Hyundai’s compact Elantra sedan mounted a strong challenge to the perennial best-selling Civic last year, and is still running second behind the Honda so far this year. But the mid-summer arrival of the hatchback GT puts an arrow in the Elantra product quiver the Civic can’t match.
It would be asking a lot of the new Elantra GT to single-handedly close the sales tally difference between the two rivals – even though this stylish five-door returns that uniquely hatchback admixture of sportiness and practicality to the model range that the previously offered Touring wagon lacked.
Any gains, however, can only add further credibility to the Hyundai brand in this key Canadian segment – which accounted for 259,628 of the 529,782 passenger cars sold here in the first eight months of the year – and help keep Elantra ahead of the rest of the top 10 pack snapping at its back bumper, led by Toyota Corolla, then the Mazda3, Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai’s own Accent, VW Jetta and mid-sizers Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion.
The new Elantra GT is available as a base GL with manual gearbox starting at $19,149 and $20,349 with automatic, steps up to the GLS manual this review is based on at $21,349, then the SE manual at $24,349 and an SE Tech with automatic at $26,349. Elantra sedans start at $15,949.
The GT is the first Elantra hatch offered since 2006 and it rolled into the market wearing high-style sheet metal that’s every bit as eye-catching as the coupe and sedan models. The GT is 225 mm shorter than the sedan, although it’s a tad taller.
The car feels commendably light, but also substantial, with doors that close with a quality feel.
Despite its trimmed length and 50-mm shorter wheelbase, the GT’s interior has room to handle four adults in comfort – although rear headroom is just adequate. A panoramic sunroof brightens things up and a fifth person can be squeezed on to the back seat if required, which matches the sedan. A fold-down armrest with cup holders is a nice touch.
Where it handily beats the sedan is in providing 651 litres of cargo room behind the rear seat versus the sedan’s 420-litre trunk and, with the rear 60/40 split seatback folded into its fairly flat position, 1,444 litres. The cargo area has handy cargo tie-downs and a tray under the floor for odds and ends.
The test car came in bright red with a black interior that includes sporty-looking, cloth-covered front seats with white stitching, well bolstered to keep you in place. The steering wheel has buttons for cruise control and audio and a thick leather-covered rim. A trip computer screen is located between large round instruments and brushed titanium trim on the doors and, framing the centre stack and console, gives the interior a sporty/fun personality that also works on a functional and comfort level.
The lengthy equipment list includes keyless entry, power locks and windows, A/C, cooled glovebox, Bluetooth hands-free phone, heated exterior mirrors, power driver’s seat, fog lights, a spoiler and that panoramic sunroof.
The letters GT – short for Grand Touring – have been applied to some legendary high-performance cars, but in the case of the new Hyundai GT hatchback they connote something a little different, perhaps pretty Good Touring or even commendably Green Touring, but not exactly Gee-wiz-Torrid touring.
The GT’s 1.8-litre, direct-injection, four-cylinder engine produces segment competitive ratings of 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque, but these numbers aren’t generated with any marked degree of enthusiasm until you wind it up past 4,000 rpm or so. The six-speed manual gearbox does shift with decent precision and quickness, though, and the result is a 0-100 km/h time of nine seconds or so. So, not torrid perhaps, but not particularly tepid, either. And it works fine in normal daily driving situations.
What the Elantra GT does do well is produce impressive fuel economy ratings of 7.4 litres/100 km city and 4.9 highway; after the test week it was showing an average of 7.2 litres/100 km. On our highway drive, it struggled a bit with the hilly terrain and returned 6.9 litres/100 km, a number I’ve bettered in bigger Hyundais on this route.
The GT suspension is much the same as the sedan’s, but spring rates are firm and body motion well controlled by its 22-mm anti-roll bars, and the front Sachs gas-charged monotube struts and dampers on the rear twist-beam axle. Steering is electric and you can select from comfort, normal and sport modes, which only alter the amount of effort required.
Leaving it in sport mode suited the car (and me), but the connection to the front wheels feels artificial. And response to input isn’t greeted with the level of response you’d hope for up front where the alloy wheels are shod with not-too-performance oriented P205/55R16 tires (the SE comes with P215/45R17s that likely sharpen things up a bit).
The Elantra GT wouldn’t be my choice as a weekend autocrosser – and, according to Hyundai, no turbo-version is expected – but it’s a sharp looker and competent performer that delivers a high level of small-car practicality.
2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Type: Compact hatchback
Base Price: $21,349; as tested, $22,848
Engine: 1.8-litre, DOHC, inline-four
Horsepower/torque: 148 hp/131 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.8 city/5.3 highway; regular gas
Alternatives:Ford Focus, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Versa, Subaru Impreza, Suzuki SX4, Toyota Matrix
Please note: The fuel economy numbers in this review have been changed to reflect new data released Nov. 2, 2012, by Hyundai and Kia. Please click here for more details.