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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport: Fun on a Budget

Review: Until you can afford the sports car of your dreams, you can have plenty of fun driving this nimble, midsize, four-door sedan.

NerdWallet is a free tool to find you the best credit cards, cd rates, savings, checking accounts, scholarships, healthcare and airlines. Start here to maximize your rewards or minimize your interest rates.Philip ReedNerd’s Eye View

- What you’ll like: Sharp handling, six-speed manual shift, comfy seats with side support, huge trunk, sassy exhaust note.
- What you won’t like: Harsh engine noise, plasticky interior, silly shift indicator gauge.
- MSRP as tested: $25,010 (base model: $21,650).

Gallery (click to enlarge)THE SKINNY:

Current market price: $23,877 (from Edmunds.com).

Resale value: Above average.

Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles.

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Competing vehicles: 2017 Honda Civic EX-T, 2017 Mazda3 Sport.

Fuel economy: 25 mpg combined, 22/30 city/highway (FuelEconomy.gov).

Observed fuel economy: 24.9 mpg over 262 miles of highway and city driving.

Emissions: 5 out of 10 (FuelEconomy.gov).

What you don’t know: Stand next to the trunk for about three seconds (with the key in your pocket), and it automatically pops open. Handy when your arms are full of groceries.

Introduction

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport enters a category already crowded with great compact sport models, but it still manages to impress. Introduced in 1990, the Elantra sedan is offered in five trim levels and the Elantra GT hatchback. While this Sport trim isn’t big on character, it blends good looks and four-door practicality with driving fun.

What it’s like to drive

Car and Driver track-tested the Elantra Sport and clocked it at 6.3 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph. While it definitely can get up and go, it really doesn’t feel that fast since it has little low-end torque. Under hard acceleration, the motor sounds harsh, and it’s impossible to obey the shift indicator, which urges you to upshift early and skip gears — probably to promote better fuel economy. Still, this Elantra Sport is light on its feet, and working the hefty ball shifter is a kick.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel feels nice in your hands, providing good road feel, and the brakes evenly apply plenty of stopping power. The suspension is firm, as expected in a sport sedan, and with 18-inch alloy wheels it handles the curves with confidence. All in all, it’s fun to romp on an empty country road, and even with the manual transmission it isn’t a chore to scoot around town on errands.

Engine and transmission

The 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine is turbocharged to produce 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. We drove the six-speed manual, but a seven-speed automatic is also available as a $1,100 option.

Safety and tech

Unlike many contemporary cars, the Elantra Sport doesn’t shove technology in your face. There is a welcome simplicity (well, relatively speaking) to the cabin’s layout and the overall feel of this car. The controls are nicely designed with a row of buttons that allows you to quickly jump to different functions such as radio, navigation, media, etc. The $2,400 premium package adds a host of features, including navigation, an upgraded sound system and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert — which signals when cars are coming from the side as you pull out of spaces in crowded parking lots.

Shopping advice

Just because it’s a Hyundai, don’t assume it is going to be the lowest-priced option in this vehicle class. Be aware that other Elantra trim levels sticker for less and still come with a manual shift to provide a sporty feel. Take the time to use a car comparison tool to look at the pricing and specs for competing vehicles to find the one that suits you best with a combination of price, power and fuel economy.

Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: preed@nerdwallet.com.

Photos 2 and 5 in the gallery by Philip Reed. All others courtesy of Hyundai.

The article 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport: Fun on a Budget originally appeared on NerdWallet.