Korean automaker extends its award-winning redesign to the hatchback model, adds perks
Alan McPhee, The Daily News
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Last year, the Hyundai Elantra took home a raft of awards. A jury of 50 American and Canadian journalists named it North American Car of the Year, while AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) voted it Best New Small Car (over $21,000) and overall, Canadian Car of the Year. For 2013, the Elantra, in 5door, GT hatchback form, is back in a repeat performance, taking AJAC's award for The Best New Small Car (over $21,000), beating out strong competition from the Chevrolet Sonic LTZ, Ford CMAX Hybrid, Mazda3 Skyactiv and VW Beetle TDI. Interestingly, AJAC also awarded Best New SUV-CUV (over $35,000) to the 2013 Santa Fe 2.0 GT.
Introduced in 1991, the Elantra has gone through four generations of steady development that has seen improvements in styling, performance and convenience. In 2011, Hyundai's engineers took a clean sheet of paper and re-wrote what a compact sedan should be. However, the new design wasn't applied to the Elantra Touring model at that time. This has now been addressed with the introduction of the 2013 Elantra GT 5-Door Hatchback.
The sleek lines of this new entry follow the "fluidic sculpture" philosophy of the Sonata and sibling Elantra Sedan. The GT hugs the ground with a nose-down, wide stance, like a predator ready to pounce. The swell of the front fenders is dramatically defined with a sharp crease that drops below the A-pillar and rises through the door pulls towards the rear wrap-around taillights. Jewel-like, projector-style headlights and standard fog lamps flank the characteristic wide-open air intake with double chrome bar grille while dramatic 17-inch, 10-spoke aluminium rims (SE model) complete the picture.
There are four choices for 2013, starting with the GL ($20,769), GLS, SE Auto and SE Technology Auto. The GL and GLS are available with standard 6-speed manual, or optional 6-speed Shiftronic automatic transmissions. The SE models use the 6-speed Shiftronic transmission only. Our tester was the top of the line SE Technology finished in Shimmering Silver with Black Leather interior.
Under the skin, the Elantra GT is powered by a 148 horsepower, 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine with Double Overhead Cams and Continuously Variable Valve Timing. It responds eagerly to accelerator tip-in with 100 kilometres per hour arriving in a tad over 10.0 seconds. At that speed, the engine is turning a leisurely -and quiet - 2300-rpm and delivering 5.3 L/100 km.
The 6-speed Shiftronic provides seamless shifts but I found the manual mode really responsive and used it for in-town driving exclusively.
The fully independent suspension is tuned to provide a firm, sporty ride that damps out the worst bumps and highway heaves while keeping everything on an even keel when cornering briskly. It is definitely more agile than the sedan, in part thanks to its shorter wheelbase (by some 50 millimetres) and shorter overall length (228 millimetres). In addition Hyundai has come up with a unique system that lets you dial in the amount of firmness/ feedback you want through the steering wheel. Driver Selectable Steering (DSS) is operated by a button on the steering wheel that lets you select Comfort, Normal or Sport responsiveness from the electric, power-assisted steering: very neat. There's the usual alphabet soup of dynamic assists including VSM (Vehicle Stability Management), ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and TCS (Traction Control) all of which work invisibly to prevent over-and under-steer and reduce wheelspin on low traction surfaces. Four-wheel, power-assisted anti-lock disc brakes with EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) and Brake Assist (that recognizes emergency braking and applies maximum pedal pressure) provide commendably short stopping distances.
The 'twin cockpit' design is driver-focused with all the main gauges and secondary switchgear within the driver's reach and sight. Speedometer and tachometer dials featuring bold white backlighting flank a Trip Computer screen that lets you scroll through data such as instant and average fuel economy, distance to empty, trip distances and ambient temperature. Controls on the tilt/telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel give let you manage audio, cruise, DSS, and Bluetooth connectivity (and hands-free audio streaming). The centre console is topped by the large, 7.0-inch colour screen for your Audio, Navigation and rear backup Camera.
The cabin interior uses a nice mix of soft touch black and charcoal surfaces and brushed metal highlights that complement the rich Black Leather upholstery. The heated front buckets are well formed with full range power adjustment including lumbar tensioner (driver) and manual adjusters for the front passenger. The audio system consists of a 180-Watt, 6-speaker AM/FM/ CD/MP3 player with six months complimentary XM Satellite radio and connectors for iPod, USB and auxiliary jacks.
So how practical is this hatchback? There is a very useable 23 cubic feet of space behind the second row. Fold the 60/40-split second row and you have a completely flat floor with 51 cubic feet of cargo space that is easily accessed through the wide opening liftgate. Compare that to the 14.8 cubic feet of trunk space in the Elantra Sedan and you can see why hatchbacks have a loyal following.
And being a Hyundai, value is standard equipment. In addition to all the usual power amenities, our tester came with features that usually carry an optional price tag, like heated front seat cushions and seatbacks; a cooled glove box; Proximity Key with Push-Button Start; Dual-Zone Climate Control; power, heated outside mirrors with turn signal repeaters; a huge panoramic sunroof; automatic headlights and solar glass.
The 2013 Elantra GT adds a driver side knee bag to the standard six airbags and includes adjustable head restraints for all five positions plus the LATCH system for child seat anchors.
?? Alan McPhee is a Canadian automotive journalist and is former editor of Carguide Magazine. His articles appear each week in this space.
2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Type: Compcat, 5-door hatchback
Engine: 1.8-litre, DOHC I4
Horsepower: 148 @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 131 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Fuel economy: city - 7.6 L/100 km; Highway - 5.3 L/100 km
Base price: $26,349
Price as tested: $27,844
Vehicle provided by Jim Pattison Hyundai