2017 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo Review

Rating: 8.0
$18,130 $21,560 Dealer
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The 2017 Hyundai Elantra SR is a warm small sedan – but will buyers warm to it?
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Who on earth wants a small, warmed-up sedan like this – the 2017 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo?

According to Hyundai Australia, there’s a chance that several thousand people do. In fact, the Elantra SR Turbo’s competitive set – including the Mazda 3 SP25, Nissan Pulsar SSS, Holden Cruze SRi-V and the recently released Honda Civic – accounts for a decent share of small car sales.

Remember the small car segment is massive in its own right, so even a seemingly small slither of the pie could equate to a decent boost in sales.

And based on our drive of the new model at the launch of the car outside Albury last week, there’s good reason for the Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo to gather a number of those potential souped-up small sedan buyers. The company found some stimulating serpentine stretches of road that put the Elantra SR Turbo’s locally tuned suspension and steering to the test. More on that soon…

Let’s start off with the nitty-gritty: pricing and specs. The Elantra SR Turbo kicks off at $28,990 plus on-road costs for the six-speed manual (yes, they’ve got a stick-shift option!), and $31,290 plus on-roads for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic version.

The thing is reasonably well equipped for the cash, too: you get 17-inch alloy wheels (18s with Pirelli tyres are set to be an accessory option, at a cost of $1890) as well as bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights and an SR-specific body kit including revised front and rear bumpers, side skirts and twin exhaust outlets.

Inside there’s leather-accented seats with red stitching (or the option of a red leather finish for $295, available with some exterior colour choices only), and the Elantra SR Turbo gets black headlining, electronic sunroof, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the front seats are both heated, too. The driver’s seat has 10-way electric adjustment and lumbar support, while the front passenger seat remains manually adjustable.

It feels like a sporty little thing when you sit inside: the red stitching (or red seat finishes) adds to the intent of the cabin, and the beautifully bolstered seats up front are instantly comfortable, without being too body-hugging.

The back seats don’t have quite as much support, and while the Elantra offers decent space in the rear, it isn’t quite as good as the best sedans in the class. There’s enough room for average-to-slightly-taller-than-average adults, though knee room is a little cramped. Parents will appreciate the dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and three top-tether points, not to mention the centrally mounted air vents.

While it is still quite a black-on-black affair inside, and while the plastics on the dash-top are soft, and the cabin is well laid out, there are some hard plastic sections that detract a tad, and the faux-carbon-fibre finish on the doors could have been set off by a little more chrome work.

There’s a 7.0-inch media screen with the latest connectivity in the form of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with the requisite Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, plus two USB inputs (one for media playback, one for charging). However, even in this top-spec model, there is no built-in satellite navigation.

There are good safety aids as well, with front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring with lane-change assist (the light will flash if you start to merge). It does miss out on autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control that you get in some similarly priced cars, but there are seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee protection).

Storage throughout the cabin is decent, with reasonable door pockets all around, a flip-down armrest with cup holders in the back and a pair of cup holders up front, and there are a few little storage cubbies there too.

The boot of the Elantra SR Turbo is slightly less capacious than the lower-specification variants, due to the fact the SR switches to an independent rear suspension setup, instead of a torsion-beam layout. There is no difference in terms of space above the boot floor – it's still a 458-litre boot – but underneath there is a space-saver spare wheel rather than a full-size as is seen in the regular Elantras.

Thankfully the small compromise in the boot has been completely worth it for the dynamic ability that new suspension setup has added to the car.

The independent rear suspension allows the Elantra to cope better with bumps and also gives it more tenacity in corners. The rear end doesn’t skip over bumps, and the ride compliance is excellent. Over the launch route we encountered pot holes, sharp edges and more, and the Elantra SR Turbo was never flustered.

The steering – tuned by the local engineers – is very impressive for this type of car. It turns in eagerly, with a decent amount of feel to the driver’s hands. It changes directions without fuss, and there’s a real connectedness at the tiller. You will see some understeer if you tackle a series of tighter bends, and some of that comes down to the Hankook Ventus Prime 2 tyres. We imagine the optional 18s with Pirellis may eliminate that even further.

We pushed through a gymnast’s ribbon of twists and turns, and our finding at the end was that this is, without doubt, the best handling Hyundai yet.

Under the bonnet is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque – it’s essentially the same engine as the Veloster Turbo, but it has seen some improvements to the way the engine breathes, according to Hyundai. The fact it has a downsized turbo four also makes it punchier than the current i30 SR, which has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine.

We tested both the six-speed manual – which is set to a sport tune for its engine and steering setup as standard – and the seven-speed dual-clutch version, which has three drive modes to choose from: eco, normal and sport.

The drive modes affect the way the steering reacts, the throttle calibration and the gearing and reactiveness of the transmission. In sport mode the steering gets a bit heavier, and the auto drivetrain holds gears a little longer. You can choose manual mode with the auto transmission, too, but the gearbox will override you if you try to let it rev out.

That said, the gearbox is intuitive, snappy with its shifts and allows you to explore the rev range as much as you really need to (peak torque, after all, hits between 1500-4500rpm).

The engine is not manic, but it is rapid, and while it doesn’t have the soundtrack some buyers may desire from a warmed up model, it is sporty enough in its response to get things moving quickly as you exit a bend.

It isn’t quite as speedy from a standing start, with the transmission robbing some momentum at low speeds with a touch of stumbling. The manual was a smooth shifter, with a decent weight to the action and a clutch pedal weighting that showed a good balance of city-friendliness and open-road capability.

As for fuel use, the manual model claims 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres (we saw 11.0L across a spirited, mountainous 150km stint), and the auto claims 7.2L/100km (our car showed 9.2L/100km after 250km of mainly hard driving).

As with all Hyundai models, the new Elantra SR Turbo is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and there is up to 10 years’ roadside assistance if you get your car serviced at Hyundai. The car is covered by a lifetime capped-price service campaign, with maintenance due every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres, whichever occurs first. The average cost per visit over 60 months/50,000km is just $295.

We said before that the 2017 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo is the best handling car from the brand yet. It’s also excellent value, relatively practical and very well priced. If you’re one of those people on earth who wants a warm sedan, it’d have to come down to a duel between this and the Honda Civic RS