Hyundai Elantra GT — Stylish transportation

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

For years small-car hatchbacks were out of favor in the U.S., but things have changed in recent times due in part to the need for the extra cargo space inherent in the so-called five-door vehicles and perhaps even more, because of the modern, stylish designs that in many cases have made the hatchback more pleasing to gaze upon than its sedan counterpart.

Add to the list the new Hyundai Elantra GT. The Elantra sedan got a complete makeover in 2017, and for the 2018 model year the hatchback has been given the same treatment. The result is a beautifully proportioned vehicle that comes with an updated interior treatment apart from the sedan and with the choice of two energetic engines.

The new design theme is highlighted by slim LED headlights tightly flanking the prominent chrome-framed nose that now adorns all new Hyundais. Below, yellow slit LED running lights are part of side air curtain inlets that flow air more cleanly around front wheels for aerodynamic improvements. The hood is more prominent, the design line that flows from the headlights becomes a gently rising body-side arc that bisects the LED taillights. It's a very fetching presentation — no surprise because Kia's design studios have consistently produced attractive vehicles over the past decade.

There are two flavors — the standard Elantra GT and the Elantra GT Sport. The standard GT comes equipped with a direct injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 162 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. We drove the 6-speed automatic and found it very adequate. But the more alluring model — and the one we recommend — is the Elantra GT Sport that features a 1.6-liter turbocharged four making 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

While the manual shifter will be extremely attractive for the shift-for-yourself crowd in the performance-oriented GT Sport, the dual-clutch automatic provided quick shifts, and created a great combination with the turbocharged engine.

We drove both transmissions in the GT Sport and found them very engaging and deserving to be included in the so-called "hot hatch" category. Cars in this category have above average handling traits and solid off-the-line performance. We think the GT Sport acquitted itself quite well in the fun-to-drive department. For comparison purposes, the GT Sport can complete a 0-to-60 run in 6.5 seconds.

While gas mileage ratings on regular gas are about the same for both engines (26 city, 32 highway and 28 overall for the GT Sport, and 24/32/27 for the GT), we found those numbers to be conservative.

Hyundai has also reworked the interior of the Elantra line-up. It is particularly alluring on the GT Sport with red stitching on the seats and red accents on the dash. Mounted high on the center dash is a “floating” 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, backup camera, a good-sounding AM-FM HD-SiriusXM Infinity audio system with seven speakers and a subwoofer, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s the Blue Link Connected Car System, which allows a smartphone, smartwatch or even Amazon Alexa or Google Home to let you remotely start the car, set climate control or defrost mirrors and rear window.

The infotainment screen is flanked by volume and tuning knobs, items lacking in many late-model cars. And reaching a desired operation is easy by touching well-marked buttons around the screen including Radio, Media, Map and Navigation.

Your monthly payment may make it necessary to purchase the standard GT. But no worries, standard equipment is abundant and the Elantra hatchback comes with one of biggest cargo areas in the segment at 55.1 cubic feet. With all seatbacks in place, luggage capacity is a solid 24.9 cubic feet.

As for standard equipment, the base Elantra GT comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, rearview camera, hill assist control, Bluetooth, an eight-inch touchscreen interface, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, full power controls, and steering wheel mounted cruise controls. Starting price is $20,235 for the manual transmission and $21,235 for the automatic. A GT that we drove came with automatic and the Style Package ($1,800) and Technology Package ($4,300) and it carried a bottom line of $27,460.

Our recommended GT Sport version with automatic starts at $25,235. In either configuration, we think the Tech package is worth the price. It brings such things as leather seating surfaces, panoramic sunroof, and navigation, Infinity Premium Audio with seven speakers, rear console air vents, and ventilated seats. The GT Sport with the manual transmission that we drove had a bottom line of $24, 260.

Base price: $20,235; as driven, $27,460
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 161 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 150 pound-feet @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 170.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,040 pounds
Turning circle: 34.78 feet
Luggage capacity: 24.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 55.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 24 city, 32 highway, 27 combined
0-60: 8.0 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda Civic hatchback, Chevy Cruze hatchback, Mazda3 hatchback

The Good
• Excellent cargo space
• Engaging to drive with Sport model
• Stylish, feature-laden cabin

The Bad
• Below average fuel economy in base model

The Ugly
• Very stiff competition in segment