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Hyundai aims for more thrills with performance-oriented 2017 Elantra Sport

Hyundai has come a long way in the past decade, but when it comes to performance, the Korean carmaker still doesn’t have much to offer. For the most part, Hyundai’s cars are very competitive in their segments, but don’t inspire much passion.

The 2017 Elantra Sport is at least a step in the right direction. Hyundai threw a more powerful engine and other upgrades at its recently redesigned Elantra compact sedan to show that it knows how to have fun. The changes are enough to garner the “Sport” name, and perhaps the Elantra Sport will start a trend toward more performance-oriented Hyundais.

Under the hood sits the same 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine used in the Veloster Turbo. In the Elantra Sport, it produces 200 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. That’s up from the 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four in other Elantra models. The turbocharged engine is available with either six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Read more: 2017 Hyundai Elantra first drive

The Elantra Sport also gets a more sophisticated independent multi-link rear suspension setup, which should improve handling. Less substantive is the model-specific exterior styling, including a new front fascia with large side air intakes, and a rear bumper with what looks like a fake diffuser. The interior gets a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sport seats, and red contrast stitching.

While the mechanical upgrades should make the Elantra Sport fairly nice to drive, it may have a tough time standing up to the competition. Sport compact heroes like the Subaru WRX, Ford Focus ST, and Volkswagen Golf GTI get more power and more comprehensive performance upgrades. Still, the Elantra Sport should be an appreciable improvement over the standard Elantra, and it’s the only choice until Hyundai’s long-gestating “N” performance sub-brand finally gets going.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport goes on sale later this year. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.