2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport Review - Making a Case for Saving the Manuals

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport

1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 195 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm)
Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
22 city / 30 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
10.7 city, 7.8 highway, 9.4 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$22,600 (U.S) / $25,449 (Canada)
As Tested
$23,655 (U.S.) / $27,459 (Canada)
Prices include $920 destination charge in the United States and $1,810 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 hyundai elantra sport review making a case for saving the manuals

The 2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport makes a compelling case for saving the manual transmission. But perhaps not compelling enough, as between the time I drove this car and wrote this review, Hyundai killed the stick in the 2020 Elantra Sport.

I daresay that’s not the car’s fault — the stick-shift Sport would be on my shopping list if I were eyeing a sporty compact commuter. Market forces continue to kill off manual transmissions and, while some brands are fighting the good fight, Hyundai must not have seen a business case in doing battle.

That’s too bad, because the budget buyer looking for value in a sporty compact car just lost one option.

This thing is cheaper than all the segment stalwarts — from Honda Civic Si to Volkswagen Jetta GLI and Subaru WRX (all of which offer manuals) — even if it doesn’t make quite as much power as any of those, or perform quite as well. You’d think that offering approximately 75-80 percent of the performance of the biggest names in the segment at a much lower price while not requiring buyers to sacrifice the chance to shift for themselves would send sport-compact shoppers flocking towards Hyundai. But not enough of them selected the stick apparently.

At 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque coming from a 1.6-liter turbo four, the Sport is close-ish to the Civic Si in horsepower and barely beats it in torque (these are 2019 figures). Yet it doesn’t feel quite as quick, and it’s not quite as astute a handler as that car. It also gives up power to the GLI (228 ponies, 258 lb-ft), and as with the Civic Si, doesn’t appear to be quite as good at carving corners.

It’s also let down by slightly too-light, albeit appropriately quick, steering and a shifter that isn’t as sharp as what’s on offer in the other manufacturers. The clutch is also not on par with the Honda or VW. As a combo, the shifter and clutch aren’t bad, but they fall short of the competition. That said, the combo is still good enough to provide the kind of driving fun that makes manual-transmission enthusiasts grin. Hence, this Hyundai’s case for saving the manuals.

A multi-link rear suspension works in concert with stiffer front and rear springs and better damping to provide superior handling than what your “normal” Elantra offers. Once again, the Sport isn’t quite on the same level as its competition, but it’s good enough to provide plenty of enjoyment.

Most of your pleasure will need to come from behind the wheel — Elantra Sport doesn’t do much to visually distinguish itself from other Elantras (probably the most obvious marker is the flat-bottom steering wheel. That means the look is a bit plain Jane, although not ugly.

That plain, form-follows-function look carries over to the interior, as well. Red stripes on the shifter and steering wheel don’t do much to make things less boring, but at least the switchgear is easy to use.

Ride is a tad stiff but not too harsh for commuting, and the car does allow in a bit too much noise. But you’re going to sacrifice some refinement in the name of fun at this price.

You won’t sacrifice much in terms of fuel economy, however. The Sport trim is rated at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.

My test car had just one option — carpeted floor mats ($135). Standard features included forward collision-avoidance assist, lane-keep assist, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning, 18-inch wheels, LED lights, satellite radio, dual USB ports, power sunroof, Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, flat-bottom steering wheel, hands-free trunk release, keyless entry, and push-button start.

With the stick-shift going away for 2020, the Elantra Sport strikes me as a suddenly less-appealing alternative to the Civic Si and Jetta GLI as we move into the next model year. However, 2019s are still on dealer lots, meaning that if you’re in the market, you have a value choice that offers you three pedals and similar, if not the same, performance.

Too bad the next Sport won’t have a stick. Sure, overall performance may not suffer much, but the reason the crowd exists is to extoll the fun-to-drive virtues of cars with clutch pedals. And the Elantra Sport is (or was) a prime example.

The Elantra Sport will remain a cheap alternative to two great cars, if you’re willing to sacrifice about 20 percent in terms of performance. But I’d recommend getting yours now, while you still can choose to shift for yourself.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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4 of 68 comments
  • MorrisGray MorrisGray on Oct 04, 2019

    I love these car discussions and want to say thanks to you all for participating. Some of you I have seen on other car reviews. I am car shopping but not in a hurry to buy one. Trying to find what I would enjoy to drive, has a manual transmission and would be a fun and reliable daily driver. My 2006 Mazda3 currently takes care of that for me. If I buy a 4 cylinder I want a manual. If not I will move up to a 6 cylinder if I have to settle for an automatic. My wife drives the manual Mazda3 also so that has no determination on what I will buy. She loves the little Mazda3 as much as me because it is fun to drive and has been very reliable. But it is getting old and we can afford to buy something new. But what? What is there that will most likely be reliable, has a manual and can be purchased for under $40k? I only would rather spend much less but may spend up to that for the right car. I paid around $15k for my 2006 Mazda3 when I bought it and it has been one of the best cars I have ever owned for value, general purpose and enjoyment. I wanted to buy a 2019 Mazda6 or Mazda3 sedan with a manual this year but not available anymore. And I read that Mazda is not as fun to drive as they used to be so I am searching and reading reviews. A doge Challenger would be fun to drive I believe but not sure I want to take the chance. I would rather have a 2 door Charger or maybe the 4 door if it had a manual transmission. I am considering the new GLI as I prefer a sedan but many say for driving, get the GTI. VW is reducing their warranty for the 2020 models and I am already unsure of VW reliabilty to begin with. I like to drive a car. I drive a tractor trailer for my living. My wife likes comfort and we are over 50 so even though I am young at heart my wants have changed to accommodate both of our wants and not just mine alone. My wife drives the 2012 Genesis sedan with 3.8L v6 and she has been spoiled with comfort, reasonably good mpg for a big car and heated seats. Her car has been good so far with a few minor quirks and I really plan on keeping it for another 5 years or so. I would even consider buying another Genesis with the 3.8L motor but kind of want something more enjoyable to drive like the Mazda I own.

    • See 1 previous
    • MorrisGray MorrisGray on Oct 04, 2019

      @dividebytube D-B-T.... good suggestions but not for me at my age and because I am also wanting to provide some comfort for my wife who is quite often riding with me wherever I go. The Challenger would be the most acceptable of that list but is Dodge dependable? I don't think they make what I really want now which would probably be a naturally aspirated v6 with a manual that has comfort and reliability and is economical to drive also. Doesn't have to be the best at anything but good all around and something I can rely on and enjoy for ten plus years. A G70 might fit that if it had sometning besides the 4 cylinder turbo motor with manual but then again I read that the manual was no fun in that car. But maybe I should drive it myself and see. But I would still prefer a NA motor or a 6 cyl.

  • MorrisGray MorrisGray on Oct 04, 2019

    Sorry for my long winded post above. I guess my thoughts were intended originally to compliment Hyundai for their efforts to build competitive and reliable alternatives to the competition. Honda used to be really cheap cars when they first came into play and many people thought the same thing about them back then. And being an import car back then was even considered more disgraceful to own. Point is if you don't like KIA or Hyundai cars just don't buy them but they are not bad and they are improving each year. Back in 1996 I special ordered a Chev Impalla SS and when it arrived there was three problems with the car so I refused it. I ordered another one in a different color because I didn't want them to fix the problems on that for me. When the next one came in the dealer called me and said sorry but you are not going to want this one either, so I ended up buying an Infinity I30 instead and it was also one of the best overall cars I have ever owned. And today I refuse to buy a Government Motors product for several reasons.

  • Jeff S Corey--Thanks again for this serious and despite the lack of comments this is an excellent series. Powell Crosley does not get enough recognition and is largely forgotten even in his hometown of Cincinnati although the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Airport has 2 Crosley cars on display. Crosley revolutionized radios by making an affordable radio that the masses could afford similar to what Henry Ford did with the Model T. Both Crosley and Ford did not invent the radio and the car but they made them widespread by making them affordable. I did not know about the Icyball but I did know about Crosley refrigerators, airplanes, cars, and radios.
  • Oberkanone C5 Aircross is the only vehicle that would have any appeal in North America. Can't see it doing well with Citroen badge, maybe a chance with Chrysler badge.
  • Oberkanone 1921 thru 1936 are the best
  • Skippity I like how the current logo looks in the grille. This'll look like Rudolph's nose. No matter the logo I might buy a French car for a daily driver IF it comes with a Kia/Mitsubishi warranty.
  • Gre65689033 I am the original owner of 2007 Camry CE with 5sp manual transmission 16 1/2 years 180000 miles of Yes Japan made unbelievable bliss. Yes silver, garage kept, synthetic oil engine and transmission (Amsoil) not even a leak yet A/C perfect. Aircraft engineers taught me always buy Toyotas made in Japan so yes found 2021 RAV4 LE made in Japan now wife’s car. They were right. Thank you. GREG