Car reviews - Hyundai - Elantra - SR Turbo
Great handling package, subtly styled and very accomplished
Room for improvement
Lack of aural theatre, could use more oomph
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13 Oct 2016
By TIM ROBSON
TO BE fair, Hyundai hasn’t really needed the warm glow of a hot-to-trot sports machine to move its way up the order in Australia.
And on the face of it, the Elantra may seem like an odd choice for the company to wave a performance wand over.
Starting at $28,990 before on-road costs for the manual, it’s dropping into a competitive space that’s quite frankly a bit bereft of direct competitors, aside from the Nissan Pulsar SSS and the less performance-focused Mazda3 SP25 GT sedan.
It’s not just about a bit more spice under the bonnet, though the new range-topping Elantra also debuts some technology that will appear aboard the new i30 hatch when it lobs in mid-2017.
For example, the company is moving back towards an independent rear suspension arrangement for its volume-selling five-door, sacrificing the ability to carry a full-size spare for a set-up that delivers a more comfortable and controllable ride.
The system nestles under the boot floor of the four-door Elantra, and Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) has taken the chance to continue its chassis tweaking work by playing with most of the elements of the SR Turbo’s suspension.
Fifty six versions of front and rear dampers, along with a myriad of spring and anti-roll bar combos, were trialled, with the team ending up with a setup that’s marginally firmer that the stock Elite – and interestingly not appreciably lower.
The other big change for the Elantra is the engine, with the 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder from the Veloster Turbo copping a bit of an overhaul.
The company switched to a different turbocharging combination, eschewing a smaller twin-scroll turbine for a larger single-scroll unit that’s controlled by an electronically actuated wastegate, while its air-to-air intercooler is mounted horizontally instead of vertically.
The changes have netted no performance gains, with the GDi-badged motor still making 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm of torque from 1500 to 4500rpm.
Elsewhere, the SR Turbo scores comfortable and cosseting sports seats, a bespoke bodykit and unique 17-inch rims to separate it from its more pedestrian stablemates. It’s a subtle makeover, certainly, but it still manages to carry off an air of enhanced driveway cachet.
It’s out on the sweeping, looping twists and turns of Victoria’s Gippsland region that the Elantra SR Turbo really starts to make sense.
There’s no showboating from beneath the bonnet while the SR Turbo carries 38kW and 73Nm more oomph than the standard Elantra, its delivery is still measured and relatively sedate, with nothing in the way of extra crackle or fizz from the new twin-tip exhaust or induction noise from under the bonnet.
It’ll still scrabble the front tyres under a bootful exiting a corner, which does give the SR Turbo a little bit of personality.
The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is the pick of the two available transmissions the six-speed manual (which is also a sneak peek at the set-up in the next i30) is slick and comfortable to use, but its gear spacing between a too-short second and too-tall third isn’t ideal.
The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, on the other hand, is a pleasant surprise, with snappy shifts via the paddles, and the ability to hold a gear right up to redline. The spacing between second and third still isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better.
The SR Turbo feels settled and planted across the front axle thanks to fractionally stiffer-than-stock springs, with the much more finely tuned set-up helping the SR turn in and hold a line with surprising enthusiasm.
Its balance front to rear is excellent, too, and even though there’s not a lot of under-bonnet oomph nor mechanical grip on hand, a slight lift on either the throttle or brake pedal easily and predictably repositions the trajectory of the car.
Hyundai admits that the SR Turbo is firmer in its ride than the Elite grade Elantra, but the fine-tuning work has really paid off. It’s more tied down, definitely, but the compliance of the new multilink rear end and the taller sidewalls of the 17-inch Hankooks take the top layer of harshness out of the overall ride.
Larger front brakes and a sport mode switch – only available on the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission-equipped version of the SR Turbo – also help the little Elantra rise above its station of mildly interesting small sedan to a role that is frankly quite surprising.
It might lack the bells and whistles of more overtly sporty machines, but the Elantra SR Turbo stands as one of Hyundai’s best local tuning efforts to date, and the range itself will be a great complement to the N range that’s coming down the pipe.
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