Forget about cheap and cheerful, Hyundai has made it clear it wants to push into the world of high performance. The N sub-brand we've been promised isn't here yet and the RM16 Concept still isn't on the road, but this focus has borne some fruit. Meet the Elantra Sport, another baby-step towards sporting credibility from Korea's biggest carmaker.
There's a sport badge on the bootlid, but the latest Elantra, which joins the current SE, Eco, and Limited models, isn't a full blown tearaway. Think of it as a warmed over version; a Volkswagen Jetta GLI competitor from Korea. Whereas the VW draws on a 2.0-liter motor, the Elantra draws on a turbocharged 1.6-liter GDI motor, putting out more than 200 hp (149 kW) and 190 lb.ft (258 Nm).
That's about the same amount of power as the Jetta, but 17 lb-ft (23 Nm) less torque. Power is put to the road through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox or, thankfully, a six-speed manual.
On top of putting more power to the road, Hyundai has bestowed a unique rear suspension on the Elantra Sport. Garden variety cars are fitted with a torsion beam down back, which is a cheaper system that frees up space, but isn't nearly as sophisticated as a fully-independent system.
However, the Elantra Sport is fitted with an independent multi-link rear suspension, designed to improve its handling balance and on-road refinement. Developing a new suspension isn't cheap, let alone a sophisticated multi-link system like the one here. Hyundai has made a real commitment to making this car handle well, a commitment that will hopefully elevate this Elantra above the crowd of beige, boring handling mid-sizers on the market.
Also working to elevate the Sport is a liberal smattering of aero-addenda on the unique bodywork. They don't provide any extra downforce, but they do give the car a bit of extra credibility at the traffic lights. Inside, there's a flat bottomed steering wheel and leather bucket seats to make it feel sportier.
Thus far, there's no word about pricing on the Elantra Sport, but expect it to cost around the same as the US$29,000 Jetta GLI when it hits North American showrooms in the fourth quarter of this year.