Hyundai’s value has made them a force to be reckoned with when going up against mainstream offerings. The brand has not been so successful targeting the enthusiast market and it seems they are going to use the same old formula with the 2017 Elantra Sport.
Hyundai just unveiled the Avante (Elantra) Sport in Korea. It will have at least 200 horsepower from a 1.6 liter turbo motor, 18" in wheels, larger brakes and a “retuned suspension.” Hyundai is targeting the Honda Civic Si and Jetta GLI sedans. Hyundai estimates a 0-60 time of about 8 seconds. I hope that the actual numbers are quicker because I’m afraid the Elantra Sport will end up being one more failed enthusiast car from Hyundai.
While Hyundai has attempted to make inroads with enthusiasts before with cars such as the Genesis Coupe and Veloster Turbo. Unfortunately, the final execution concluded with something that was close, but not quite on the mark.
The Genesis Coupe with a 348 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 starts at $27,845 and tops out at nearly $36,000. In this price range, it is outclassed by the muscle cars from Chevy and Ford. The 2016 Camaro will get you 335 horses in a surprisingly quick V6 model for a tick over twenty-eight grand. Ford will put you in a 5.0 liter Mustang with 425 ponies for only $32,395. Some might make the argument that the Genesis is not a really a competitor with the domestics, but I can’t imagine any young person looking to go fast for around thirty large not cross-shopping the Genesis Coupe with the Camaro and Mustang.
Which brings us to Hyundai’s other half-baked attempt at snagging enthusiast buyers in the hot-hatch segment, the Veloster Turbo. I’ll even admit I was pretty excited when I saw the car debut at the Chicago Auto Show. On paper, this had the potential to be a legitimate GTI or Mini Cooper S killer. It had 200 hp mated to a 6-speed manual, 18" wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a badass matte grey paint option, a slew of cool tech features, and a longer warranty for much less than the competition.
The drive did not match up with the spec sheet, and the Veloster Turbo was just a funky economy car with a little more spunk than the base model. Which meant that hoons with twenty grand to spend ended up with the much more serious Fiesta ST. Hyundai will be raiding the Velsoter Turbo parts bin to make the 2017 Elantra Sport.
The problem with this strategy is that Honda’s regular Civic with the 1.5 liter turbo can easily run with the last generation Si. So Honda will probably go in the direction of a de-tuned Type R for the next Si. The GLI is great sports sedan that gets lost in the shadow of its GTI brother but offers similar power, style, and more features in a four-door package for less than the hatchback. The Hyundai will most likely cost less than either of these, but I don’t see serious drivers giving putting it on their shopping list.
Hyundai expects the Sport to be seven to ten percent of the Elantra sales mix. Based on the brand’s past performance, the Elantra Sport probably won’t steal anyone away from the Si or GLI, but its value proposition will convince practical Elantra buyers to spend a little more for some extra flash and a bit more punch.