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Hyundai

2019 Hyundai Veloster N: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Now fielding the 2019 Veloster N, Hyundai could be whistled for encroachment.

It has happened before. The South Korean manufacturer has been steadily and successfully insinuating its products into almost every space in the automotive firmament: sedans of various sizes and power trains, crossover sport utility vehicles and even luxury cars. The last, Genesis, became its own luxury brand.

Now Hyundai is intruding into the small but image-important “hot hatch” group of relatively inexpensive high-performance hatchbacks. There are only a few, the most familiar of which is the Volkswagen GTI, with competition from the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus ST.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

What these machines have in common is that they are based on practical runabouts for people on tight budgets. Emulating the kids who buy old Honda Civics and hop them up to be faster and more agile, the automakers do the same to create new excitements.

The GTI, for example, is based on the ubiquitous Golf, Volkswagen’s entry-level U.S. offering. Similarly, Hyundai already marketed the Veloster, a compact hatchback with two conventional doors in the front and a single third door in back on the passenger side. Despite its unusual layout, it has been reasonably successful, though slipping lately with 12,658 sales in 2017 and running at an annual rate of 10,581 in 2018.

Now it should get a boost as it vies for the “hot hatch” title with the N, which stands for Namyang, the site of Hyundai’s technology center in South Korea. The N also obliquely refers to the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the famed test track in Germany where some of the N’s development was carried out.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Under the tutelage of Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s head of vehicle performance, the Veloster was not simply given additional power. Biermann, formerly chief of BMW’s M performance group, took a holistic approach to give the Veloster a stiffer chassis, sophisticated racing suspension system, more accurate steering with enhanced feedback, tires with more grip and, of course, robust power.

The goal, Bierman says, was to give the Veloster “real racetrack capability” in a machine that is easy and entertaining for novices to drive on the track and in everyday environments.

Power comes from a gasoline direct injection, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 250 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. A six-speed manual gearbox — the only transmission available so far — sends the force to the front wheels.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

To make things even easier for inexperienced drivers, the transmission comes with automatic rev-matching. On downshifts, the system raises the engine revolutions to match the speed of the car—particularly useful during braking on racetrack corners. Launch control also is included, which minimizes wheel spin on acceleration runs. Hyundai doesn’t publish zero-to-60 miles an hour times, but an educated estimate is in the five-second range.

Overall, the stick shift is delightful, with easy, short throws of the shift lever on both upshifts and downshifts. The rev-matching eliminates  jerkiness from sloppy shifting. Along with brake-induced torque vectoring to hasten maneuvers around corners, the system infuses the N with forgiving and delightful manners on a road-racing course.

Biermann says that’s what the Veloster is all about. He calls it accessible and affordable high performance for average drivers. To keep the cost reasonable, the N uses in-house brakes instead of something like Brembo racing brakes, although high-performance brake pads are available for serious racers.

Large-31055-2019VelosterN

Base prices for Veloster N will start at $27,785, including the destination charge. A special performance package tacks on an additional $2,000 and bumps the horsepower to 275. It includes a special “corner carving” differential, 19-inch alloy wheels, Pirelli P Zero performance tires, larger brake rotors and variable exhaust valves.

Standard equipment on all Velosters includes full modern safety equipment, 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Super Sport tires, LED headlights and taillights, automatic climate control, Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity, and premium audio with SXM satellite radio.

So no enthusiast will mistake the N from its lower-performing siblings, it comes with exclusive styling of the grille and front fascia, as well as special rear treatments, including a spoiler with brake light.

N prices are lower than those of the 306-hp Honda Civic Type R and the 220-hp Volkswagen GTI Autobahn, both of which have prices in the mid to high $30,000 range. More comparable to the N is the Ford Focus ST, which starts in the mid-$20,000 range.

Large-33464-2019VelosterNSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Veloster N three-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 275 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with rev-matching and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet.
  • Height: 4 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 90/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,117 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,785.
  • Price as tested: $29,885. 

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-31123-2019VelosterNPhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Playing hardball with its exceptional 2019 Santa Fe, Hyundai is on the verge of realizing its full competitive lineup of crossover sport utility vehicles.

It’s an important milestone, given the phenomenon of crossover sales that lately have been overpowering traditional sedans and coupes. In the 2017 model year, the South Korean company offered just two nameplates: the compact Tucson and the Santa Fe, a midsize offered with either two or three rows of seats. An earlier Veracruz model had been dropped in 2011.

Large-34014-2019SantaFeEarly in 2018, the brash new Kona arrived as smaller sibling of the Tucson. Now comes the two-row, midsize Santa Fe, formerly called the Santa Fe Sport, which will be followed by an all-new, as yet unnamed, large three-row, eight-passenger crossover. That will complete the lineup unless Hyundai decides to squeeze in another something someplace.

The existing three-row Santa Fe continues unchanged for about a year, after which it will be consigned to that great crossover retirement community in the sky. It will be sold as the Santa Fe XL until its replacement arrives.

The Santa Fe comes in five trim levels — SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and Ultimate — with a starting price of $26,485, including the destination charge. All come with front-wheel drive standard. Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive costs an additional $1,700.

As some other manufacturers have done, the Santa Fe eschews stand-alone options in favor of escalating lists of features for each trim level. The tested top-of-the-line Ultimate, at $39,905, had only one minor option of $125 for carpeted floor maps.

Large-34019-2019SantaFeThere are two powertrains: 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 178 lb-ft of torque on the S, SEL and SEL Plus trims, and a 235-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 260 lb-ft of torque on the Limited and Ultimate models. All versions come with eight-speed automatic transmissions and idle stop-start.

Most notable from a peace of mind standpoint are two safety innovations. Rear Occupant Alert monitors the back seats with an ultrasonic sensor that detects movement of children or pets. As with some other vehicles, the system alerts drivers to check the rear seats after stopping and before exiting.

But the Santa Fe takes it to another important level. If for some reason a distracted driver forgets or ignores the warning, leaves the vehicle and locks the doors, the system honks the horn and sends an alert to the driver’s smart phone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system. The innovation could prevent some of the 37 deaths that occur annually in the U.S., on average, of children left in hot cars.

Large-34023-2019SantaFeThe other system mimics blind-spot warning. If a rear-seat passenger tries to open a door and an oncoming car is detected, both visual and audio warnings are triggered. Also, it will prevent the driver from deactivating the electronic child safety lock until the oncoming car has passed.

Besides those safety features, the Santa Fe also comes with Hyundai Safety Sense, which includes forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot and lane-departure warning.

On the road, the tested all-wheel drive Santa Fe Ultimate delivered strong acceleration, a resilient ride and responsive handling. Tactile steering feedback felt more like a capable sedan than a tall crossover. Partly responsible was the all-wheel drive torque vectoring that apportioned the power to the rear wheels depending on road conditions, abetted by relocation of the rear shock absorbers.

Large-34029-2019SantaFeThere are three drive modes that adjust steering feel, ride motions and transmission shift points. Normal is the main setting for daily driving. Smart enhances fuel economy and Sport tightens everything up for improved performance, especially in challenging conditions like twisting mountain roads.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted unobtrusively and can be manually shifted. However, shifting must be done with the console-mounted lever; there are no steering-wheel mounted paddles.

On smooth roads, the Santa Fe Ultimate was almost eerily quiet with only vague road and mechanical noises. There was no detectable wind noise. Comfort was first-cabin with the headliner and pillars upholstered in a soft cloth that would do justice to a living-room divan.

Contributing to the comfort were “variable density” front seats with power extensions to provide extra thigh support, as well as acoustic glass and a rigid body structure that makes extensive use of high-strength steel and strong structural adhesives.

Summing up, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate competes handily and almost lazily against other midsize crossover contenders.

Large-34046-2019SantaFeSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 235 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 111/36 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,960 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,780.
  • Price as tested: $39,905.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-34008-2019SantaFePhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Hyundai Veloster: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you’ve ever seen a three-legged cat, you have some idea of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster, except that this all-new Veloster is not handicapped in any way.

There’s nothing like it in the market today — a compact hatchback with a tailgate and three passenger doors. The third door is at the right-rear and opens conventionally. Except for earlier Velosters, the concept has not been seen since the 2001 Saturn SC, which had a rear-opening third door on the driver’s side.

VELOSTER TURBO-6571The Veloster shares its power trains with a trio of other sport compacts from South Korea: the Hyundai Elantra Sport sedan; Kia Forte5 hatchback; and Hyundai Elantra GT Sport hatchback. They compete against performance hatchbacks that include the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda3 and Ford Fiesta ST.

Tested for this review was the top-of-the-line Veloster, the Turbo Ultimate, which comes equipped with all available options except carpeted floor mats for $29,035. It is powered by a 201-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 195 lb-ft of torque. It gets its power to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

Zero to 60 mph ticks off in the mid-six second range, with a top speed of 135 mph. Moreover, you can enjoy the ride as raucous as you like it. Taking a cue from expensive performance sports cars like Porsche and Jaguar, Veloster turbo models, including the Ultimate, have different drive modes and can customize exhaust and engine sounds.

VELOSTER TURBO-6581Drive modes, controlled by a button on the console, are Sport, Normal and Smart. Sport is the most aggressive, holding shift points to higher engine revolutions and tightening up the steering. Normal is, well, normal and Smart moves the Veloster into economy leisure.

Go to the big center touch screen and you can choose how much exhaust noise reverberates through the cabin. The choices are Off, Minimized, Normal and Advanced, with the last the noisiest, especially under hard acceleration combined with the Sport drive mode.

It’s entertaining to switch among the choices when underway.

The Turbo Ultimate is the best equipped of five Veloster trim levels. Two entry-level versions, the 2.0 and 2.0 Premium, use a two-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque.

VELOSTER TURBO-8848At $19,385, including the destination charge, the 2.0 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automatic is a $1,000 option. The $23,635 2.0 Premium comes only with the  six-speed automatic transmission.

Equipment on the tested Turbo Ultimate included the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, although it also can be ordered with the six-speed manual. Other features included adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, navigation system, head-up display, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, motorized sunroof, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, LED headlights and taillights — in short, almost everything any car buyer wants.

It also had a power lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, although the seat itself came with manual adjustments.

The Veloster’s 2019 styling is striking, with defined fender lines and an aggressive grille that attract immediate attention. Even given its hatchback design, it has a streamlined look that implies motion when it’s standing still.

VELOSTER-8950Unlike other hatchbacks, however, it makes no pretense of accommodating up to five passengers. There are seatbelts for four, with a small divider between the two back seats. They can be accessed from either side, though the easiest is through the right-rear door. Anyone getting in back from the other side must squeeze past the driver’s seatback.

Once inside, however, there is ample — though not generous — knee and headroom. The small hatch at the back provides access to a cargo area with 20 cubic feet of volume, which expands to 45 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

For all of the Turbo Ultimate’s virtues, however, the choice here — from an enthusiast’s and price perspective — should be the Veloster R-Spec version. It comes with the turbo engine but only the six-speed manual gearbox, which has such a slick linkage that it’s satisfying and joyful.

The R-Spec has cloth upholstery but no sunroof, heated seats, head-up display or charging pad. It does have18-inch alloy wheels, premium audio, SXM radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like other turbo Velosters, it also has the customized exhaust sounds.

All that comes with a $23,785 price tag, a bargain for an exhilarating, sweet handling sports car disguised as a hatchback.

VELOSTER TURBO-8572Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate three-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 90/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,987 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/34/30 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,035.
  • Price as tested: $29,160.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

VELOSTER TURBO-6609Photos (c) Hyundai

 

2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

Large-31740-2018KonaStart with a blank screen or a clean sheet of paper, designers and engineers who understand the territory, and you can deliver a vehicle like the 2018 Hyundai Kona.

It is an all-new, sharply competitive compact crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean manufacturer, which arrives at a time when it targets the sweet spot in U.S. automotive preferences. All crossovers, but especially the affordable compacts and mid-sizes, are threatening to overwhelm the market.

They are proliferating like mechanical rabbits, as witness the Kona’s competitors, which include the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade.

Large-31653-2018Kona2.0-litermodelCrossover SUVs generally are described as vehicles built with car-like unit-body construction, with front-wheel or optional all-wheel drive, and configured like jacked-up station wagons with hatchbacks to access  the rear cargo areas. The definition doesn’t apply across the board because some, like the Toyota CH-R and Kia Soul, do not offer all-wheel drive.

The Kona, however, does have that as well as a comprehensive package that checks all the crossover boxes, and not only among the affordables. Its full range of features also makes it competitive with more expensive compacts.

For example, it offers such modern safety installations as forward collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision warning and driver attention warning. Though included for improved handling on curving roads but which also qualifies as a safety feature, the Kona offers torque vectoring braking, which selectively applies the inside brakes to ease cornering.

Large-30381-2018KONANot all of this comes in the base package. To get different features, the buyer chooses from trim levels. There are four: Base S, with a $20,450 price tag, including the destination charge; SEL, at $22,100; Limited, $25,650, and the focus here, the top-Line Ultimate with Lime interior trim at $29,660.

Keeping options to a minimum is not a new concept, but the powers at Hyundai correctly decided that keeping pricing simple was customer-friendly. 

In all trim levels, the Kona delivers a rigid and tidy package that enhances handling, delivers unexpected stability and a comfortable and quiet ride. Fifty-two percent of its innards are constructed of high-strength steel and the body incorporates 375 feet of structural adhesives.

Large-31685-2018KonaIt’s apparent the first time you get behind the wheel. The tested Ultimate delivered a solid and planted feel. It also tracked true with few corrections needed from the nicely weighted steering. That same feel came through in a shorter drive of the less expensive all-wheel-drive SEL. 

All-wheel drive models share an independent, multi-link rear suspension system, which contributes the secure handling. Front-wheel drive versions use a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle. Front-drivers were not among the testers at the national press introduction in namesake Kona, an area on the big island of Hawai’i. But they are likely to be the models of choice in sunbelt areas.

Large-31647-2018KonaThe Kona is available with two drive trains. The S and SEL models come with a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 pound feet of torque mated to six-speed automatic transmission. The package delivers EPA-rated city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 25/30/27 miles to the gallon.

The Limited and tested Ultimate are equipped with a 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 195 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic delivers instant, smooth shifts and rapid acceleration. The EPA rating is 26/29/27 mpg.

Though the S and SEL models have less power and slower acceleration, they share the body rigidity and stable feel with their more powerful siblings. Cornering is fuss-free with little body roll. The more powerful Limited and Ultimate models, with driver-selectable Normal and Sport modes that adjust transmission shifting and steering feel, are quicker. 

Large-31688-2018KonaLarge-31737-2018KonaTypically with Hyundai, the new Kona is uncommonly well-equipped. On the tested Ultimate model, they included LED gauges, a power driver’s seat, heated leather seats, motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and an innovative head-up display screen that rises from the dashboard and offers comprehensive information on a screen mounted in the driver’s line of sight.

The eight-inch center touch screen displays vehicle functions as well as navigation, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. In what Hyundai says is a first in the class, the Kona also offers wireless smart phone charging. It also is equipped with Hyundai’s Blue Link system, which offers a variety of services, including remote starting.

Large-31689-2018KonaSpecifications

    • Model: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD Lime four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 175 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
    • Overall length: 13 feet 8 inches.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 92/19 cubic feet. (46 2nd folded)
    • Weight: 3,344 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/29/27 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $29,660.
    • Price as tested: $29,775.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Large-31649-2018Kona2.0-litermodelPhotos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Any cook who uses all-purpose flour will understand the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, which stands out as an all-purpose automobile.

It is a compact four-door hatchback sedan which seats four adults comfortably — five in a pinch — and has ample cargo space — 25 cubic feet, or about double that in the trunk of a typical compact notchback sedan.

On a day trip with another couple? Open the hatch and toss all your bags, purses, sweaters, ponchos and umbrellas inside. There’s room left over for shopping spree items. Also, at 14 feet 3 inches long, the Elantra GT parks easily almost anywhere.

2018 Elantra GT

Want to cruise your state and visit historical sites? Load your valises and makeup cases into the cargo hold and forget them until you check in for the night. Any overflow can go on the back seat or you can fold the split rear seatback.

Need to help the kid move into the college dorm? Drop both rear seatbacks, load the stuff up to the headliner and hope there are a few square inches for a view to the rear. Adjust your outside mirrors to minimize blind spots.

Of course, there’s nothing unique about the utility of a compact four-door hatchback, which maximizes interior space. With a total of 122 cubic feet of area inside — 97 for passengers — the Elantra GT actually qualifies as a large car according to the government’s size classifications.

Large-30103-2018ElantraGTSportMoreover, there are plenty of choices out there. What distinguishes the Elantra GT is how well it integrates all of those practical touches into a pleasant, quality conveyance that lightens a chore, eases a commute, and delivers fuel economy, comfort, power and handling on multiple all-day drives.

The GT is one of half a dozen Elantra models. Four are sedans, including the tantalizing and inexpensive Elantra Sport. The others are the GT hatchback, tested here, and its more powerful sibling, the GT Sport. Sport models feature a 201-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The non-Sport GT model, though less powerful, has plenty of punch for its all-purpose duties: a 161-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 150 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates to 60 mph in about eight seconds, which is modest by modern standards. The $4,000 upgrade to the GT Sport’s power train gets you a zero-to-60 time of about 6.5 seconds.

2018 Elantra GT

Either engine is available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. The GT tested here had a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, which costs $1,000 more than the manual.

With dazzling white paint that reflected sunlight and helped the air conditioning cope with Florida temperatures, the South Korean-made GT displayed handsome, European-oriented styling. It came with a starting price of $21,235 that included a solid list of features: basic safety equipment, the six-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple Car Play infotainment, an eight-inch center screen, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and a rear-view camera.

But the tester also was equipped with two options packages that elevated the features and price but fell short on safety equipment. The $1,800 Style package added blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert along with dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with pushbutton starting, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support.

2018 Elantra GT

An additional $4,300 for the Tech package brought a panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights and taillights, navigation system, electronic parking brake, Hyundai’s Bluelink telematics services, premium Infinity audio system, leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a smart-phone charging pad.

All of that brought the GT’s tested price to $27,460, not overly expensive in an era when the average price of a new car is more than $34,000.

2018 Elantra GT

Although the GT uses a relatively simple torsion beam rear suspension system (the GT Sport has a more sophisticated independent multilink rear suspension), the handling is fuss free and the GT tracks cleanly on the freeway and cruises easily at speeds of more than 75 mph.

On smooth paved surfaces, the Elantra GT is quiet and fatigue-free over long distances. However, rougher pavement transmits noises that make their annoying way through the tires and suspension system into the cabin.

A major shortcoming is that some modern safety measures are available only on the more expensive GT Sport with its Tech package, which includes such desirable equipment as forward collision warning, emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

2018 Elantra GT
2018 Elantra GT

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 0-liter four-cylinder, 161 hp, 150 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 3 inches
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,925 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $21,235.
  • Price as tested: $27,460.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Elantra GT

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As midsize sedans struggle against the onslaught of customer preference for crossover sport utility vehicles, manufacturers work hard to up their game with cars like the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport.

The Sonata started a successful run with its “fluidic sculpture” design in 2012 but then backed off for more conservative styling in the 2015 model year. With other midsize sedans, sales tailed off in recent years. Where Hyundai had been selling more than 200,000 Sonatas a year, sales dropped to 199,416 in 2016 and in 2017 have been running at an annual rate of fewer than 150,000.

For 2018, the South Korean manufacturer delivers freshened styling that could persuade customers that they’re seeing an all-new automobile.

2018 Sonata

The design is rakish and handsome from every angle, accentuated by a bold new grille. Overall, the look would do justice to a near-luxury sedan costing many thousands of dollars more than the $26,210 price of the Sonata Sport tested for this review.

Moreover, the tester’s 122 cubic feet of interior volume gets it a large car rating from the U.S. government. Though an inch shy of 16 feet long, the Sonata Sport has airy rear-seat headroom and especially generous knee room that allows outboard back seat passengers to stretch out. As usual in most cars, however, the center-rear seat is compromised by a hard cushion and a small floor hump.

2018 Sonata

Other seat comfort is first rate front and rear with one of the best upholstery combinations around. Seats are covered mainly with sturdy leather but the butt and back areas are a comfortable cloth. It means the Sonata doesn’t need seat heaters or coolers, though it does come with heated front seats. A power front seat and a fully-adjustable steering wheel with a sporty flat bottom assures an optimum driving position.

Out back, the trunk can swallow a large load of luggage or cargo, However, the C-Hinges are naked, without anything to isolate them, so could damage the contents when fully loaded.

2018 Sonata

Though there are some pricier trim levels with 245-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engines, along with an Eco model, the focus here is on the standard Sonata lineup, which consists of SE, SEL, Sport and Limited models.

All four, including the Sport, come with a 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 178 lb-ft of torque. This one does not have a turbocharger, which seems to be the engineering fad of the moment, especially among 2.0-liter engines.

Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode operated by steering-wheel paddles, the tested front-wheel drive Sonata Sport acquits itself well in everyday urban, suburban and freeway driving.

It comes with three separate driving modes: Eco, Comfort and Sport, which alter shift patterns and other performance parameters. In Eco, automatic shifts sometimes can feel a bit dodgy, so it’s best to stick with the Comfort or Sport modes. But you have to pay attention to select either one when you set off because the system defaults to Eco when the engine is shut down.

2018 Sonata

You won’t win many drag races in any of the drive modes, though the Eco mode falls away if you punch the throttle to pass or otherwise speed up. But there’s plenty of power for any driving circumstance on public roads and the Sport delivers city/highway/combined fuel economy of 25/35/28 mpg burning regular gasoline.

The Sonata Sport is equipped with with full basic safety equipment like stability/traction control and antilock brakes, enhanced by blind-spot warning, tire-pressure monitoring and a rear-view camera.

It also comes with a motorized sunroof, an easy-to-use center interface with a touch screen and redundant buttons for functions like SXM satellite radio, HD radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Touch screen functions are simple and intuitive.

 

2018 Sonata

A navigation system is not included, though many people nowadays forego the built-in systems in cars and simply use Waze, Google Maps or Mapquest anyway, and there are USB ports in the Sonata Sport for smart phones.

The only glaring shortcoming, given the overall high level of equipment, is that the Sonata Sport is not equipped with automatic climate control. Though the temperature and fan-speed knobs are easy enough to use, they require occasional fiddling around to maintain cabin comfort.

Given the average price of near $36,000 for a new car today, the $26,210 Hyundai Sonata Sport should deliver many years of trouble-free motoring well beyond the end of the monthly payments.

2018 Sonata

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder, 185 hp, 178 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,300 pounds (est.)
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/35/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $26,085.
  • Price as tested: $26,210.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Sonata

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As alternative power trains proliferate, South Korea’s biggest carmaker goes all in on a trifecta: the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and dedicated electric models.

Depending on the consumer response and government fuel economy requirements, the payoff could be substantial. Whatever; the choices deliver a win for the motoring public.

The Ioniq is an all-new four-door hatchback from the South Korean manufacturer. Its name comes from ion, an electrically charged particle, and unique, or one of a kind.

2017 IONIQ HEV

By itself, the Ioniq doesn’t qualify as unique. But a manufacturer that develops three different motive forces for a single car certainly qualifies as special. Honda has done something similar with its new Clarity, which comes as a pure electric, plug-in hybrid and as a fuel cell electric that uses hydrogen fuel.

Because the three variants are being phased in separately, the emphasis at the Ioniq introduction was on the electric and hybrid models. The plug-in hybrid differs from a standard hybrid because, with a fully charged battery pack, it can be driven up to 27 miles on electric power alone. A standard hybrid runs on electricity and gasoline, with only short bursts of pure electric power.

For owners whose daily driving consists mainly of short trips, it would be possible to avoid many stops for gasoline, as long as the plug-in was plugged in regularly. Range anxiety, however, is not a problem; once the battery pack is discharged, the Ioniq plug-in runs on its gasoline engine.

2017 IONIQ HEV

The Ioniq electric has a range of 124 miles, which the EPA works out to 136 miles per gallon equivalent of a gasoline-engine car. It delivers instant power off the line, cruises silently except for some road noise, and has capable handling and good road feel.

Its disadvantage is that an owner who wants to take a trip must plan the route to take advantage of charging stations—or at least places to stay where the Ioniq electric can be recharged overnight.

The electric and plug-in models come with a dual port for charging from a standard 110-volt outlet or a fast-charging 240-volt charger. Full charging time with the fast charger is two hours, 30 minutes for the plug-in and four hours 25 minutes for the electric.

The hybrid is likely to be the big seller. It incorporates a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 32-kilowatt electric motor. Combined, they deliver 139 horsepower. Driven for this review was the Limited model.

2017 IONIQ HEV

Unlike some other hybrids that use continuously variable automatic transmissions, which have no shift points, the Ioniq comes equipped with a six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission, which provides rapid shifts up or down and delivers city/highway/combined fuel economy of 55/54/55 miles per gallon.

There’s a driver-selectable sport mode, which enhances performance by shifting the transmission at higher engine revolutions. It also delivers a heftier feel to the steering. Of course, increased performance comes with reduced fuel economy.

Hyundai claims that the base Ioniq model, called the Blue, is the most fuel-efficient hybrid on the market. Its city/highway/combined rating is 57/59/58 miles to the gallon.

2017 IONIQ HEV

The hybrid also consolidates a standard 12-volt battery, used for lights and accessories, into the hybrid battery pack. If it dies, you simply touch the “12-volt battery reset” button and you’re on your way. No calling for a jump start.

Depending on the model, the Ioniq comes with advanced safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. Also offered are Blue Link connectivity, Apple Car Play, Android Auto and wireless smart phone charging.

The Ioniq is being marketed as a compact, though generous cargo space of 27 cubic feet under the hatchback bump its interior volume into the large car class. Its total volume is 123 cubic feet; any car with more than 120 cubic feet is classified by the EPA as large.

But the Ioniq belies that classification and, at four inches shy of 15 feet, looks and feels more like a compact. There’s plenty of elbow and headroom up front, but the outboard back seats are tight on head and knee room. The center rear position, as on most cars these days, is an uncomfortable perch and a small hump intrudes on foot space.

Prices range from $23,035 to $31,335 for the hybrid and $30,855 to $36,835 for the electric, including the destination charge. The electric qualifies for federal and state tax incentives.

2017 IONIQ HEV

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Power:6-liter four-cylinder gasoline with 32kW electric motor; 139 combined hp.
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automated manual.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 96/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,172 pounds
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 55/54/55 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,335.
  • Price as tested: $28,335.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2017 IONIQ HEV

Photos (c) Hyundai

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hyundai crowns its compact car lineup with an exciting new high performance model, the 2017 Elantra Sport, which is destined for stardom—especially with enthusiasts of modest means.

The Sport joins three other Elantra versions introduced earlier: the entry-level SE, economy-oriented Eco and luxury-outfitted Limited. Though not the least nor most expensive, the new Sport overshadows its siblings with capabilities unmatched by them and other compacts.

The most expensive Sport sells for around $9,000 less than the current average price of a new car. It comfortably carries four people—five if that unfortunate doesn’t mind a perch in the middle of the back seat.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

There are two versions. With a six-speed manual gearbox, the base price is $22,485. Add $1,100 for the dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. The automatic delivers the better fuel economy: an EPA city/highway/combined rating of 26/33/29 mpg, compared to the manual’s rating of 22/30/25 mpg.

Enthusiasts likely will save the $1,100 and opt for the delightful manual, one of the best anywhere. The clutch engagement is smooth and progressive, with no hint of grabbing, and the shift linkage is so slick and easy you don’t mind shifting in heavy traffic. In fact, the gears engage almost by thought control so you barely notice doing it.

Hyundai product people project that 30% to 40% of Sport buyers will choose the manual gearbox, way higher than almost anything on the U.S. market. Germany’s BMW formerly sold manuals in that range, but has since moved mostly to automatics.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

The Sport gets its zest from a turbocharged 201-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 195 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine as in Hyundai’s sporty Veloster three-door hatchback. The company did not provide acceleration times but the guesstimate here is less than seven seconds to 60 mph.

Hyundai introduced the Sport in Las Vegas during the gigantic Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show, an annual exhibition of custom vehicles and aftermarket parts that overflows the city’s convention complex with exhibits and humanity.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

The locale provided automotive journalists with an opportunity to drive the Sport for 280 miles on lightly traveled highways in sparsely populated areas of Nevada and California’s Death Valley.

The Sport proved itself more than proficient on those roads, most of which were not in top condition. It cruised lazily at 90 miles an hour, and easily absorbed road undulations and imperfections.

In a couple of bursts, the Sport was steady and solidly planted at three-digit speeds up to 120 mph. It could have gone faster but that was judged enough. In Germany, it would compete easily on areas of the autobahn that have no speed limits.

Credit a stiffer body structure, now constructed with 53% high strength steel and 394 feet of structural adhesives, compared to 10 feet in the 2016 Elantra.

The Sport also features a sophisticated multi-link independent rear suspension system, a notable upgrade from the other Elantra models, which use a rear torsion-beam system. With the new suspension and steering tuned for handling and steady straight-line cruising, the Sport can handle any road-going task.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

It also is uncommonly well equipped, even in its base version. The $22,485 model comes with pushbutton starting, leather upholstery, well bolstered and heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels with performance all-season tires, cruise control, audio system with SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto controlled through a seven-inch center screen, air conditioning, a flat-bottom leather covered sport steering wheel, and alloy pedals with rubber inserts.

Only a few items betray the Sport’s competitive price. The front seats use manual adjustments; power is not available. There’s no spare wheel—an air pump substitutes—and the trunk lid has exposed C-hinges that could damage contents in the roomy trunk.

The test car came with a $2,400 premium option package that included blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane change mitigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, motorized glass sunroof, premium audio system, hands-free trunk opening, garage door opener, compass and auto-dimming inside mirror.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

From the outside, the Sport is distinguished from other Elantra models by a unique grille, high-intensity headlights with LED daytime running lights, side door sill extensions, aerodynamic rear deck, dual exhaust outlets and LED taillights.

In an extremely competitive segment with the likes of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, Elantra sales have diminished through the first three-quarters of 2016. The new Sport, along with the other new Elantra models, each of which has its own charm, should give the brand a shot of adrenaline.

2017 Elantra Sport
2017 Elantra Sport

Specifications    

  • Model: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:6-liter four cylinder, turbocharged 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 15 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,064 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $22,485.
  • Price as tested: $24,885.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2017 Hyundai Elantra: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In Kenny Rogers’ poker playing song “The Gambler,” you’ve got to know when to hold ’em. That’s the plan for the 2017 Hyundai Elantra sedan.

The previous-generation Elantra surprised some when it was redesigned and won the 2012 North American Car of the Year title, voted on by an independent 50-member panel of automotive journalists. It beat the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Focus.

The Elantra was a fresh, youthful face in the competitive compact class with flowing body lines that Hyundai called “fluidic sculpture.” That and a long list of amenities propelled total sales to 913,042 from 2012 through 2015.

Now Hyundai looks to consolidate its winnings by offering a more mature-looking, even mainstream design. Most striking, and seeming to follow an industry wide trend toward ever bigger maws, the new Elantra features a large, bold hexagonal grille, along with LED taillights and running lights.

However, it maintains its compact dimensions. It is less than an inch longer than its predecessor and exactly an inch wider. But clever packaging results in a total of more than 110 cubic feet of interior volume, with 96 cubic feet for passengers and 14 cubic feet of trunk space. That classifies it as a mid-size car according to the EPA, though it is marketed as a compact.

2017 ELANTRA SEDAN
2017 ELANTRA SEDAN

The interior room becomes apparent as soon as you get inside. There’s decent head- and knee-room in back for two six-footers without infringing on the driver and front passenger. However, despite a nearly flat floor, the center-rear passenger is relegated to a hard, high and uncomfortable cushion.

Despite its intended audience of buyers with modest incomes, the 2017 Elantra delivers a host of available features usually associated with premium and even luxury cars. Among them:

  • Automatic emergency braking from up to 50 miles an hour with pedestrian detection.
  • Adaptive cruise control that maintains a preset distance from the car ahead.
  • Trunk lid that opens automatically when it detects a nearby key fob.
  • Lane departure mitigation with steering assist.
  • Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.

The base Elantra SE has a starting price of $17,995, including the destination charge. That model is the only one that offers a six-speed manual gearbox. There was no opportunity at the introduction to drive that version, but if the stick-shift is similar to the one on the previous Elantra, it’s a sweetheart.

The model tested for this review was the top-of-the-line Limited with a starting price of $23,185. With optional Tech and Ultimate packages, the tester topped out at $27,710. But the level of equipment was not unlike that of a premium-priced car.

It included all of the aforementioned safety and convenience equipment, plus leather upholstery, navigation system, Harman/Kardon audio system with satellite and HD radio, Pandora, Bluetooth telephone, Android and Apple car play, motorized sunroof, heated front and rear seats, lighted outside door handles, and memory settings for the power driver’s seat and outside mirrors.

2017 ELANTRA SEDAN
2017 ELANTRA SEDAN

The Elantra engine delivers 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque from 2.0 liters of displacement. Power travels to the front wheels through an easy-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. With a slippery .27 coefficient of drag, the city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 28/37/32 mpg.

Unusual in this car class are economy, normal and sport driving modes. In the normal and Eco modes, the Elantra delivers a comfortable ride. Eco maximizes fuel economy, and the Sport mode tightens the steering and adjusts transmission shifting to provide more power at low engine revolutions, as well as delivering more rapid acceleration.

Even in the Sport mode, however, the acceleration is not snappy, but adequate for stoplight sprints and passing on two lane roads. However, the Sport mode delivers tighter and more responsive performance on twisting mountain roads. The six-speed automatic also can be shifted manually.

Later, Hyundai plans to introduce two other Elantra models: Eco with a new, 128-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed twin clutch automatic transmission. A brief drive in a pre-production model demonstrated quicker mid-range throttle response than with the 2.0-liter engine.

There’s also an upcoming Sport model that will feature a 200 hp, 1.6-liter engine with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

With cars like the 2017 Hyundai Elantra and the 2016 Honda Civic, it’s easy to understand why the compact class is holding its own while larger mid-size cars falter in the face of an onslaught from compact crossover utility vehicles.

2017 Elantra Sedan
2017 Elantra Sedan

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited four door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four cylinder, 147 hp, 132 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,976 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/37/32 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $23,185.
  • Price as tested: $27,710.

Photos (c) Hyundai

 

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