-view camera when you put the car in reverse.
Unfortunately, the Elantra doesn’t really offer much in the way of tech and safety features. For example, the Chevrolet Cruze features a blind-spot assist system, while the Ford Focus and automatically parallel park for you. The Mazda3 features a heads-up display while the Honda Civic can use your iPhone as the brains to its navigation system. While premium feeling, the Elantra isn’t keeping up with its competition in the high-tech battleground.
The other big issue comes with the Elantra’s passenger space. It’s disappointing that such a premium feeling interior comes with cramped seating for the rear passengers. With 33.1 inches of rear seat space, the Elantra falls far behind the segment-leading Toyota Corolla.
The Elantra Sport starts at $22,510 and for that price you get the six-speed manual gearbox. Opting for the automatic tacks an extra $1,000, raising the price to $23,510. In both cases, the base price is higher for Sport models than it is for the Limited model, which carries a $1,050 lower starting price. Then again, that model is offered with a technology package that adds dual-zone climate control, a larger touch screen and an enhanced stereo system, with which the Limited model costs $25,210.
Regrettably, Hyundai’s newest Elantra skips premium features to avoid stepping on its sibling’s toes. After all, the “Limited” trim wouldn’t make much sense if the Sport was more powerful and offered the same features. Instead, the Sport is more engaging to drive and still well equipped compared to other trim levels of the same car.