2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport 6MT – First Drive Review

Hyundai is perfecting its performance-car credentials.  The latest pack of redesigns go as hard at their tech/ style as they do at full turbo boost and fast corners.

This handling skill and steering feel are creating a new impression of the brand as a whole.

You need a preface like this to absorb the impressions of how sweet a drive the Elantra GT Sport was the other day.  This is Hyundai’s Scirocco rival for Europe and GTI-fighter for the USA — with a slinky low roof, five-door layout and lively powertrain.  How alive is GT?  It forms the basis for the upcoming “N” global performance model that is set to rival Civic Type R and Subaru WRX.

Let’s cover the big themes on this car ahead of its arrival in showrooms in September 2017 as a 2018 model, with pricing from about $19k.

What is Elantra GT versus the Elantra sedan and Elantra Sport?

The GT is the only five-door while all other Elantra’s in the USA are four-door sedans.  GT comes with a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 161 ponies, or a 1.6T with 201HP to a double-clutch automatic or six-speed manual in top GT Sport trim level.  This powertrain matches the Elantra Sport sedan.

Elantra GT’s have much more cargo room and flexibility than the sedan, with 55 cubic-feet of storage space with the back seats folded.  This beats almost all small SUVs, by the way.  More on this later.

The updated Elantra GT cabin has piano-key buttons, techy materials and even a flat-bottomed, red-accented steering wheel for good measure.  Sportier seats with extra bolsters on the Sport are German-firm — in a good way — and hang on around corners.  The Apple CarPlay inside our tester took the place of integrated nav, but the GT Sport still has massive touchscreen, high-res mid-cluster displays and USBs galore.

Any premium features that surprise at the low-20s pricing of Elantra GT?

Yes, the giant moonroof (auto only), CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as lane-keep, auto braking and active cruise with the Tech package.

Where does Elantra GT come from?

Elantra GT comes to the US market from Hyundai’s factories in Europe. It is Euro-tastic.  The biggest change to the US model is a swap from i30 badges to Elantra GT Sport.

Quality inside feels just that little bit tighter than any other continent’s cars.  The steering, braking and acceleration are worthy of cars tested on — commuted to work on — the autobahn.  It shows.

Where is it going?

Elantra GT is rumored to add a hardcore ‘GT Sport N’ in about eight months after a Detroit USA reveal (98-percent likely).  This is the global launch product of Hyundai’s N sub-brand, indicating cars that have been extensively fettled on, and for, the Nurburgring Nordschleife racetrack.

When does it arrive, and how quick will it sprint?

Elantra GT is new for the 2018 model-year and is the quickest Hyundai turbo we’ve driven so far.  IN stick-shift form, this machine should score around a 5.9-second sprint to 60-mph in the right hands.  It has a really aggressive level of midrange thrust available — more-so than this same engine driven elsewhere in the Kia Soul, for example.  Possibly due to better power-to-weight ratios, but more likely to keep up with speedy VWs, MINIs and SEATs in Europe.

The double-clutch we have not driven yet, but expect to be slightly more sedate for launch drama versus the stick.  This six-speed is HEAVEN to drive and geared short for a plucky rush of power anytime you are deep in throttle.  Elantra GT is FUN in a way that no CUVs are.  Except maybe the Juke Nismo.

Why a 5-Door?  Does it look cool?

This is the modern-day wagon.  The five-door is shorter than the sedans so is easier to park, is lighter and on the top GT Sport has a special performance-tuned independent rear suspension.

Of course, the big wagon benefit over any SUV is the low center of gravity, great handling and far better speed/efficiency than any tall crossover can achieve for the same cash.

Elantra GT Sport does look cool and extremely new.  It shares no panels whatsoever with the USA Elantra sedan, and as such has an almost-Genesis-like face.  The singleframe grille wears a racy dark chrome meshwork and the LED low and highbeam projectors on the Sport are laser-bright.  Twin projectors for the LED low-beams are a unique look.  The third for highbeams is better for actual road lighting than a bi-LED single projector unit.  The double lowbeam light look is fresh on the roads, but the LED DRLs in amber are the quickest way to ID the Elantra GT.  In normal driving, the vertical edge blades of LED light in the bumper glow bright amber.  Somewhat similar to the 2017 Kia Cadenza, but unseen in most places outside Europe.

Who is the target owner?

It is perfect for singles who like to adventure, shop and travel — making big use of that fold-down seat and cargo hold.  Hyundai’s research actually shows these folks as more likely to be outdoors on the weekends than CUV owners.  Practicality extends to room for dogs in the way-back and loading long IKEA flatpacks or 2x4s.  A hatch is like a cool, chopped window wagon when you think about it!

How does Elantra GT Sport feel as a Golf GTI rival?

It feels about five grand cheaper!  Bah-dum-bum drumroll.

No, in actuality the Elantra GT is a direct match for the base Golfs as well as the GTI.  Power is slightly down for the Hyundai but it is also lighter than GTI.  In stick-shift form, the Elantra GT Sport could definitely keep up with a GTI in sprints and around fast corners.  This machine feels planted with a rock-solid front subframe for the axle/steering/gearbox.  It feels precise and has stellar control around corners.

It also feels lower than GTI or Golf around corners, with less bodyroll and far less understeer.  This might be the GT’s low and reclined drive position and deep-extending tilt/telescope steering column.  It worked for my oft-mocked gangster driving position.

The cabin feels as good as the VW and even has an electronic parking brake with auto hill hold.  It releases the brake automatically when you get in and engage reverse, just like VW.  They are almost kissing cousins more than rivals in some places!

One place we wish the Elantra GT was not so European?  The location of the central locking switch is not on the inner doors, but rather the upper center console — a feature disliked on many BMWs too.  It will make you feel foolish until you find it the first time.

What’s your Elantra GT trim recommendation:

Much as we adore the giant moonroof and vented seats, the stick Elantra GT Sport is the quickest and most fun.  This is GTI space for Fiesta ST pricing.

We can’t say this with 100-percent certainty, but we also suspect the GTI with DSG double-clutch will be alot quicker and more engaging than Elantra GT with seven-speed double-clutch.  This is one place where VW is ahead of Hyundai.

For those who rarely floor any car’s throttle, the Elantra GT with base 2.0-liter and automatic is the one to choose. It is as friendly and agile to drive as it gets.

The bottom line is that Elantra GT Sport majors on being frisky and fun while also deeply practical.  It is a great Q-car for enthusiasts who want to keep a low profile — while hitting some Euro speeds!

Fun-to-drive is the Elantra GT mantra  — and it really delivers.

How much is Elantra GT?

Base price for the GT is $19,350 and GT Sport at $23,250, including destination charge.  The automatic option costs $1100 on either trim level, and is required to add the Tech (both) or Style (base) packages.

The highly-desirable Tech pack is a pricey $3850 option.  It does include vented seats, nav, active safety tech galore…. Many things.  See below.   This package is $4200 on the base Elantra GT automatic, and, to recap, not offered on either stickshift Elantra GT.  Curious Euro quirk, perhaps.  The rest of this Euro import we gladly welcome to Hyundai’s US lineup.

Panoramic sunroof, 8-inch navigation system, Blue Link® Telematics System, Blue Link® Connected Care Package (3-year complimentary service), Blue Link® Remote Package (3-year complimentary service), Blue Link® Guidance Package (3-year complimentary service), Ventilated seats, Power driver seat with lumbar support, Infinity® Premium Audio with 7 speakers including subwoofer, Clari-Fi™ Music Restoration Technology, Wireless charging pad, Smart Cruise Control with stop/start capability, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist, High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Auto-dimming rearview mirror with Blue Link®, HomeLink® and compass

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2018 Hyundai Elantra GT