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Look ma, no bulges: kudos to Hyundai for erring on the mature side with the Elantra Sport's bodywork (image: Hyundai).

What we're driving - Hyundai Elantra Sport

It’s become a rarity for automakers to put manual-transmission models in their press-evaluation fleets, but the Elantra Sport’s direct (if light) lever action and skillfully-weighted clutch pedal made it all the more pleasing to manual-shift for a week.

Although the Sport has a unique, assertively-styled grille and other panels that differentiate it from the rest of the Elantra lineup, it’s not an appearance job—there’s something going here: don’t forget, Hyundai hired BMW’s former M-division engineering boss a couple years ago. There’s a useful 201 hp from the turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-L 4-cylinder and scant lag. With the 6-speed manual, the Sport’s just on the civil side of truly fast—once moving, this car’s a treat to hustle around in the middle gears.

Handling leans modestly towards the “pushy” side of neutral, while the flat-bottom steering wheel and well-considered power steering collaborate to bring the Elantra Sport to a place more engaging than a Toyota Corolla, roughly on par with an equivalent Honda Civic Sport (Hyundai’s manual is better) and without the reputation of a Volkswagen GTI to haul around. Maybe you’d call that a “sleeper.”

In addition to the sparkling turbocharged four, the Elantra Sport fronts a wealth of premium content for the money. The $25000 as-tested price brings a big 8-in. touchscreen with navigation, leather seats, blind-spot warning, hands-free trunk opening, 18-inch alloys and Hyundai’s 5-year/60000-mile warranty. And excellent front seats, I’ve gotta add.

It may not project "sporty," to everyone, but I'm okay with the Elantra Sport's tight creases and refrain from bulgy bodywork. It all seems to appropriate for this discreet—and inexpensive—light-performance sedan.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport

  • Base price:    $21,650
  • As tested:      $25,010
  • Highs:            Refined drivetrain; excellent seats; excellent value
  • Lows:            A few chintzy interior pieces; can’t expect Honda resale
  • Takeaway:     Maybe better than a standard Civic.
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