One of the great things about the popularity of small SUV’s and Crossovers is that it’s also creating renewed interest in small wagons and hatchbacks too. Once you’ve experienced the practicality of RAV4 or HR-V, it’s pretty hard to go back to a small sedan.
So, don’t go back to a small sedan.
With the all-new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, you get carrying capacity – plus a whole lot of other nice surprises. And even if comes down to choosing between an Elantra sedan and GT hatchback, it’s no contest – hatch wins.
It starts with the looks department. Hyundai was stuck in a conservative rut for a while, but its new models, including the Kona crossover show some new excitement. The Elantra GT hatchback is a vehicle that they sell in Europe as the i30, and it has a flair that makes it look like the VW GTI’s more stylish cousin.
Longer, lower and wider than the previous model, the GT grabs your attention with a new cascading grille design and vertical LED daytime running lights. Large intakes on the side of the grille give added sportiness, while a large character swash and curved doors give a muscular look.
The rear taillights are handsome and modern, and our tester, in its Electric Blue sitting on standard 17-inch alloy wheels (18’s are available), would look quite at home in any busy Bavarian burg as it does here in the U.S.
The new interior is a crisp as the exterior. First of all, it’s impressively roomy, with super supportive seats up front, and room for adults in the back. With the rear seat up, cargo space is excellent, and folding them gives you a huge cargo hold that’s best in class.
It’s also quite sporty here – there’s a nice, fat leather 3-spoke steering wheel, and clear analog speedo and tach, with a digital display in between. On the center console is a tablet like info-tainment system, with 8-inch screen and easy to use buttons on the side.
Hyundai always throws lots of value into the mix, and our GT with Tech Package served up everything you could ask for from leather seats (heated and ventilated in front!) to Infinity Premium Audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – even wireless smartphone charging!
There’s more cool stuff like Blue Link that lets you remote start with Amazon Alexa – along with climate control, you can even turn on the rear defroster and mirror heaters. There’s even a bird’s-eye view function on the Navi system. While a lot of these features are expected on more luxo models, to find them on something as affordable as an Elantra feels like getting a free upgrade to First Class.
A solid drive
When we first planned to test the Elantra GT, we had hoped for the Sport model, which features a 201 hp turbo, 7-speed dual clutch auto and a more advanced rear suspension. We’ve sampled the set up in other Hyundai models like the Veloster and Kia Soul! and it’s a real enthusiast’s setup – loads of fun. But it was not to be.
So, we were a little suspect of the of the GT’s 161 hp, 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. And while it’s not the VW GTI-baiting hot rod we hoped for, it’s actually quite nice. Power is good, torque is spread out well along the rpm range, and the 6-speed auto is responsive, especially in Sport Mode. Enjoying the Sport mode to the fullest, we were also pleased averaging around 27 mpg.
The handling is also responsive and the car’s tidy dimensions make it easy to sling around. While the suspension isn’t full-on aggressive, the payback comes in a quiet comfortable ride. So instead of a “Sports” vehicle, the GT is more “Sporty” and we think it strikes a fine compromise for those who don’t want to commit to the Sport model. And the Sport is a bit of a commitment at nearly $4,000 more.
While the Elantra GT is all-new for 2018, Hyundai remains your budget’s bff, with great bang for the buck. The GT starts at $19,350, our tester’s optional auto transmission was $1,000 more.
Our tester was an example of the good life, and featured the Style Package ($1,800) which gives Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist, Side-mirror turn-signal indicators, Proximity Key with push button start, Super vision 4.2-inch TFT display, Dual automatic temperature control with auto defogger, Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Power driver seat with lumbar support, Heated front seats, etc.
We also took the big hit for the Tech Package ($4,300), adding Full LED headlights, Leather seating surfaces, Panoramic sunroof, LED taillights, Electronic Parking Brake (EPB) with Automatic Vehicle Hold, Larger rear disc brake, Rear console vent, 8-inch navigation system, Blue Link® Telematics Connected Care Package, Remote and Guidance Packages, 7-speaker Infinity® Premium Audio, Wireless charging pad, Ventilated seats, Auto-dimming rearview mirror and more.
Adding in carpeted floor mats, our tester carried a grand total of $27,460.
We loaded up a VW Golf and came in at $25,605, but it wasn’t comparably equipped with no leather available and other missing features. A loaded Mazda 3 comes in at $29,185. So, we’ll call the Elantra GT a good value.
We found the new Elantra GT to be an immensely likeable 5-door hatchback. Great style, a fun drive, loads of room and features, well-priced, it’s a great alternative to a crossover or small sedan.
Once again, Hyundai hatches a plan to win you over.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.