As many know by now, Hyundai has made huge strides in the past few years and nothing makes this more apparent than the success of the Elantra. It has new, bold styling and is packed full of great technology. This car is now offered in many different trims and configurations. One is the basic sedan, which sets the tone for the other two offerings. Next, Hyundai came out with a coupe in hopes of competing more directly with the Honda Civic and Scion tC. Of course, the third is what we have this week; the Elantra GT. Don’t let the name confuse you as GT is usually slapped on the back end of sports cars. Although it looks sporty, the GT only signifies that this is the hatch version. The GT actually takes over for the Elantra Touring we saw in the previous generation. The Touring had more of a wagon look to it and wasn’t very sporty. The GT on the other hand, in my eye, looks the sportiest out of the bunch and is more of a sport-hatch design. They lost a little bit of interior room doing this, but I think it was well worth it.
The GT isn’t just an Elantra sedan with a hatch instead of a trunk either. This car is built on a completely different platform than the other two. It shares the i30 platform with its European and Asian sisters. This means it’s kept rigid and well balanced. The frame and body structure are all built using Hyundai’s own steel that is high strength and light weight. The stiffer structure makes for a safer and more engaging vehicle.
There’s much more put into the safety of this car as well. We get safety features usually reserved for more premium cars like a knee airbag for the driver. You also get electronic safety features like stability management, stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking, brake assist, and electronic brake-force distribution. These all add up to making this inexpensive hatch a great choice for families in the market.
Safety is all well and good, but I know what you’re really interested in; the fun factor! We’ve already mentioned before the sporty looks of the GT. You get extremely stylized headlights that swoop backwards over the fenders. You get a wide open grille up front that gives the impression that the nose was blown back by speedy driving. You get hard and sleek lines going down the side of the car and up and over the wheels. The hatch is sloped back giving the impression of speed. The GT really has all the right lines for a sporty hatchback.
Under the hood may be a little different story, though. Your only option is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine. This engine features an aluminum block and head with something Hyundai is calling Dual-CVVT. This is basically dual overhead-cams with adjusting valve timing and improves fuel economy while keeping torque alive. Power figures come in at 148-horsepower and 131-lb.-ft. of torque. These don’t sound like much, and well they’re not, but that’s not the whole story.
Hyundai’s first implementation of a technology called Driver Selectable Steering has been included into the GT. This allows you to choose what type of steering feel you’d like; a feature desperately needed in the Veloster Turbo. You can choose from Comfort, Normal, and of course Sport. Most consumers won’t really play much with this feature and it may seem like a gimmick, but it really works when you switch it over to sport. You feel the steering wheel become firmer and heavier. Your inputs are just that much more direct.
Then you have the transmission. Standard on the GT is a 6-speed manual. Obviously, if you’re looking for a fun drive, this is your best bet. Our tester was equipped with the 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic. The Shiftronic is Hyundai’s shiftable auto transmission and provides paddles for the driver to choose his own gear.
All this in conjunction with the GT’s sport-tuned suspension offer exceptional responsiveness and control and can equate to a fun driving experience. Driving down one of our favorite curvy country roads somewhere outside of the DFW metroplex, we were really able to tap into all of these features. Steering feel around tight corners was good, shifting with the paddles was unobtrusive, and grip from the suspension kept us gunning for more. Where this car is still let down is on power. Powering off the start or powering out of corners leaves you begging for more. Maybe it would be better suited with the 1.6-turbo found in the Veloster Turbo we reviewed a few weeks back? Maybe even stuffing the 2.0t from under the hood? Either of these options may result in this becoming one of my favorite hatchbacks.
So why stick a sluggish engine into a sporty hatch? Fuel economy of course. Remember talking about the light weight steel in the frame, the aluminum block of the engine, and the Dual-CVVT technology? Add all that up with a coefficient of drag that makes the GT more aerodynamic than the Toyota Matrix, Subaru Impreza and VW Golf with a measurement of .30 in wind-tunnel testing and you get some great numbers. The EPA rates the car at 27-mpg city and 37-mpg highway. Hyundai has had some issues over estimating mileage claims, but these seemed to be pretty accurate to us. On the highway we were able to reach just over 37-mpg and during our full week of fun driving and getting the most out of this engine as we could, we still returned an average of 27.4-mpg. That’s not bad for the way we drive these cars.
You can’t talk about a new Hyundai without dedicating some time to technology that comes standard on this car. They have been packing their offerings full of technology and the GT is no different. Resting in the dash is a 7-inch touchscreen display equipped with lBlueLink. You get a nice, and hidden, rearview camera, navigation, voice commands, bluetooth pairing, XM radio with services like NavTraffic and NavWeather, and much more. On the steering wheel, you have buttons galore allowing you to control what you need without taking your hands from the wheel. It may seem like a lot when you first sit into the car, but they are easy to figure out and memorize. As standard, Hyundai also offers push-button start with proximity key. This is a great feature that more manufacturers need to jump on with. Also, you get heated seats for both the front and rear passengers, although these days, I’m much more impressed with cooled seats for Texas driving. We also had the panoramic roof which stretched from the front all the way back to the rear seats.
It’s an impressive list of features and tech packed into this small hatchback, but it does come at a price. At it’s base, the Elantra GT’s MSRP is $18,545, which is pretty good and most of the options are standard. As spec’d out, our tester was priced at $25,490, which is getting into full-size sedan money. This means you’ll really want to like the looks and really have to think about the size and what you’re looking for in a car before picking up a fully spec’d GT.
Looking at its competitors, a few we’ve already mentioned like the Toyota Matrix, Subaru Impreza and VW Golf come to mind. You also have to contend with the likes of the new Ford Focus, the Mazda 3, and the Kia Forte. The Golf is an obvious choice for the brand conscious and someone wanting some German engineering, but it’s actually smaller and tighter than the Elantra GT. Both the Mazda 3 and Subaru Impreza are nice cars, but the features and interior of this car win hands down. The last big competitor that I would seriously cross-shop and consider is the Focus. Both cars look great, have great interiors, and have nice driving dynamics. The base Focus wins out on power and is a little heavier, but if you’re already spending over $25k and you’re looking for something sporty, you can’t overlook the Focus ST we reviewed last week.