Johannesburg - 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 thin-spoked 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-crackle-pop 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 that seven-year/200 000km powertrain warranty (the general warranty is valid for 5yrs/150 000km). 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.

Hyundai Elantra 1.6 Turbo Elite Sport

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cyl, turbopetrol
Gearbox: 6-speed automated dual clutch
Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed):7.7 seconds
Top speed (claimed):210km/h
Price: R399 900
Warranty: 5-year/150 000km
Service plan: 5-year/90 000km

IOL Motoring

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