Hyundai has attached its SR badge to its budget-friendly Accent, the outgoing i30, the funky Veloster and even the family-oriented Santa Fe seven-seat SUV. While all add a sporty flavour, some offer increased performance -like the new SR-enhanced version of the Elantra.
It steps up with a turbo engine, providing a handy boost to power and torque compared to the other models in the Elantra range. Unusually the Elantra SR treatment also extends to a different rear suspension design, with an independent rear-end in place of a torsion beam axle.
That then makes the Elantra SR more genuinely sporting than the similarly-sized i30 SR hatch it shares showroom space with. But this isn’t an all-out sports car; instead sprinkles some much needed appeal (but not too much, mind) to a capable but largely invisible element of Hyundai's burgeoning range.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $28,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 150kW/265Nm 1.6 litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.7 l/100km | Tested: 8.2 l/100km
The Elantra SR joins the existing Active and Elite variants that went on sale earlier in 2016, giving the staid and sensible sedan range a more carefree twist and acting as a flagship for the range.
Though it picks up a unique bodykit, front and rear lights, and plenty of SR and Turbo badges the Elantra SR isn’t all about ballistic performance. However, with a handy 38kW and even handier 73Nm boost compared to the non-turbo 2.0 litre engine in the rest of the range the SR is far more enthusiastic.
Though small sedans may not be the number-one preference for Australian new car buyers, they still do a fair trade. Finding something with a sporting twist - even only a slight one - is becoming more and more difficult, so it’s nice to see Hyundai throw its hat into the ring.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, sports front seats with seat heating, powered driver’s seat, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, keyless entry and start, red contrast stitching, red seatbelts, bi-Xenon headlights, sports-styled LED tail lights, chrome exhaust finisher, alloy pedals, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, USB and Aux inputs with iPod compatibility, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, six-speaker audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible
- Options Fitted: Red leather seat trim, $295
- Cargo Volume: 458 litres with 60:40 folding rear seat
When optioned with the available red leather trim as seen here, the Elantra SR is unmistakably sporty. There’s more to it than just crimson leather though, with sports-profiled front seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, alloy pedals and carbon-look dash inserts.
Hyundai even pays tribute to performance icon Mercedes-AMG with an instrument cluster that features gauge-in-gauge dials and six o’clock rest positions for the speedo and tacho. It’s a subtle nod, but it’s there.
Unfortunately Hyundai can’t escape the car’s foreign market origins with “Sport” embroidered front seats referring to the Avanta Sport name used in Korea and the Elantra Sport tag for the US instead of the SR moniker used in Australia.
Aside from that though, the rest of the cabin is spacious and well built - as it is with any other member of the Elantra family. Up front is as comfy and spacious as you’ll find in the class, and the powered driver’s seat is a welcome touch.
Rear seat occupants will find more than enough legroom and width too, though the sweeping roofline can deduct crucial headroom for taller passengers, and the standard sunroof nibbles into available overhead space too.
Interestingly even this top-shelf Elantra goes without integrated satellite navigation, relying instead on smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Using Hyundai’s native menu screens could be a touch simpler, but at least the display is large and clear and should be easy to use with some familiarity.
Storage space gets a big tick too, with a nice big lidded bin at the base of the centre stack perfect for hiding a phone or wallet out of view, but a decent glovebox, console and door bins. Boot space is an impressive 458 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seats and aided by the inclusion of bag hooks.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 150kW/265Nm 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: 305mm ventilated front discs, 262mm solid rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted power steering, 10.6m turning circle
The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine in the Elantra SR is that same as you’ll find in the Veloster SR Turbo, with the same 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque.
But the character differs slightly in the Elantra, partially because of the unique packaging - the Veloster is a coupe trying to be a hatch (or is that the other way around?) - while the longer wheelbase of the Elantra changes the balance and the overall weight.
While it may not have the same spring in its step as the smaller Veloster the Elantra certainly feels far more lively than the dozey non-turbo models.
Able to be punted calmly and quietly around town in a mature and moderate way, but also ready to leap into action from 3000rpm and above, the Elantra SR manages to bring an old fashioned turbo feel, but without the lag or dangerously hectic rush of old fashioned forced induction.
Under the skin the SR also differs from the Elantra Active and Elite thanks to independent rear suspension, designed to improve roadholding. Hyundai Australia has also put the Elantra SR through an Australian development program to ensure the car handles Aussie conditions and drives the way Aussie drivers expect it too.
The only surprising part of the package is the 17-inch wheels, which look undersized when matched to the SR’s sporty styling, and the pedestrian 225/45 R17 Hankook Ventus Prime 2 tyres are a bit of a letdown when the larger Hyundai Sonata has recently moved to premium Continental and Michelin tyres.
In most situations, the Elantra SR rides smoothly and softly enough that it’s not grating on the kinds of roads used for daily commutes where it’ll spend the majority of its time, but pick up the pace slightly and the handling matches the SR’s sporty intentions.
Hyundai has also bucked the auto-only small car trend offering a choice of seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, or the six-speed manual tested here. From the big chunky gear knob that feels great in your hand to the the smooth but not quite surgically-precise gear change there’s a lot to like about the manual.
The clutch, however, is a bit of weak link in the chain, light underfoot with a vague engagement point that’s almost at the very top of the pedal’s travel, it can be all too easy to feed revs in a touch too early if picking up the pace, riding the clutch and throwing off driving rhythm.
Steering isn’t quite up to the ultra-communicative standard of a hot hatch either, but the quick rack is at least responsive. The compromise is just right for core duties being light enough for tight confines, and free of nervousness at freeway speeds.
There’s also just a subtle hint of growl from the exhaust; It truly is only light, turn the radio up and you’ll miss it, but it plays a tuneful accompaniment to the warmed-up ethos of the Elantra SR’s fun but hardly ferocious feel.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - The Elantra range scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2016.
Safety Features: The Elantra SR includes six airbags (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain), load-limiting pretensioners for front seatbelts, 2x rear ISOFIX and 3x top tether child seat mounting points, rear parking sensors, a rear view camera, blind spot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert.
Advanced features like autonomous braking and forward collision alert aren’t yet available on the Elantra range.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: The Elantra SR Turbo is covered under Hyundai’s iCare capped price servicing program, with service intervals set at 12 months/10,000km (whichever comes first). The first three services are priced at $259 each, with the fourth service at $299 and the fifth at $399. Consult your Hyundai dealer for full terms, conditions, and exclusions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With a crisp and communicative front-end, the Mazda3 SP25 leads the small car pack for dynamic ability, plus the excellent interior comes close to the satisfyingly premium feel of more expensive Euro competitors.
Wearing an evocative name from the past, the Pulsar SSS might look unassuming on the outside, but beneath the skin it packs in a zesty 140kW engine. and with a $26,990 price it represents great value.
It's not a sedan, but bursting with sporty style, luxury appointments, and available technology including its unique-to-the-segment four-wheel steering, the Renault Megane is a dark horse in this race and one that’s sure to surprise. It's just a shame the price is set so high.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With the added zing of a 1.6-litre turbo engine, the Hyundai Elantra SR takes an otherwise pedestrian sedan and turns it into… well, not a hot sedan per-se, but a convincingly warm one.
The move is somewhat unusual too as Australian’s love a hatchback, but are less interested in the four-door versions of small cars. However, that’s not to say the segment is Hyundai’s to own with Nissan and Mazda also giving their small sedans a warm-up.
Did Hyundai need to introduce this car? Maybe not. But by giving consumers an extra option in the small car class the Korean company once synonymous with driveway deals proves once again that it has matured far beyond its budget beginnings, even if the Elantra SR still represents good value.
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