The Hyundai Elantra GT isn’t just a model of the Elantra, it’s its own car. Elantra is a prosaic four-door sedan, while Elantra GT is a sporty five-door hatchback with edgy styling. The Elantra GT is 9 inches shorter than the Elantra, on a wheelbase that’s 2 inches shorter, and uses a rear suspension designed for a tighter ride. Its competitors include the redesigned Volkswagen Golf, upcoming Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza.
Elantra GT uses the same engine as the Elantra, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. It’s front-wheel drive, and comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, although by far most models in showrooms will have the 6-speed automatic. It’s EPA rated at 24/33 mpg City/Highway.
Among its many standard features are Bluetooth, cruise control, heated front seats, cooled glovebox, rear wiper, satellite radio, and remote entry, although not the rearview camera, which you have to purchase as an option. Grander options include leather upholstery, 10-way power driver seat, panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights, ventilated front seats, automatic climate control, and a sport suspension.
The Elantra GT is unchanged for the 2016 model year, except for upgrades to the options: LED taillights, 17-inch alloy wheels, remote start system and climate control, and BlueLink infotainment system including navigation, HD radio and Siri.
The Elantra GT comes in one model, a 5-door hatchback, with a six-speed manual transmission for $18,800 or six-speed automatic for $1000 more. Available packages can upgrade the GT with as much as another $5000 or so worth of goodies, including many stand-alone options.
The Elantra GT grille is huge, a shape that might once have been a hexagon, now bloated almost to roundness. Like many others today, it’s not really a grille, because so little of the space is needed and used to pass air to the engine. It’s a plastic design on the nose of the car intended to look like a grille. It shouts Hyundai, so there’s little mistaking this hatchback.
The edgy front fender flares are quite radical, their arch rising all the way to the level of the hood, suggesting cutouts on an old-school stock car, and making the wheels look two inches bigger, especially the optional 17-inch alloys, with 10 spokes that are kind of clumsy on a car that can’t afford it. The minor majesty begins at about the sideview mirror, where the convergence of the wheelwells, sleek headlamps and the steeply swept A pillar flow up to the roof, and immediately slope back down to the hatch with a rear spoiler. The designer who first sat down with a sketchpad and white paper went home smiling that night.
The interior is far less adventurous than the exterior, although the cooled glovebox is a trip. There’s a big soft dashboard, and deep center console with sliding armrest. An AM/FM/CD/XM sound system with USB and Bluetooth is standard, with a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls. The standard seats are fabric, and heated.
The available panoramic sunroof can make the hatchback feel almost like a T-top, on the right day, while seven standard airbags, including one for the driver’s knee, make the Elantra GT feel secure.
There’s decent legroom in the front, but not much in the rear. The rear seats fold nearly flat, giving 51 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than the Elantra sedan. And there’s 23 cubic feet behind the rear seat, more than some compact luxury crossovers. There’s a shallow storage tray under the cargo floor.
With a shorter wheelbase than the Elantra, and less overhang, Elantra GT is more nimble than the sedan. It’s also 1.4 inches taller, although that’s not something you’re likely to feel in turns. The rear suspension is an upside-down V-shaped beam, to replace a crimped fat tube on the sedan. The GT also uses a fairly big 22-mm stabilizer bar for more stable cornering, and Sachs rear shocks for a firmer ride. Even with the standard 16-inch wheels and tires, it feels grippier than the Elantra. More so with the 17-inch alloys.
There are three driving modes: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. But the modes don’t vary the steering ratio, they just change the resistance without offering better feedback. We used Normal for our long test ride. In that mode, the automatic transmission will upshift below the engine’s 6000 rpm limit.
The 6-speed manual transmission shifts like a peg in a slot. The clutch release is tight and smooth.
The Elantra GT has some stiff competition. There aren’t any significant flaws, but there isn’t much excitement. With choices like the Golf, Focus and Mazda 3, you have to really want a Huyundai, or really like the styling or base affordability, to choose the Elantra GT.