Sharing the front subframe with its 4-door cousin, a chassis engineer explains the underlying reason why the Elantra GT is related to the sedan. A blast though the swerving, curving roads near Santa Ysabel outside San Diego and we’re convinced he’s either an idiot or a liar. And yet he’s neither, the GT riding on shared underpinnings, though delivering surprising levels of driving enjoyment.
|1. Compared to the sedan, the Elantra GT is 9-inches shorter overall with a 2-inch shorter wheelbase. |
2. Starting at $18,395 a $2,750 Style Package includes a panoramic roof, leather seats, a power driver’s seat, plus 17-inch wheels with 215/45/17 tires and stiffer rear spring rates.
3. Cargo room is rated at 23 cu-ft or 51 cu-ft with the rear seats folded flat.
4. One engine is available, a 1.8-liter with 148 hp and a 28/39 mpg rating.
4. The Elantra GT is the first Hyundai product to come with the Driver Selectable Steering Mode button with three levels of responsiveness: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
One of three new Hyundai products made available to the motoring press during the brand’s largest ever press drive, the Elantra GT stands out as a genuine surprise and a blast to drive, even when driving options included the 201 hp Veloster Turbo.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the Elantra GT is a 5-door hatchback designed for the European marketplace and looks it. The car is an admission by Hyundai that it is tossing away any old Toyota Matrix ambitions it had with the Elantra Touring. Instead, the GT is positioned as a competitor to cars like the Mazda3, VW Golf and Ford Focus.
Powered by the same 1.8-liter 4-cylinder found in the sedan, the Elantra GT makes an identical 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque. Available with the same choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, it comes as just one trim level with two choices of option packages. Targeted at a smaller segment of the marketplace than the sedan, the GT gets more standard equipment, and costs a few thousand above a base sedan as well. A unique quality of the one-trim selection is that you can have a fully-loaded model, with a stick-shift.
And that’s exactly what we drove, experiencing a level of enjoyment no front-drive Hyundai has ever before offered. Slap that boosted 1.6-liter from the Veloster Turbo under the hood and we’d have the first ever Hyundai-Speed GT.
With the current engine it’s still capable enough, and delivers a perfectly acceptable amount of around-town juice. Slicing up steep canyon roads, however, it’s hard not to notice the excessive ratio gap from 2nd to 3rd gear, meaning that even if you push the revs past the redline, once in 3rd, the engine drops outside its ideal powerband.
Making it a particular shame is the fact that the stick-shift is actually an excellent unit, with short and precise throws.
Provoking wild fits of driving shenanigans, understeer is far less than we’d expect for a non-performance vehicle while the intervention of the stability control is unintrusive, or at least extremely smooth in its application.
Measuring 9-inches shorter in length than the sedan with far less overhang, it also has a 2-inch shorter wheelbase making it impressively agile. Despite what Hyundai calls a V-Beam (a fancy version of yet another solid rear axle) even less-than-ideal road surfaces don’t unsettle it.
We did notice a good deal of bobbing and bouncing on the suspension, but the entire time the car’s wheels remained planted and in tune with the road. Helping in this department is the GT’s 2,745 lb curb weight, the lowest in its class and a solid 150 lbs less than even the Mazda3.
As mentioned, out test car was fully kitted out, including the $2,750 Style Package, which is about far more than just cosmetics. Along with the panoramic roof, leather seats and power driver’s chair, there are 17-inch wheels with 215/45/17 tires as well as higher rear spring rates, while all GT models get Sachs shocks.
Aiding in delivering all this fun is a surprising standard feature, Hyundai’s new Driver Selectable Steering Mode (DSSM). With a button on the steering wheel, the driver can at any time switch between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes, tightening responsiveness of the steering, which we’re happy to report is not plagued by the numb on-center feel of recent Hyundai products.
Despite its sporty name, the GT is a hatchback and while the fun-to-drive factor may help sell it, functionality is what is required. And here, it delivers.
The smaller size compared to the sedan and compressed wheelbase immediately raises red flags. Thankfully, however, it does not have a European-sized back seat, and while overall legroom is down just over an inch, there’s still enough space for a six-footer.
Surely then cargo room must be compromised? Not so. There’s 23 cu-ft of space in the hatch, which expands to 51 cu-ft with the rear seats down.
As with all Hyundais, the Elantra GT takes a leadership position in the fuel economy department, though unlike the sedan it misses the 40 mpg mark. Regardless of the transmission, the GT gets 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. An Active Eco button on the automatic shifts early and keeps the car in a higher gear, resulting in a 7 percent improvement in fuel economy.
Comparing those numbers to rivals takes some hair-splitting as Hyundai will point out the GT’s best fuel economy rating for a standard engine - while both Ford and Mazda offer more efficient options but ones you’ll have to pay for. Then again, it’s not like the Elantra GT is a $15,000 compact hatch.
With the style package and freight the tally hits just south of the $22,000 mark, plus you’ll have to add an extra $1,000 if you’re the automatic transmission type.
Consumers are now much more willing to spend big bucks on a compact car and Hyundai gives that choice, with an extra $2,350 Technology Package that adds navigation with a seven-inch screen, a rear view camera, automatic headlights and dual zone automatic climate control.
Those looking at a 5-door hatch from a budget perspective might not get the same thrills or goodies, but base models do come well equipped with features including those heated front seats, a cooled glove box, Bluetooth, Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls as well as that Driver Selectable Steering Mode button.
As fun as the Elantra GT is, its every day functionality extends to driving comfort, although wind noise in the cabin is excessive. As for safety, the usual suite of government mandated technologies from stability control to ABS are here, while seven airbags come standard, including the first driver’s knee airbag fitted in a Hyundai product.
A seriously impressive blend of fun and functionality, the Elantra GT is a stand out for a vehicle nameplate that until recently couldn’t list driving enjoyment on its resume. Carrying on the sedan’s reputation for style and fuel economy, the value equation is slightly less obvious here. Priced several thousand above the 4-door, this hatchback does, however, come appropriately equipped for the dollar figure.
Everyone always wants more power and so that goes without saying, but if there’s one stand-out gripe with the Elantra GT it’s that in order to get the added handling features you have to pony up for the pricey cosmetics. Not everyone wants a panoramic roof, nor do they want to pay for it.
Functional and fuel efficient with the flowing lines we expected from a Hyundai hatch, the Elantra GT surprises with fun.
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