Hyundai believes it now has an Elantra for every buyer. Sedan shoppers prize fuel economy and value above all; coupe buyers want a better-looking vehicle.
For those that want Euro-influenced styling, great utility and good gas mileage, there's a new option: the 2013 Elantra GT. It's a five-door hatchback new to the compact Hyundai lineup this year, and poised to take on the likes of the sleek hatchbacks from the competition. The Mazda3 and Ford Focus come to mind first, but the Volkswagen Golf and Subaru Impreza aren't far off the mark, either, and neither is the Toyota Matrix, whether it's gone for good or just overdue for a complete redesign.
In the past, Hyundai's sold various Elantra GT hatchbacks and wagons, but this time, the five-door version's much more closely related to the model that's sold in Europe--even more so than the four-door and two-door. The drivetrains and some front structures are similar, but the Elantra GT has its own wheelbase, its own bodywork, and its own rear suspension.
The shape's gone heavily in the continental direction. Some of Hyundai current global styling cues show up on the Elantra GT, particularly on the front end, where its hexagonal grille links it to the Elantra coupe and sedan. From the front pair of doors back, the GT drops its roofline and ties its fortunes to the fastback look that characterizes the best of the hot hatches from overseas, including the latest Mazdas and Fords. It's an internationally recognized symbol, code language for sporty in a way the other Elantras are not.
Taking the opposite tack, the Elantra GT's dash is more conservative than the one found in other versions. The hourglass center stack of the sedan and coupe is gone, replaced by a straight-edged design that's less adventurous, less distinctive, but perhaps finished a little better, with a soft pad capping the dash and a more refined blender knob controlling the air temperature.
With the same 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder as the other Elantra compacts, the GT teams up well with either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic Hyundai offers. If anything, the Hyundai manuals feel like VW cable-shifted manuals, with a peg-in-slot shift quality but good clutch uptake not far off the floor. The automatic in our test vehicle short-shifted the GT's rev range, moving up to the next gear well before it reached redline--before 6000 rpm in its first two gears, likely a choice for economy and durability. By the way, the smooth-revving four and manual combine for 27/39-mpg gas mileage with the manual, or 31 mpg combined; with the automatic, it's 28/39 mpg, or 32 mpg combined.
Elantra sedans have strut front and twist-beam rear suspensions; the coupe and the GT both have their own twist on that formula, with a new upside-down V-shaped beam replacing the crimped tube on sedans. It's threaded by a 22-mm stabilizer bar, and GT hatches also get upgraded to Sachs rear shocks for better ride control. All told, the five-door has slightly better transitional behavior than the sedan, and on base models and on those with uprated wheels and tires on the Style package, it's firm enough and grippy enough to create some worthwhile space between its road manners and those of the sedan.
Hyundai also wants the GT's electric power steering to stand out, so it's endowed with three driving modes--Comfort, Normal, and Sport. The column-mounted system doesn't have a variable steering ratio, though, so the modes simply add steering weight without more feedback. We left it in Normal for most of a long test drive, without regrets.
The hatchback body style abbreviates the Elantra shape, while granting more cargo space. The GT is 9.0 inches shorter overall than the sedan, and its wheelbase is 2.0 inches shorter; it's 0.2 inches wider and sits 1.4 inches taller. Front-seat passengers will notice a touch more knee room, while rear-seaters will see noticeably less--back-seat space being a hallmark of the Elantra sedan.
Behind the back bench, the Elantra GT has 23 cubic feet of storage space, better than some compact luxury crossovers. The rear seats fold down for better storage: when they're nearly flat, the Elantra GT holds 51 cubic feet of cargo. Elsewhere inside, the GT has a shallow storage tray under the cargo floor; a deep center console bin for smartphones, next to the USB port; a cooled glove box; and a center armrest with a sliding cover.
All GT hatchbacks have seven airbags, including a driver knee airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. No crash-test ratings are available yet, but a rearview camera is an option--it hides beneath the flip-up Hyundai logo on the tailgate.
Other standard features include a rear spoiler and wiper; satellite radio; heated front seats; tilt/telescoping steering; remote keyless entry; 16-inch wheels; Bluetooth; cruise control; and steering-wheel audio controls. A Style package adds 17-inch wheels; a sport suspension and lower-profile tires; a panoramic sunroof; leather seating and trim; aluminum pedals; and a 10-way power driver seat. A Technology package adds navigation; the hidden rearview camera; pushbutton start; automatic headlights; and automatic climate control.
Pricing starts from $19,170 for the manual-transmission base model, and $21,920 for the same vehicle with the Style package. That version with the Technology package tops out at $24,270--and an automatic transmission is a $1,000 option on any version.
For more, see our full review of the 2013 Hyundai Elantra sedan and coupe.