2012 Hyundai Elantra GT Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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It didn't take the all-new 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT more than about 10 minutes to almost completely win me over. Heck, even before I got within 15 feet of the car I was favourably impressed - the Elantra GT is a smart-looking car, with flowing lines similar to its sedan and coupe siblings, but a slightly different (and I think better-looking) grille treatment. My SE tester added to the overall appeal with a set of simply gorgeous 17-inch alloy-and-chrome wheels.

Opening the door and lowering myself into the driver's seat, I nodded happily at the sight of the stylish, functional dash, and noted with pleasure the SE test car's comfortable perforated leather seating and soft-touch door uppers. Within a few blocks, the well-controlled ride and peppy, fuel-efficient engine had won over both my inner driving enthusiast and my inner accountant. Yup, spending a week with the newest addition to Hyundai's Elantra line promised to be a genuine pleasure.

The Elantra GT replaces the outgoing Elantra Touring, and is based on a slightly different platform than the Elantra Coupe, with a shorter wheelbase and 230 mm (9 inches) less overall length (which is also about 150 mm shorter than the Elantra Touring). The hidden benefit to this is that it helps keep the Elantra GT light on its feet - with the automatic transmission the Elantra GT weighs about 68 kg (150 lbs) less than a comparably equipped Mazda3 and 100 kg (220 lbs) less than a Volkswagen Golf, and it feels quicker and more nimble than the Elantra Sedan.

Despite its smaller size, the Elantra GT doesn't give up that much in terms of space: Admittedly it has about 170 litres (six cubic feet) less cargo room than the Touring, but you still get an impressive 651 litres behind the rear seats, which expands to 1,444 litres of space if you fold down the rear seatbacks. Speaking of rear seatbacks, these can be folded entirely flat if you take a couple moments to first flip forward the seat cushions or, if you're in a rush and don't need a flat floor, you can simply flip the seatbacks forward onto the seat cushions.

Under the hood the Elantra GT gets the same 1.8-litre inline-4 as the sedan and the coupe, which develops 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque and is mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine develops decent oomph through the middle of the powerband, though with the automatic it can sometimes feel a bit shy on low-end power. But that can be easily forgiven at the gas pump where the Elantra rewards you thanks to its frugal city/highway fuel consumption of 7.3 / 5.0 L/100km city/highway with the automatic (the manual-equipped version is rated the same on the highway and the tiniest bit better - 4.9 L/100km - in the city).

On the road, I found the Elantra GT to be a notch above the Elantra sedan, which is a very competent, easy-driving car itself. True to its name, the GT is just a little more engaged and sporty to drive, while also being in many ways more practical. The only negatives that I noted were the bulky and therefore somewhat obstructive front and rear roof pillars, and the tight rear headroom - at 5'11" I could indeed sit back there, but there wasn't much room to spare.

The Elantra GT is available in four trims levels - GL, GLS, SE and SE Tech - and in the usual Hyundai style they all include a lot of features for the money. Starting at a suggested price of $19,149 (plus $1,495 in destination charges), the GL includes air conditioning, keyless entry and alarm, power locks, power windows, six-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio with USB plug, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, heated seats, power mirrors, a cooled glove box … shall I go on?

As expected, the GL comes equipped with the manual transmission (the automatic is a $1,200 option), but what's less expected is the driver-selectable steering mode (DSSM). This varies the power steering boost to allow better feedback when cornering at high speeds, easier steering when maneuvering at low speeds (such as when parking), or medium effort for normal driving. I could see occasionally switching it into sport mode when tearing along twisty back roads, but I reckon most people will leave it in normal mode most of the time - the sport mode feels heavyish around town, and comfort mode feels decidedly over-assisted.

The GLS trim, which starts at $20,349 plus destination, adds a panoramic sunroof, power driver's seat, leather-wrapped wheel, underfloor storage box, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels and a few other features - a lot of nice goodies for only $2,200 more.

The SE trim is a bigger leap forward, starting at $24,349 and adding perforated leather seating, fully automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, automatic headlights, one-touch driver's window, solar glass, chrome grille and side window mouldings, 17-inch alloys and included automatic transmission. I find it a shame that, sports cars aside, manufacturers tend to think of manual transmissions as a lower-end feature. I'd prefer to have my Elantra GT with the SE package and the manual transmission, but I guess I'm in the minority because if there was much demand for higher-trim cars with stick-shifts, surely manufacturers would offer them.

At the top of the range, the SE Tech trim starts at $26,349 and includes all the features of the SE plus a proximity entry system and touch-screen navigation system.

With its comprehensive list of standard features (I didn't yet mention the seven airbags, stability control and other safety features), sporty yet relaxed road manners, frugal fuel consumption and economical price tag, the Elantra GT offers a compelling alternative to competitors such as the Mazda3 Sport, Kia Forte5, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus Hatchback, Subaru Impreza 5-Door and Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback. If you're considering buying a sporty compact hatchback, the Elantra GT is definitely worth a look. 
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Hyundai, 2013, Elantra GT, $10,000 - $19,999, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

Organizations: Hyundai

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