2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport
1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 195 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm)
Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
22 city / 30 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
10.7 city, 7.8 highway, 9.4 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $22,600 (U.S) / $25,449 (Canada)
As Tested: $23,655 (U.S.) / $27,459 (Canada)
Prices include $920 destination charge in the United States and $1,810 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
The 2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport makes a compelling case for saving the manual transmission. But perhaps not compelling enough, as between the time I drove this car and wrote this review, Hyundai killed the stick in the 2020 Elantra Sport.
I daresay that’s not the car’s fault — the stick-shift Sport would be on my shopping list if I were eyeing a sporty compact commuter. Market forces continue to kill off manual transmissions and, while some brands are fighting the good fight, Hyundai must not have seen a business case in doing battle.
That’s too bad, because the budget buyer looking for value in a sporty compact car just lost one option.
This thing is cheaper than all the segment stalwarts — from Honda Civic Si to Volkswagen Jetta GLI and Subaru WRX (all of which offer manuals) — even if it doesn’t make quite as much power as any of those, or perform quite as well. You’d think that offering approximately 75-80 percent of the performance of the biggest names in the segment at a much lower price while not requiring buyers to sacrifice the chance to shift for themselves would send sport-compact shoppers flocking towards Hyundai. But not enough of them selected the stick apparently.
At 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque coming from a 1.6-liter turbo four, the Sport is close-ish to the Civic Si in horsepower and barely beats it in torque (these are 2019 figures). Yet it doesn’t feel quite as quick, and it’s not quite as astute a handler as that car. It also gives up power to the GLI (228 ponies, 258 lb-ft), and as with the Civic Si, doesn’t appear to be quite as good at carving corners.
It’s also let down by slightly too-light, albeit appropriately quick, steering and a shifter that isn’t as sharp as what’s on offer in the other manufacturers. The clutch is also not on par with the Honda or VW. As a combo, the shifter and clutch aren’t bad, but they fall short of the competition. That said, the combo is still good enough to provide the kind of driving fun that makes manual-transmission enthusiasts grin. Hence, this Hyundai’s case for saving the manuals.
A multi-link rear suspension works in concert with stiffer front and rear springs and better damping to provide superior handling than what your “normal” Elantra offers. Once again, the Sport isn’t quite on the same level as its competition, but it’s good enough to provide plenty of enjoyment.
Most of your pleasure will need to come from behind the wheel — Elantra Sport doesn’t do much to visually distinguish itself from other Elantras (probably the most obvious marker is the flat-bottom steering wheel. That means the look is a bit plain Jane, although not ugly.
That plain, form-follows-function look carries over to the interior, as well. Red stripes on the shifter and steering wheel don’t do much to make things less boring, but at least the switchgear is easy to use.
Ride is a tad stiff but not too harsh for commuting, and the car does allow in a bit too much noise. But you’re going to sacrifice some refinement in the name of fun at this price.
You won’t sacrifice much in terms of fuel economy, however. The Sport trim is rated at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.
My test car had just one option — carpeted floor mats ($135). Standard features included forward collision-avoidance assist, lane-keep assist, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning, 18-inch wheels, LED lights, satellite radio, dual USB ports, power sunroof, Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, flat-bottom steering wheel, hands-free trunk release, keyless entry, and push-button start.
With the stick-shift going away for 2020, the Elantra Sport strikes me as a suddenly less-appealing alternative to the Civic Si and Jetta GLI as we move into the next model year. However, 2019s are still on dealer lots, meaning that if you’re in the market, you have a value choice that offers you three pedals and similar, if not the same, performance.
Too bad the next Sport won’t have a stick. Sure, overall performance may not suffer much, but the reason the #savethemanuals crowd exists is to extoll the fun-to-drive virtues of cars with clutch pedals. And the Elantra Sport is (or was) a prime example.
The Elantra Sport will remain a cheap alternative to two great cars, if you’re willing to sacrifice about 20 percent in terms of performance. But I’d recommend getting yours now, while you still can choose to shift for yourself.
[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]