Hyundai Elantra? You're not going to bore me are you?
Hold your horses. Spot that Turbo badge on the front grille? Then there's the "SR" on the boot lid. The "R" is in red too, so clearly this thing's a bit fruity.
Yeah, but it's still an Elantra.
Maybe, but this one's not for grandma. We've got a turbocharged 1.6-litre here boasting a healthy 150kW and 265Nm. Throw in independent rear suspension, a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed DCT and beefier brakes and it's quite the sporty package. Some choice racier body styling bits too, you'll notice.
Really? It still looks like bowls club or retirement village fodder.
Bit harsh. Okay, so it doesn't exactly look like a performance machine markedly different to the mass market Elantra Active and Elite variants, so perhaps consider this thing as something of a street sleeper.
So, sell this "hot" Elantra to me then.
See it more as a warm Elantra rather than anything to challenge the hot hatch market. This SR Turbo variant is the halo model in the range, and Hyundai asks $28,990 for the six-speed manual version and $31,290 for one with a double-clutch auto gearbox and flappy steering wheel paddles, all before on-roads.
So you know, the new Elantra range arrived earlier in the year starting from $21,950 for the Active and $26,990 the Elite, the latter boasting goodies like leather, dual-zone climate, smart key and 17-inch alloys.
So this range topping SR Turbo version gets even more toys then?
Well, your key bits are the boosted engine and sports-focused chassis, but yes, you score some goodies too. New bumpers and skirts, new radiator grille, new 17-inch rims and chrome touches for the exterior will attract sporty sedan buyers, as will the snazzy (for a Hyundai) cabin.
Luxuries include a ten-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, both front chairs being heated, and safety gear including blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and front parking sensors.
No autonomous emergency braking though, which is becoming more commonplace in this segment, nor is there sat nav. But as Elantras come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can display your phone's maps on your 7-inch touchscreen.
Those front bucket seats have increased lateral support for heavy cornering, there's red stitching for the leather, racing inspired flat-bottom steering wheel, alloy pedals and carbon fibre effect inserts and trim. You can even go full red leather interior for an extra $295. Still think it's one for grandma?
Well if not granny, who's this thing aimed at then?
Hyundai says it's one for that niche sporty small sedan shopper. They like the practicality of a sedan boot, like the traditional sedan body shape (they reject hatchbacks and SUVs you see), and seek good value to go with optimised ride and handling.
Direct competitors? Think Mazda3 SP25 GT ($29,790), Nissan Pulsar SSS ($26,990) and Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series ($27,140).
The sporting driver then. Will they like it?
I like a back road blast as much as the next man, and I had a ball in the SR Turbo. A really pleasing mix of balance, feedback and enough performance to keep you interested.
The turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder (a modified version of that found in Hyundai's Veloster SR) is a gem, which takes a little persuasion to come alive with the DCT gearbox, but once you hit the mid range you're gifted impressive pull and decent surge up to the redline.
Take control through the steering wheel paddles, keep the revs up and smiles come readily through the twisties.
Hyundai's Australian-focused ride and handling team have custom tuned the chassis and suspension for our market, and as we've become accustomed to, they've nailed it. Revelling in having that independent rear suspension, the team has created a brilliant warm sedan that brought me more driving joy than any other Hyundai I've driven, the Veloster sports car included.
You were probably enjoying a driving nirvana of a road though?
Fair point. Hyundai showed off the SR Turbo on a route between Albury (NSW) and Lakes Entrance (Victoria) across the Central Highlands and Alpine regions. Talk about an uninterrupted blast with endless stunning corners, blissful views and scant traffic. It could make almost any car enjoyable, but also serves well to show up any deficiencies.
And were there any?
Not that I'd care to grumble about. Hyundai said there should be optional 18-inch wheels with Pirelli rubber arriving soon for the SR Turbo, so if you really love your driving, these should up the grip and cancel out the small instances of understeer I experienced. As long as they don't harm the excellent everyday ride.
*UPDATE* said 18-inch wheels pricing has been confirmed, with a set of four plus Pirelli 225/40/18 Dragon Sport tyres costing $1890 plus GST.
So it does well as a cruiser too?
As said before, the Aussie-based engineers custom tune these Hyundais for our conditions. Yes it's slightly stiffer than a boggo Elantra, but always proved able to absorb imperfections with little fuss. No harsh ride to report when doing the everyday stuff. These chaps do the handling/ride balance so very well.
If you're in the auto gearbox model you can choose between Eco, Normal and Sport modes. This alters your steering weight, throttle and the length of time a gear is held, so keep things in Normal and you have your grandma-esque Elantra comfort.
And the other sensible stuff I should ask about?
Space wise you do okay. The rear seats will fit three kids or two adults pretty comfortably, and your boot space is 458-litres, a mere 30-litres shy of Hyundai's Tucson mid-size SUV boot. Not bad for a small sedan.
I dig a clutch and self-shifter, should I get the manual gearbox one?
It's not a bad thing, and you do feel more involved with the drive, plus it suggests you get up to speed from standstill more rapidly. The DCT is hard to fault though, so it's really whether you consider yourself a two- or a three-pedal kinda driver. Most will go auto of course, such is the lazy nature of we Aussie drivers.
You'd recommend the Elantra SR Turbo then?
It's an impressive all-rounder for sure, and bodes very well for Hyundai's forthcoming genuine performance N models like the Golf GTI-rivalling i30N due next year.
High performance Hyundais? Can they really pull that off?
Wait and see. They're not doing much wrong at the moment though, are they?
Model: Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo.
Details: Four-door front-wheel drive small sedan.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with maximum power of 150kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 265Nm @ 1500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed Dual Clutch (DCT) auto.
Consumption: 7.7l/100km (manual) or 7.2l/100km (DCT auto).
Performance 0-100kmh: 7.0-seconds (estimated).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $28,990 (manual) or $31,290 (DCT auto).
What matters most
What we liked: Excellent chassis for enthusiastic driving and everyday duties, eager engine, decent cabin spec, performance and luxury touches at a decent price.
What we'd like to see: The arrival of 18-inch wheels with slightly grippier Pirelli rubber, autonomous emergency braking, a bit more exterior muscle to differentiate it from normal Elantras.
Warranty and servicing: Five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, lifetime capped price service plan.
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 18/20
Style and design 15/20