Hyundai’s all-new Elantra GT hatchback finally gets the dynamic Sport treatment.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
We first met Hyundai’s terrific new Elantra Sport sedan during the 2017 model year. With its awesome turbo engine and trick independent multilink rear suspension, it impressed on all levels. But many of us yearned for the Sport trim in a hatchback. And here it is. You can now get all these treats in the 2018 Elantra GT, which is longer, wider and lower than the model it replaces.
Hyundai touts the all-new sheetmetal as a “timeless” design. I think that’s a bit rich, as it’s not a very thrilling styling exercise. I would say the previous generation Elantra GT was actually more interesting to look at. With that said, the new one has a clean, coherent design language and it will age gracefully, even though it won’t turn many heads. It features Hyundai’s new Cascading Grille, which looks really great. It’s the new corporate snout, so expect to see it on other Hyundai models. The front end also features highly visible vertical LED running lights and LED headlights (which were somewhat disappointing in terms of performance).
A character line runs down the side, clearly connecting the trailing edge of the large headlight pods to the expressive LED tail lights. The rear end features a clean roof spoiler and a set of meaty twin exhaust tips, and nice 18-inch rims (shod with 225/40s) fill the wheel wells to complete the package. It’s not exciting, but it does look good.
The Elantra GT cabin feels spacious and offers a good amount of headroom up front. I found the simple, straightforward styling worked well visually and ergonomically. The materials are decent, and very typical for this category – a split between textured hard and soft plastics. I really like the splashes of colour in my review car – the red seatbelts, piping and stitching on the seats and trim pieces around the climate controls and air vents were great little aesthetic treats!
The heated steering wheel is outstanding. I loved the small diameter, the grippiness and the perforated leather segments – it looks and works really well. The heated leather sport seats are very good as well. I found them comfortable and very well bolstered – the driver’s side is power-adjustable. And while I’m gushing, how about that shift knob? It’s a thing of beauty – feels perfect in hand and looks stunning with the shift pattern set deep into a red background under a transparent “lens”.
Hyundai’s 8-inch touchscreen is easy to use – it controls the car’s phone and sound system (the base one sounds fine), and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for added functionality. There’s a dual-zone climate control system and some limited driver assistance tech – blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a back-up camera. Opt for the Ultimate trim and you’ll get all the bells and whistles. I really liked the huge panoramic sunroof overhead. It’s nice up front, but makes a huge difference in how roomy and airy the rear passenger area feels.
There are three rear seats, but the middle one is very tight. Leg room and head room were only adequate for me. I’m 5’10” tall and had about one inch to spare either way. It’s not very spacious, to be sure. Our three kids were relatively comfortable back there, and there are two sets of LATCH anchors if you need to secure child seats. There are no conveniences for rear passengers beyond the adjustable air vents and the middle seatback that folds down to become an armrest with cupholders.
I really liked the large, rubberized compartment under a flip-up lid at the bottom of the centre stack. It features plenty of plugs – 12V, USB and auxiliary – as well as a Qi wireless charging pad for your smartphone. The centre console houses a nice little bin next to the driver and a scrolling lid that covers two cupholders when you’re not using them. There’s a small bin under the armrest, where you’ll find another 12V plug as well.
The large 705L trunk has a nice load floor height. Other than a 12V plug and a hard parcel shelf that flips up when you open the hatch, there’s not much else going on back there. The back seats flip down in a 60/40 split, making for a substantial increase to the cargo space.
Under the Hood
Here’s the biggest news. The Sport trim gets Hyundai’s excellent 1.6L turbo 4-cylinder. It spins out 201 HP at 6,000 RPM and 195 lb.ft of torque at just 1,500 RPM. Thankfully, Hyundai sets the front-wheel driver up with a 6-speed manual transmission, although you can also opt for a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Elantra GT Sport is rated at 10.7 L/100 km in the city and 8.1 L/100 km on the highway. We averaged 9.4 L/100 km during a slow week of Edmonton commuting, slogging through plenty of fresh snowfalls. The engine does not require premium fuel.
I truly enjoyed the dual-character nature of the Elantra GT Sport. It’s docile and a wonderful, tractable car around town. It rides nicely, and is easy to drive. But step on it and it has a lot of jam which comes on very quickly, particularly from standstill and at lower speeds. It pulls hard and the power is delivered in a very linear fashion nearly up to the redline.
The transmission is well done. Shifts are smooth but notchy enough to let you know you’ve hit your selected gear. It’s a nice balance between precision, daily comfort and driving ease. The clutch is very friendly and has a pretty gentle take-up. It’s sporty enough to bang through the gears if you’re picking up the pace, but easy enough to drive in bumper-to-bumper commuting too.
The suspension is very well sorted. As mentioned, it rides nicely but it’s firm enough to instill a ton of confidence as you throw it into corners. The turn-in is sharp, and the car happily plays along and that rear multi-link set-up is simply outstanding. I loved how the rear end comes around perfectly during spirited driving. Sure, the GT eventually understeers but it is a lot of fun to drive fast. Unfortunately I had little time to discover its abilities as my review sample arrived as we received our first wintery blessings of snow – and it was equipped with the standard performance-oriented all-season tires. With those tires, the car is terrible in Canadian winter conditions. I always recommend winter rubber, but this car is one of those where it is an absolute requirement. It had a hard time getting any traction off the line and well into the first few gears in the snow and even on cold, wet pavement.
The engine makes a lovely set of noises under throttle, but otherwise the car is reasonably quiet in terms of road and wind noise. Of note, Hyundai lets some of that noise make it to the surrounding environment too, and several people on my street told me that the GT Sport sounded great as I made my way through the gears. It’s nice to see that those juicy exhaust tips aren’t just for show.
The Sport trim gets larger front and rear brakes and they always felt powerful. They are a bit grabby at lower speeds but easy to modulate. Visibility out of the GT is quite good – the rear headrests intrude into your line of sight a bit, but it’s not bad.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was middling. While she is a big hatchback fan, she doesn’t drive manuals and doesn’t seem to understand the appeal of sporty hatchbacks. She said it felt practical and looked fine though.
Hyundai has taken the best of the Elantra line (its Sport trim) and grafted it to a modern new GT hatchback model. The result is a fun-to-drive, nice-to-look-at and easy-to-live-with car. And that’s right up my alley. I feel that the price is competitive for the balance between performance and utility. Particularly in this lower Sport trim, rather than the loaded Ultimate – which incidentally requires you to give up the manual transmission. I wouldn’t hesitate putting this little rocket on my own shopping list.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Hyundai Canada.
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Pricing: 2018 Elantra GT
Base price (Sport trim): $26,999
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $28,804