Hyundai hits the mark with 2018 Elantra GT Sport hatchback

By Paul Borden

(February 25, 2018) A staple in the Hyundai lineup going on three decades, the Elantra ranks as the South Korean automaker’s best seller and, in fact, is one of the top sellers in the U.S., checking in at the No. 20 spot for 2017 despite a slight dip of 4.9 percent over 2016 numbers.

It was first introduced as an economy sedan and since 2013 also has been offered in hatchback form under the label Elantra GT.

For 2018, the Elantra GT comes in two flavors, a base model and the far more attractive Elantra GT Sport. With a 201 horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo-4 under the hood, the Elantra GT Sport offers a bit of fun behind the wheel as well as providing even better fuel economy than the base model.

The base Elantra GT with its 2.0-liter normally aspirated 4-banger is rated at only 161 hp and 150 pound-feet of torque (to the Sport’s 195 lb.-ft.). With a 6-speed automatic transmission, it earns EPA figures of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway, and 27 combined.

Even with its power advantage, EPA figures for the GT Sport with its 7-speed dual clutch transmission are 26/32/28.

OK. That’s not a huge difference, and the numbers when equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission slightly favor the base over the GT Sport, but with such a power advantage you would expect the GT Sport to be a bit thirstier.

My impression of my week in the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport may have been influenced a bit by the fact that I had been driving some large pickups and SUVs in the preceding weeks, but I found the GT Sport a lively performer even with the double-clutch tranny (essentially an automatic). I can only imagine that manual models are even more fun.

Paddle shifters are included as standard so that’s a plus, though I must confess that driving on South Florida’s mostly flat terrain I find little use for them. Driving in “sport” mode is more convenient and adds performance.

The cabin is nicely appointed for its class and roomy as well. In fact, cabin capacity is a generous 96.5 cubic feet, resulting in legroom of over 42 inches in the front and just under 35 in the back and a cargo area of nearly 25 cubic feet behind the back seats.

Fold those back seats and the Elantra GT Sport enjoys a big advantage over its competitors with a maximum 55.1 cubic feet of storage space. According to Hyundai, the only competitor that comes close to that is the Volkswagen Golf with a max 52.7 cubic feet. Others offer from 16 to 25 percent less max cargo availability.

So you’re getting both performance and functionality — and technology and features to enhance the overall driving experience.

Standard features in the Elantra GT Sport include an 8-inch display for the 8-speaker audio system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual automatic temperature control, push-button start, electronic parking brake with auto hold (it’s a mystery to me why more manufacturers don’t offer this feature), leather seating surfaces with heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free phone, 18-inch wheels, full LED headlights and taillights, blinds-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, and a rear window wiper and spoiler.

All that is included in a starting price of $24,350 with the double-clutch tranny, which is $4,000 more than the base Elantra GT’s MSRP of $20,350.

Adding options like a Sport Tech package that includes a navigation system and Hyundai’s Blue-Link services plus the $885 destination and delivery charge and the total of my test Elantra GT Sport came to $28,210.

That’s a good jump up from the base Elantra GT starting MSRP of under $20,000 with a manual tranny and just over $20,000 for the base equipped with the 6-speed automatic, but it’s competitive in its class when you take into consideration all the features the GT Sport has to offer.

What I liked about the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport: It has quite a bit of technological features for its class, and they are easy to operate. Hyundai has a knack for making life simple.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport: Not a lot to complain about here. Designers might want to sacrifice a bit of the spacious cargo area to add an inch or so of legroom in for occupants in the second-row seats.

Would I buy the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport? Yes. The extra features of the GT Sport make it worth your consideration in the compact segment.