By Sami Haj-Assaad
The Honda Civic was AutoGuide.com‘s Car of the Year for 2016 and is now offered as a stylish coupe, sedan or practical hatchback.

With impressive efficiency, practicality, and technology, it’s hard to beat this popular compact car. The Civic has also always had good driving dynamics, but it might be a while until a new Civic Si hits the market. What should prospective sporty compact car buyers do? Hyundai has the answer with the Elantra Sport.

The turbocharged Elantra will remind you of the sporty, fun Civic Si models of the past. It features an aggressive design, a punchy engine, and a unique suspension setup. We lined it up against a turbocharged Civic to see if the Elantra Sport is good enough to get right now or if you should consider waiting for the next Civic Si.

The Civic is clearly the benchmark in compact car segment. Size-wise, the car is longer than the Elantra, and in terms of design, its sportback shape mimics the shape of the Audi A7, which is a good thing.

On the road, this greater size helps the car feel stable and easy to drive, if a little generic. The steering is light thanks to a variable ratio steering rack. The suspension is also kind of floaty, but to help deter understeer, the car features a brake vectoring system that will help rotate the car when pushed.

Civic Power

Under the hood is a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder that makes 174 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, and it feels like the car compensates for any turbo lag with a jumpy throttle, which takes some getting used to. One good thing about the CVT is that it settles down at highway speeds, keeping the cabin quiet. The CVT also comes with the added benefit of fantastic fuel economy. We never saw the fuel economy drop below 30 mpg despite driving it almost exclusively in the city. You can expect 32 mpg in urban driving, 42 mpg on the highway and an average of about 36.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Honda Civic Sport Hatchback Review

The thing that stands out about the Civic is that it’s made for any kind of driver. It’s easy to see out of, it’s easy to park, it’s comfortable to be in, and it is loaded with excellent technology like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but there’s more than that. Adaptive cruise control, a lane watch camera, and forward collision warning are all advanced safety features that anyone can appreciate. Inside space is also fantastic, and not just passenger room, but there’s so much storage. Pockets, shelves, and cubbies are all available so you can store your phones, tablets, cables, keys, snacks, and change everywhere. It turns the Civic into somewhat of a mobile locker. That’s the kind of thoughtful thinking that makes the Civic so impressive.

Sporty Personality

But the Elantra Sport has a few tricks of its own that make it stand out against the benchmark Civic. For starters, the way it drives is far more engaging than the regular Honda, though that may change when the Si comes out. Unlike past generations of Elantra, this new one has great steering and doesn’t feature that annoying deadzone that bothered us before. There’s also a moderate amount of feedback, and it feels much more precise and communicative than what you get in the Civic.

Under the hood is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Those are serious upgrades over the 1.5-liter turbo in the Civic, but there’s no doubt that the Japanese automaker has something even more exciting in mind for its next Si model.

Vehicle                               Honda Civic                   Advantage                           Hyundai Elantra
                                           Touring                                                                        Sport

Engine                               1.5L turbo-four —                                                          1.6L turbo-four
Horsepower                       174 hp                             Elantra Sport                          201 hp
Torque                               162 lb-ft                           Elantra Sport                          195 lb-ft
Transmission                     CVT                                        —                                    6-speed manual/
7-Speed DCT
Fuel Economy (MPG)        32 / 42 / 36                      Civic                                       26 / 33 / 29 (DCT)
Fuel Economy (L/100 km) 7.4 / 5.6 / 6.6                   Civic                                       10.7 / 7.8 / 9.4 (DCT)
Weight                               2,923 lb                           Civic                                        3,131 lb
US Fully Loaded Price       $27,435                           Elantra Sport                          $25,985
CDN Fully Loaded Price    $29,113                           Civic                                        $30,822

Paired with the engine in the Elantra Sport test car is a manual transmission. The six-speed is solid and easy to work— it has well-defined throws and a solid clutch feel. seven-speedeed dual clutch transmission is also available and is more fuel efficient than the manual, earning 4 more mpg.

The Civic, however, will always return better fuel economy, mostly due to its less engaging but more thrifty continuously variable transmission. With the dual clutch, the best the Elantra Sport can muster is just 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, or a combined average of 29 mpg.

The Fun Factor

While the Elantra Sport has worse fuel economy, it makes up for it in driving enjoyment. Several components have been beefed up in the Sport model over the regular Elantra. The Sport model has bigger brake rotors, bigger stabilizer bars, and there’s a shorter final drive ratio as well. It also sounds much more interesting, with a unique sound signature that pops, cracks, and burbles, sounding like a rally car.

Finally, there’s the suspension, which is a newly designed multi-link independent setup, which replaces the semi-independent setup in the standard Elantra. With higher spring rates all around and an all new multi-link rear suspension setup, the Elantra Sport is a legitimately sporty compact. Unlike other compact cars, this is a blast to drive, without being overly stiff and obnoxious.

Features

When it comes to the interior of the Elantra, it lags behind the Civic slightly. It’s much more conservative and has a nice layout, but it features a limited amount of storage space in comparison to the Civic. Both cars offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The Elantra is offered with a Premium Package that navigation system, an upgrade sound system, a power sunroof and blind spot detection.

It’s still missing a number of features that the Civic packs, including lane departure warning and forward collision warning, and there’s no comparison for Honda’s super useful lanewatch camera.

The Elantra also has less cargo room in the trunk. It’s also important to point out that the Hyundai packs more slightly head room in the front and back, but less rear legroom. If you’re going to be putting people in the back regularly, the Civic is the car to get.

As tested, the fully loaded Civic came in at just under $28,000 and didn’t leave an option box unticked. On the other hand, the Elantra comes in at just under $26,000 when equipped with the manual transmission.

The Verdict: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport vs 2017 Honda Civic Touring

It’s clear why the Honda Civic is such a success. It appeals to a wide audience with its eye-catching design, easy to drive demeanor, and excellent fuel economy. It’s also packed with technology, but the Si isn’t here yet, so the driving dynamics leave a bit to be desired.

For drivers looking for a truly sporty experience, the Elantra Sport is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s not only aggressive looking, but it drives very well, thanks to its powerful engine and wonderful suspension. It’s a wonderful bargain, and one that’s tough to beat if you want driving fun to go along with your compact. If you can’t wait for the Honda Civic Si to get here, the Elantra Sport is a fantastic choice.

Honda Civic Touring

LOVE IT
Easy to Drive
Great on Gas
Spacious Interior

LEAVE IT
Boring to drive
Less engaging
More Expensive

Hyundai Elantra Sport

LOVE IT
Fun to Drive
Great Steering
Sounds great

LEAVE IT
Fuel Economy
Conservative Interior
Less Cargo Space

Pocket

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