A Hyundai Elantra with real sport­ing am­bi­tions

A 150kW 1.6-litre turbo en­gine makes this Korean sedan quite a brisk mile-gob­bler

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TEST - JA­SON WOOSEY

IT DOESN’T take long to fig­ure out that the all-new Hyundai Elantra wants to do more than just beat the Corolla and its C-Seg­ment bud­dies at the sen­si­ble sedan gig, with all its Uber jour­neys, fam­ily com­mutes and schmoozy rep­ping.

As the Sport badge on the bootlid of the flag­ship on test here im­plies, the lat­est ver­sion of Hyundai’s old-faith­ful (SA’s first ever Hyundai was an Elantra, re­mem­ber?) has some sport­ing am­bi­tions.

You im­me­di­ately get a sense of th­ese in­ten­tions from the ex­te­rior styling pack­age with its bolder bumpers, black grille, side sill ex­ten­sions and thinkspoked 17” al­loys, and it be­comes even more ap­par­ent when you hop into the cabin, with its bright porn-star-red leather seats and ‘Sport’ em­broi­dery.

Yet the proof of the pud­ding lies be­neath the bon­net and thank­fully this car ac­tu­ally has the go to match the show as Hyundai has in­stalled the most lib­er­ally-tuned ver­sion of its 1.6-litre tur­bopetrol en­gine. As per its Veloster Turbo and Kia Cer­ato Koup cousins, this di­rect in­jec­tion mo­tor is rated at 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1500 to 4500rpm. It’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­mated gear­box.

If you do the sums, there does ap­pear to be a fair amount of bang for the buck on offer here. Sure, its price tag seems on the steep side at R399 900 for the Elantra 1.6T Sport, but the only sedan that comes close to it in out­put terms is the 140kW Audi A3 2.0 TFSI sedan at R468 000. Even hum­bling down to Honda’s 127kW 1.5T Civic sedan Sport will set you back R442 900. Let’s not for­get Ford’s 132kW Fo­cus 1.5T auto, which seems a com­par­a­tive bar­gain at R330 900, but comes with less fea­tures than the Elantra.

But how does the Elantra put all its power down? This is where the ‘sport’ fac­tor starts to fade a bit, but not nec­es­sar­ily in a bad way. Cer­tainly, it’s very fast and that dual-clutch gear­box goes about its business quickly and ef­fi­ciently. Foot-flat ac­cel­er­a­tion is a very smooth and ef­fort­less ex­pe­ri­ence in this car, but there’s no real acous­tic drama to ac­com­pany this. Char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, it’s fair to say, the Elantra Sport is more of an un­der­stated but brisk mile-gob­bler than snap-crack­le­pop GTI wannabe.

It clearly wants to be a sports sedan for grown-ups, and we like that about it, ex­cept that it doesn’t ap­pear that the suspension tuners got that memo as the ride is a bit on the firm side, although it’s not nec­es­sar­ily un­com­fort­able.

The Sport does have a fancier rear axle than reg­u­lar Elantras, trad­ing the tor­sion beam for an in­de­pen­dent, multi-link rear suspension. The car han­dles rather neatly, but it’s not go­ing to gob­ble up cor­ners like a GTI and lack­ing such niceties as a lim­ited slip diff, it’s more a case of safe un­der­steer than tight apex clip­ping. The steer­ing, while ac­cu­rate, also lacks the kind of feed­back that you might ex­pect from a sportier sedan or hatch.

The cabin man­ages to strike a good bal­ance between be­ing fancy and be­ing sporty. There are some racy touches, such as a red-striped, flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel and those afore­men­tioned bright red leather seats. That colour scheme is a bit hec­tic ac­tu­ally, es­pe­cially when a sub­tler and more el­e­gant tone of red or ma­roon would have lifted the am­bi­ence just as nicely. But I know I’m nit­pick­ing here and hats off to Hyundai for up­hol­ster­ing the seats in some­thing other than the de­fault dark grey.

It’s business as usual for the rest of the cabin, which as we’ve come to ex­pect from mod­ern Hyundai, is well in­su­lated and boasts rock-solid build qual­ity, rea­son­ably nice ma­te­ri­als and enough fea­tures to sink a cruise liner.

All Elantras come with Hyundai’s sat­nav-equipped 20cm touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with Mir­ror Link for An­droid and HDMI for iPhone in­te­gra­tion. Also fea­tured across the range is cruise con­trol and rear park as­sist, while the 2.0 Elite and 1.6T Sport add things like auto cli­mate con­trol with rear ventilation, start but­ton and rain sen­sor.

This sedan is quite spa­cious too, with am­ple rear legroom and a roomy 458 litre boot.

This prac­ti­cal­ity is a virtue of the car’s notably cab-for­ward de­sign that max­imises the amount of space al­lo­cated to the cabin, yet de­spite this the Elantra man­ages to avoid look­ing dowdy. It has a some­what cleaner look to it than its fussy ‘Flu­idic Sculp­ture’ pre­de­ces­sor and that should en­sure it ages well. And yet it still plays the flashy part well with that big-grilled, Audi like front end and a slop­ing tail that’s pierced by large, swoopy lights that neatly strad­dle the shoul­der­line crease and sporty boot lip. VERDICT Good look­ing, fast, prac­ti­cal and well ap­pointed, the Elantra Sport ticks a lot of boxes for those seek­ing a sedan with ex­tra flavour, and let’s not for­get the seven-year/200 000km pow­er­train war­ranty. Yet given that its over­all per­son­al­ity seems more grand tourer than boy racer, Hyundai could per­haps have tuned the suspension a bit more for com­fort.

All con­sid­ered though, it’s still a great pack­age at the price.

R

At R399 900 the Elantra 1.6T Sport of­fers quite good bang for buck.

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