There are cars that are simply better than they have to be.
They go beyond just beating their obvious rivals and into another level of long-term partnership potential for their drivers.
Such is the case with the five-door Hyundai Elantra GT. This variant of the best-selling sedan shares much of its drivetrain cabin, but none of its exterior or platform design.
It enters a market segment that has more strong rivals than ever. Focus and Cruze hatchback might be easy to beat. But how about the new Civic Sport 5-door, Mazda3 and VW Golf? Those are some seriously good global cars.
Elantra GT is up to the task. Our test model is the less-powerful GT (versus the GT Sport with a turbo) and is exceedingly conventional on paper. This is a car that comes alive on the road – and left your author grinning smugly as other traffic did double-takes.
A compelling mix of design, tech-quipment and versatility makes the Elantra GT’s case versus humdrum compact sedans.
Two HD videos to share here along with the usual deluge of photos. Pop the play button below to start, or keep reading to Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing section heads.
HD Drive Review Video
Elantra GT’s two trim levels with different engine choices basically look identical outside. GT Sport has larger wheels but is not available in the USA with the base GT’s huge Tech pack.
The $4300 Tech pack is going to come up a lot in this review, so let’s just address it now. This option changes the exterior looks pretty dramatically with its full LED lighting all around. Double projectors for the low beams, then a triple LED projector setup with the (auto!) highbeams engaged. Projector-beam lamps are standard but are halogen operated without the Tech pack.
Standard LED daytime running lights make vertical amber strakes up the front bumper edges in a very fresh way. Amber LEDs are curious in the USA and this might explain some of the road attention. But not all of it. The clean cascading grille has a premium vertical slope and fairly sharky leading edge of the hood. This extends forward into the wind and is a big contrast versus the smoother bottlenose of the Elantra sedan’s grille.
LED brake lights are part of the big Tech-pack upgrade as well. The pert rump of the Elantra GT has a bit of Euro-only VW Scirocco flair. Neatly integrated rear spoiler and subtle, discreet sportiness from the stance out back are an E-GT highlight.
The Tech pack brings a giant panoramic moonroof to set it apart from base GTs or any GT Sport model. This not only looks like a racy black roof from outside. It is fully functional with power slider for the big glass piece, and a powered blackout sunshade inside.
The Elantra GT five-door’s appeal is in its design cleanliness, premium surfacing and uniqueness on the road. The fact that the hatchback Elantra is as practical as most CUVs? Just an added bonus.
Eltantra GT’s cabin is a major, major strong suit. It is genuinely comfortable and well-equipped from its standard $21k total with the automatic, or a grand less for the standard six-speed manual.
Sporty and supportive drive position, HUGE range of steering wheel tilt/telescope adjustment and an airy overall cabin feel make a strong first impression.
Standard eight-inch touchscreen helps reinforce that this car is special even from its base prices. The low, lean dashboard means this screen stands proud of the main console. A strong hint of Mercedes-Benz in its slimline look.
Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also perfect for integrating nav and media easily without spending big bucks for the Nav.
Usability for the Hyundai’s safety and display tech is top-class. No learning curve to figure this car out. Except for one place: the central locking button is in the center of the dashboard and not on the doors. A Euro quirk.
Another Euro quirk is its double trunk floor. Very large and practical back there – even with a mini spare tire back there. Partly thanks to the live axle on the base E-GT versus independent rear end on the GT Sport.
We were even charmed by the matte-finish, soft-touch plastics throughout the Elantra GT’s upper cabin. Beige over beige on paper does not sound exciting. But it is actually a few complementary, earth-tone shades that are more special to these eyes than the grey alternative.
Is it all roses inside the Elantra GT cabin? As standard, the E-GT lacks leather-wrapped steering wheel or seats. But with Style and Tech upgrades, we have both. As well as vented seats!!! Huge score versus a recent $90k BMW that lacked these.
A nice diamond perforation in the leather seats is classy and nice. The leather itself? Not nice. It is slippy and synthetic feeling. VW and Toyota’s ‘soft-tec’ vinyl seats both feel nicer than this supposedly real Elantra GT leather.
Both Elantra GT and E-GT Sport offer manual or automatic transmissions. Both offer four-cylinder power. But they are not equals.
The 201HP GT Sport motor gets a seven-speed double-clutch automatic versus the 161HP base model’s torque-converter six-speed autobox. As mentioned, the base E-GT also misses out on independent rear suspension and sport tuning for the anti-roll bars and suspension settings.
With two very different trims, you can guess that we expected this base E-GT to be pretty weak by comparison. It is about a second slower to 60-mph at 7.9s (est) than the turbo cars. And its 17s with eco tires have less grip around corners.
But the base E-GT is no lap-dog. This is a really fun-to-drive compact hatch. One that is encouraging and trustworthy around corners, and even pretty happy at full throttle. All E-GTs have a drive mode selector, thankfully, to let you pop into Sport mode when in a hurry.
Base Elantra GT is way more fun than you are imagining. True-life steering feel, great brake/throttle interplay and playful handling feel.
Base pricing for Elantra GT automatic is $20,350 plus $885 in destination charge. This is a few grand higher than the cheapest possible Elantra sedans. But E-GT is much better equipped as standard.
The oddly-named Style package is first up on the Elantra GT upgrades tally. $1800 buys you power driver seat, heated front seats, proximity key with pushbutton start and blind-spot detection.
Tech adds everything mentioned before, plus integrated Nav and electronic parking brake with auto hold. This keeps the car in place at stoplights without requiring a driver to have his/her foot on the brake the whole time.
It works well and reinforces again how premium this Elantra GT feels versus many compact hatchbacks.
All in, the bottom line of the Elantra GT tester is $27,460.
Elantra GT is simply far better than it has to be. Benchmarking and engineering the Hyundai i30 model primarily in Europe is evident from block one. Even though this car is made in Korea, it carries the Euro i30 chassis settings and performance chops intact. Little things like aero wiper blades that can stand 100-mph, and brakes that resist fade against all odds.
A grown-up feel of comfort and refinement on the highway. But remarkably plucky in the twisties.
Fun, practical and outstanding value? In one car? Yup. Elantra GT.
HD Driving Footage