When the "Car of the Year" fanfare died down following its 2012 award the Hyundai Elantra parked on its laurels. Well, not totally.
The Elantra won with a combination of imaginative styling, exceptional fuel economy, responsiveness to consumer desires and, as one judge put it, "old fashioned bang for the buck."
The formula changed little in the intervening years. Why mess with a good thing? But nobody in the car biz keeps exactly the same product over the years. That mindset succeeded for only two famous cars: the Ford Model T and the Volkswagen Beetle. The original Beetle lasted more than half a century on the world market. The unabridged Model T managed 15 million sales in 19 years until replaced by the Model A.
Even if you stick with the same design, as South Korea's Hyundai has with the Elantra, the imperative is to add features and tweak designs to maintain appeal. Usually, it's something like a "special edition" version: features or options that were previously extra cost but now are standard. Oddly, sometimes the idea is to enhance the car by subtraction.
Both things happened with the 2016 Hyundai Elantra. This model gets a "value edition," delivering unique 16-inch alloy wheels, power tilt-and-slide sunroof, leather steering wheel and shift knob, proximity key with push button start, heated front seats, chrome beltline molding and aluminum entrance sills, side mirror turn signals, and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
But a clutch of customers likely would prefer the Elantra Sport, despite the fact that some of its desirable features were pulled. For 2016, it no longer offers leather seating or the motorized glass sunroof. In exchange, however, budget-minded customers will find that the Elantra Sport sports a price tag that is $1,335 lower than its predecessor. That gets no argument here.
In every automotive installation, despite consumers' contrary preferences, a quality cloth upholstery, like those offered by Hyundai and other vehicle manufacturers, beats leather or leatherette every time. There's no need for heating or cooling seats because cloth is lukewarm in summer and cozy in winter. So that's a solid plus in the 2016 Elantra.
The sunroof is more debatable. Some folks wouldn't be without it; others could care less. Also, the Elantra Sport lacks automatic climate control, which would be welcome.
But the gut catcher with the Elantra Sport compared to its "value edition" and other versions is the powertrain. Instead of a 145 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, the Sport comes equipped with a 173-horsepower, 2.0-liter four banger with 154 lb-ft of torque.
It transforms a stylish economy car into something that provides, if something less than sports sedan performance, at least a car that won't prove embarrassing in stoplight sprints or casual car conversations.
Marketed as a compact, the Elantra actually is a midsize car, though barely, according to the U.S. government's definitions. The EPA classifies cars based on interior volume, which includes the passenger space and trunk. A midsize is defined as one with an interior of 110 to 119 cubic feet. The Elantra has 110.4.
On the road, the Elantra Sport's personality is pleasant and unobtrusive. The interior, even at highway speeds, is quiet enough for conversations and the audio volume does not need to be cranked up.
Despite occasional hiccups during acceleration, the automatic transmission shifts smoothly. There's adequate power for freeway merging and passing on two lane roads. The steering has a heavy feel like some luxury cars and the straight line highway tracking is steady, requiring few corrections.
Up front, the seats are supportive with good seatback bolstering. Out back, there's enough room for 6 footers in the outboard seats. A third passenger can squeeze in the middle.
Though little changed from its recognition as Car of the Year, the Elantra -- and especially the Sport
Copyright © 2015 Motor Matters
|Base price||$22,075 (as tested: $23,400)|
|Curb weight||2,959 lbs.|
|Engine type||16-valve 4-cylinder w/GDI|
|Epa mileage rating||24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||13.2 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||173 at 6500 rpm|
|Overall length||179.1 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||154 at 6500 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger midsize FWD sedan|
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