2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

Somehow, the most practical cars on the road wind up with sporty names

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

The world is awash with small utility wagons, but if that’s more car than you want or need, the 2018 Elantra GT is a more-than-viable alternative.

It’s interesting that automakers apply the GT (Gran Tursimo) and Sport badges to models that are better suited for carrying larger amounts of groceries and luggage than their sedan counterparts. But for whatever reason, the automotive world has evolved to a point where some of the sportiest small-car offerings you can buy come with a handy rear door for those times when cargo capacity is at least as important as driving dynamics. Just look at the new Honda Civic Type R or the Ford Focus ST and RS. Both are hatchbacks.

The previous 2017 Elantra GT was a curvy piece of work, with bulbous front fenders and a grinning grille. Hyundai has gone in a different direction with the 2018 redesign. The lines are clean and straightforward; they’re the polar opposite of the outgoing and overly trendy GT. The styling alterations actually make sense considering that the car was originally created for the European market where it’s called the i30.

The interior also seems very much Euro-inspired. The large, round gauges and tablet-style touch-screen mimic what you’ll find in vehicles such as, among others, the Audi A3, minus the flat-bottom steering wheel. What’s notable here is the overall attention to detail throughout the cabin that rivals more expensive vehicles.

Despite being a bit shorter than the completely unrelated Elantra sedan, the GT’s interior is a paragon of efficiency and provides at least as much, if not greater cargo and passenger space than a number of prime competitors. The fact that the rear seats don’t fold completely flat is only mildly disconcerting.

There are no concerns over the GT’s engine lineup, however. The primary engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 162 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. That’s more punch than the Elantra sedan’s 2.0 that makes a more modest 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet.

For hot-hatchback lovers, specifying the GT Sport provides a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque (the same turbo powerplant is also available in the Elantra Sport sedan). That’s still shy of the VW Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST that generate 210 and 252 horsepower, respectively, but for the Elantra it’s at least a step in the right direction.

Both engines can be matched to six-speed manual transmissions while a six-speed automatic is optional with the 2.0. The GT Sport uses an extra-cost seven-speed gearbox with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. It’s also your pick for maximum fuel efficiency, with a rating of 26 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 28 combined.

The Elantra GT rings in at a starting price of $19,700, with destination fees, which includes an eight-inch touch-screen, heated side mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Along with the more potent turbo engine, the GT Sport adds climate control, leather-covered seats (heated in front), push-button start, electronic parking brake and 18-inch wheels.

The Sport also gets its own independent rear suspension in place of the somewhat more rudimentary torsion-beam rear axle that’s installed in the base GT.

Also standard for the Sport is blind-spot detection (which alerts you when traffic is overtaking) and rear cross-traffic alert (that warns of unseen vehicles approaching when reversing). Dynamic safety tech such as forward-collision warning and lane-keeping assist are optional.

You can also take the near full-on luxury route by ponying up for a panoramic sunroof, navigation system, power driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, premium Infiniti-brand audio system and a wireless charging pad for your (non-iPhone) smart phone.

Based solely on looks and spaciousness, the Elantra GT is winner. Dial in the Sport’s turbo engine and a trick transmission and let the fun driving times begin . . . with a load of groceries in the back for good measure.

What you should know: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact hatchback

Engines (h.p.): 2.0-liter DOHC I-4 (162); 1.6-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (201)

Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic; seven-speed automated manual

Market position: Tall wagons have become a red-hot trend, but it appears that hatchbacks are also gaining popularity as buyers opt for greater usefulness in their choice of vehicles.

Points:
• New design shows that clean, uncluttered shapes result in more attractive automobiles.
• Interior design and content are typical of higher-end vehicles.
• Both base and optional engines will get the job done, but the turbo is what makes the GT a true GT.
• When will the full range of available active safety technology migrate to the standard equipment list?

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (std.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking with pedestrian detection (opt); lane-keep assist (opt.)

MPG (city/hwy): 26/32 (7AT)

Base price (incl. destination): $19,700

By Comparison:

Honda Civic Hatchback
Base price: $20,600
One in a range of Civics including coupes, sedans and performance models.

Volkswagen Golf
Base price: $20,700
Tough to beat for overall driving fun. GTI blends performance with agility.

Ford Focus hatchback
Base price: $20,650
Standard four-cylinder is OK, but ST and AWD RS versions really pop.