Hyundai redesigned its compact Elantra sedan last year, but the Elantra’s hatchback sibling–the Elantra GT—wasn’t included in the party; it was carried over on the previous-generation Elantra platform. For 2018, the hatchback catches up with the sedan as Hyundai introduces a redesigned GT based on the latest European-market Hyundai i30 platform. And, Hyundai has sweetened the pot with a zingy new performance version that shares its surname and its mechanical enhancements with the recently introduced Elantra Sport sedan.
Compared to the outgoing model, Hyundai says the new Elantra GT’s body structure uses almost twice the amount of high-strength steel and is 22 percent more rigid and 61 pounds lighter. Increased use of structural adhesives, thicker carpet, and other sound-reduction measures improve noise, vibration, and harshness levels.
Like the refreshed-for-2018 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan, the Elantra GT sports a new “cascading” grille design; this is an evolution of the brand’s hexagonal grille shape, and the look is slated to spread to the rest of the Hyundai lineup in the near future. Vertical scoops on the sides of the Elantra GT’s front fascia house functional air curtains that improve aerodynamics by routing air through the front wheel wells.
There is no shortage of four-door hatchbacks in the compact-car class, and the Elantra GT has better maximum cargo volume than almost all of them. With its 60/40 split rear seats folded, the GT boasts 55.1 cubic feet of space. Only the Subaru Impreza bests it (barely) with 55.3 cu. ft., and the Volkswagen Golf isn’t far behind with 52.7. These numbers even beat some subcompact SUVs, such as the Jeep Renegade (50.8) and Chevrolet Trax (48.4).
The Elantra GT’s base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that puts out 162 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque and can be paired with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel-economy estimates are 23 mpg city/31 highway/26 combined with the manual and 24/32/27 with the automatic. The spirited Sport model has a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that puts out 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, and can be had with a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual. It’s rated at 22/29/25 with the manual and 26/32/28 with the automated manual.
The Elantra GT Sport boasts several other performance-focused enhancements over the base model, such as stiffer front and rear springs, sportier steering tuning, a rear stabilizer bar, and a fully independent multi-link rear suspension in place of a torsion-beam axle. The Sport also gets 18-inch wheels instead of 17s, larger front and rear disc brakes, alloy pedals, and dual exhaust outlets.
Per Hyundai tradition, the Elantra GT comes with a good amount of standard equipment. Included in the base price are LED daytime running lights, an 8-inch touchscreen audio system, rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The base GT can be equipped with two optional-equipment packages. The Style Package consists of blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist, side-mirror turn signals, keyless entry and starting, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, a 4.2-inch driver-information display, driver’s-side auto up/down window, heated front seats, and a power driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support.
The Tech Package adds leather upholstery, LED headlights and taillights, panoramic sunroof, electronic parking brake with auto-hold feature, ventilated front seats, rear-console air vent, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, Qi wireless cellphone charging, and a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen. Also included are a 7-speaker Infinity premium audio system with Clari-Fi music restoration technology (a system that corrects the sound-quality losses in many digitally compressed audio files) and a 3-year complimentary trial of Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car System. Blue Link Connected services include various smartphone-controlled connectivity features and remote-access functions (such as remote starting, climate-control-system temperature, and window defrosters), and the system is compatible with connected-home devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.
In addition to its focus on performance, the GT Sport is positioned as a more upscale model than the regular GT; it includes most of the Style Package’s content and some of the Tech Package’s features as standard equipment. GT Sports can also be equipped with a Sport Tech Package that includes most of the regular Tech Package’s features, plus a number of safety features that are otherwise unavailable: adaptive cruise control with start/stop capability, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, high-beam assist, and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. Also included is a driver-attention-alert system that displays a coffee-cup graphic on the driver-information center if the system detects delayed or erratic steering-wheel inputs.
That’s an impressive collection of safety equipment—particularly for the mainstream compact-car class—but we wish a buyer didn’t have to step all the way up to a fully equipped top-line Sport model to get it.
At the Elantra GT’s press-launch event in the greater San Diego, California, area, we test drove the sportiest model in the lineup: an Elantra GT Sport with the 6-speed manual transmission. Our initial walk-around impressions were favorable; the body proportions are pleasing, and the styling details are crisp and distinctive without being overwrought.
The sporty dashboard design is a highlight of the interior; it’s both stylish and practical… and a real step up from the somewhat bland design in the Elantra sedan. The central touchscreen unit follows the “tacked-on tablet” design trend—this type of layout has its detractors, but we rather liked the look here—and we also appreciated the generously sized physical and virtual buttons, and the good old-fashioned volume and tuning knobs. The Sport cabin’s trim upgrades –especially the red satin dashboard accents and red upholstery stitching—do a lot to improve its interior ambiance over the base model.
Regardless of trim level, all-around visibility is an Elantra GT strong point, thanks in no small part to the relatively low beltline and upright rear window. Some compact hatchbacks, such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, and Mazda 3, have steeply sloped rear hatches that can make for a rather cramped view out the back. Passenger room is more than sufficient in front for six-footers, and the back seat should accommodate two average-sized adults comfortably—the GT’s lack of a fastback-esque roofline also means rear-seat headroom isn’t compromised.
Dynamically, the Elantra GT Sport is quite satisfying—the turbocharged four emits a sporty burble at idle that should please enthusiast buyers, and the engine displays an eager personality once underway. The 6-speed manual in our test vehicle benefitted from a smooth, precise shifter that was quite fun to use, but we’ve had mixed experiences with the 7-speed automated-manual unit when we’ve tested it in the Elantra Sport sedan and Kia Soul Exclaim—where some of our editors found it prone to occasional bogging and surging in low-speed driving. We’re anxious to test an Elantra GT Sport with the automated manual to see if it feels better in this application.
Overall, the Elantra GT Sport strikes a nice balance between handling prowess and comfort. The 18-inch wheels and sporty suspension tuning take a bit of a toll on ride quality, but it’s absorbent enough over most bumps and road imperfections to be comfortable in daily-grind driving. And, the GT Sport feels nimble enough and “tossable” enough in fast corners to invite comparisons to a Volkswagen GTI—the car Hyundai most certainly has in its sights as the GT Sport’s primary target.
Pricing for the 2018 Elantra GT will be announced closer to its on-sate date, which should be later this summer. We’ll be curious to see what kind of value proposition Hyundai’s new compact hatchback ends up being—and what kind of premium the Sport will command over the base model. If the Elantra GT lineup checks in with competitive pricing, Volkswagen—and the rest of the veterans of the sporty compact-hatchback segment—might have to start looking over their shoulders.