2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T new car reviews

For the 2019 model year, Hyundai will gladly sell you a manual-transmission-equipped Elantra Sport with the 201-Horsepower 1.6-Liter GAMMA 4-cylinder. On paper, that puts the Elantra Sport in direct competition with the heavy-hitting Honda Civic Si.

Hyundai has made Elantra GTs and Sport models in some form or another over the years, but they were definitely more in the also-ran category and not considered a threat to cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI or the aforementioned Civic. With this model, Hyundai has clearly upped the ante with the 2019 refresh, especially giving it the six-speed manual option.

In 2020, the six-speed manual is no longer an option, however. Your only choice will be a seven-speed DCT with paddle shifters. We’ll let you decide which you’d rather have.

The six-speed is not the only big news with the 2019 Elantra Sport, however. The design has slightly evolved, giving the car a more upscale look; something along the lines of a baby Audi. Full LED lighting graces the Limited and Sport models, which really plays into the baby Audi vibe. Hyundai has come a long way.

And the Sport has another trick up its sleeve: It features multi-link independent rear suspension, whereas all other trim levels of the 2019 Elantra make do with the Coupled Torsion Beam Axle. The Sport also comes with 12-inch front rotors; other models are stuck with 11-inch rotors.

So a six-speed, 201 Horsepower Hyundai with multi-link rear suspension for under $24k. If you want one, don’t walk, run to your nearest Hyundai dealer.

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Review 1:

Is the Hyundai Elantra Sport with the manual box a viable alternative to the latest Honda Civic Si? No. Full stop.

Review 2:

Okay, let’s look at things a bit closer as I just put a few hundred miles on the Hyundai and have covered a few thousand in our long-term 2019 Civic Si.

Looks: Yes, I’m starting here because unless you approach the cars blindfolded, that will likely be your first encounter. The latest facelift moves the Hyundai upmarket, while I admit that the latest Civic isn’t for everyone. I’ll let you all fight out the winner here.

Interior: The Hyundai is a bit more traditional regarding the gauges, center stack and dash. If you like buttons for the HVAC and sound system, then the Hyundai will get the nod–but Honda made some big improvements for 2019. Both feature CarPlay, my favorite thing in the world. The Elantra door caps are hard plastic, though, while the Civic’s have some give in them. Advantage? Could be another toss-up.

Seats: The Elantra seat bottoms felt too flat for me. The Civic’s offer more lateral support for both your body and your butt. These seats feel like a slightly wider version of the buckets found in the BRZ. The Civic Si wins here.

Shift Knob: What? Shift knob? Yes, it’s one of the controls. The Civic’s is mostly aluminum save for some leather. On a hot day, it’s like grabbing a soldering iron. The Hyundai features a large ball that doesn’t conduct heat the same way. Yay. But the shift pattern insert on our test car felt ever so slightly loose–like a fraction of a millimeter of play, but enough to make you wonder if everything’s just a hair off. Call this one a wash as well, maybe.

The Shifter Itself: For a cable shifter–trust me, this isn’t damning something with faint praise–the Civic shifts really well. On track and on the street, I haven’t had a problem grabbing a gear. The action feels crisp and precise. Let’s give Hyundai props for offering a real stick, but its action feels more passenger car than sporty car. Like, the motions are there but the passion isn’t. Honda wins.

Ride: Okay, now we’re getting to the good stuff. First, thank you, Hyundai, for fitting a proper rear suspension. Let’s start with the Civic. Thanks to the adjustable shocks, it’s the best of both worlds: Pretty darn benign on the street and nicely composed for track use. The Hyundai felt a little overdamped on really rough pavement. The Hyundai might go down the road a little quieter. I’m going to give the Honda the win here since it better transitions from road to track.

Brakes: More props to Hyundai for fitting larger brakes to the Elantra Sport when ordered with the stick shift: 12.0-inch fronts along with 10.3-inch rears. (Standard on the Elantra are 11-inch front rotors.) The Civic Si, though, gets 12.3-inch front rotors along with 11.1-inch rears. Feel on both is fine–easy to modulate and everything. Let’s call it a tie with stock equipment. Now, another question: Are your favorite pads available for each chassis?

Tires: The OE Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season tires fitted to our Civic Si have done better on track than expected. Likewise, the Hyundai also comes on a UHP all-season tire, in this case the Hankook Ventus S1 noble2 The Civic’s tires measure 10mm wider, but it’s probably a toss-up. Sadly we didn’t get to track the Hyundai.

Handing: Despite the upgraded rear suspension, the Hyundai still doesn’t feel track-ready for me–and part of that might just be the rest of the package, including the flat seats. It’s not mushy but a little slow to transition. If I had a choice between these two chassis for a track day, the Honda wins.

Transmission: I’ve driven/owned/lived with every Civic Si going back to 1986. While at the core you can call the Civic Si a tuned economy car, the transmissions have always been perfectly fine for the task at hand. Good ratio, good feel and, on the latest, factory Torsens. It’s my standard. The Hyundai’s felt heavy and slow in all regards–much closer to the new stick shift Corolla than the Civic Si. The Honda wins.

Engine: On paper, it looks really close. The Civic Si’s turbo 1.5-liter engine makes 205 horsepower at 5700 rpm along with 192 lb.-ft. of torque between 2100 and 5100 rpm. The Hyundai’s turbo 1.6 releases 201 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 195 torque units between 1500 and 4500 rpm. Both cars weigh a few ticks north of 2800 pounds. It’s a tie, right? Then why does the Civic feel so much stronger, happier to rev and, at the end of the day, just more fun to drive? The Civic will snap forward in every situation, slipping the tires with easy. The Hyundai is kinda slow to reply and, while it chugs away, isn’t in the same class. The snap just isn’t there. Advantage, Honda.

Money: Hey, we should look at prices. Both the 2019 Civic Si sedan and coupe MSRP for $24,300. After adding in floor mats–included on the Honda–our Elantra shows a price of $23,655. Advantage goes to Hyundai? Maybe, but what about resale? And how much to add a limited-slip to the Elantra? And do we want to look at fuel economy, too? The Hyundai shows a combined city/highway EPA rating of 25 mpg. The Civic Si posts 32 combined mpg. But a PS: The Hyundai runs on regular while the Civic needs premium. The EPA gives the nod to the Honda, though: $1600 annual fuel costs vs. $1650. While the Hyundai is less expensive out the door, not sure it can be called a winner here.

Final Tally: I went into this thinking that Hyundai was going to offer us a true Civic Si competitor. On paper, and based on our experience with the Veloster N and R models, this looked like a great faceoff with the Hyundai coming in at less money.

But after time in each, the Elantra Sport just falls short. It’s a major step up from the stick shift Corolla, but let’s call it a possible alternative to the Civic Sport.

These are also great early efforts from Hyundai. Honda has been giving us performance cars since the ’60s. They have a bit of a head start. Hyundai will now sell you a turnkey race car. They’re making strides. Quickly.

This Hyundai will also go down as a bit of a unicorn, too, as the stick shift will fall from the Elantra Sport’s option list for the 2020 model year. The big brakes and independent rear suspension will continue. If there are leftover out there available for a deep discount, then it could be the deal of the day.

Want a sporty Elantra with a stick going forward, though? One is still available, but you’re looking at the five-door Elantra GT N Line.

MSRP is $23,300, but the Hyundai site is telling me that I can probably get one for $21,800, putting it $2500 less than the Civic–that’s 10% less. And the Elantra GT comes fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires and sportier seats. Now we could be talking about a closer matchup. The Civic Si still offers the Torsen, but the Hyundai would cost less.

And, of course, there’s always the Veloster. The R Spec pushes out 201 horsepower for $22,900. Need more? The Veloster N returns for 2020, topping out at 275 horsepower.

Good times, indeed.

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

Something I notice about the way people—myself included—speak about Hyundais, is that it’s typically in terms of another car. The discussion revolves around whether the Hyundai in question is better, worse, or comparable to any numbers of Hondas, Toyotas, Fords, BMWs or some other brand.

This is partly because of age. Most of us grew up in a world without Hyundai, so even though they’ve been a fixture in the US for decades, they are technically one of the new kids on the block. Well, I’m going to propose that it’s time we flip the script. Rather than comparing Hyundai vehicles to some outside standard, let’s just go ahead and admit that Many Hyundai models are fully qualified to BE the standard.

The Elantra Sport certainly makes a case. if nothing else, it makes a strong case for getting off the couch and making a decision because this car won’t be around much longer. But if we’re making comparisons, the most logical would be the Honda Civic Sport and Civic Si. The Hyundai pumps out 201 hp, slotting it closer to the 205hp Civic Si than the 180hp Sport, but the overall package of the Elantra is a Sport-slayer if we’ve ever seen one. The Elantra exudes competence and user-friendliness, even if it doesn’t have much of a sharp, sporty edge. With a more aggressive set of tires and a little bit of negative camber, though, who knows? Maybe it develops a little more of an attitude and turns into a four-door Veloster N.

As an every-day commuter that you can throw around some cones on the weekend, though, the Elantra Sport makes a strong argument. Everything operates so easily and so fluidly that it becomes a very transparent driving partner.

Ergonomics are as good or better than anything in the class, and Hyundai’s dash control layout—while no one will ever accuse to of being cutting-edge—remains one of the clearest and easiest to use of any car in the class.

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MINIzguy HalfDork
7/24/19 11:52 a.m.

There's no diff though, and part of the Civic Si's magic is the diff.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/24/19 12:33 p.m.
MINIzguy said:

There's no diff though, and part of the Civic Si's magic is the diff.

Yup. But if you can buy an Elantra GT for $2500 less, does that even up things? (And I'm just asking.)

ProDarwin UltimaDork
7/24/19 12:42 p.m.

The lack of diff is a big downside (2019 Veloster owner here).  If I could pay $2500 more for a torsen, I would :(

Also, thanks to this review I will be searching for an elantra sport shift knob, as the Veloster knob is exactly like the Si (all aluminum, like grabbing a soldering iron).  I actually keep an old sock in the car to put over it in the afternoon.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/24/19 12:55 p.m.

Hey, someone appreciated my shift knob talk.

Yeah, the Civic's can get freaking hot. 

MadScientistMatt PowerDork
7/24/19 1:44 p.m.

I have thought about wrapping my Dart's shift lever with leather for the exact same reason. Large metal controls with no insulation and Southern sun don't mix.

I noticed this review had a lot more detailed commentary from the editors than many recent reviews - I like it.

Donatello New Reader
7/24/19 9:55 p.m.

The Si metal knob is too cold in the winter also. Don't try licking it if it's freezing in the car. Don't touch it with any wet part of your body. Please don't ask how I know this.

Good to see Hyundai is trying even if they have not achieved the gold standard yet. Like to see them make a miata next.

spacecadet GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/24/19 10:01 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
MINIzguy said:

There's no diff though, and part of the Civic Si's magic is the diff.

Yup. But if you can buy an Elantra GT for $2500 less, does that even up things? (And I'm just asking.)

I'm seeing the Hyundai for under $20k across the country. they have leather(or fake stuff) where the Honda has cloth and their infotainment and climate controls are much better than the Honda system. The Elantra Sport is definitely a solid choice under $20k. 

RJStanford GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/25/19 8:07 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I actually assumed that this was talking about the GT at first.  Is there any reason not to go GT if you want a sporty Elantra?  Seems like an odd yardstick to use to measure the regular one.

pointofdeparture GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/25/19 8:33 a.m.

Keep in mind the plain Elantra GT is akin to a plain Elantra, with no turbo, torsion beam suspension, etc.

You want a GT Sport (2018) or GT N-Line (2019) to get the turbo motor and nice suspension.

Aaron_King GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/25/19 9:59 a.m.

CAn you get the KIA Forte5 with the better suspension?

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