By: Jason Torchinsky
Ever have a really good waiter or waitress? Sure you have. There's a certain feeling you get when you encounter someone doing a really good job at something that maybe isn't the most important or exciting job in the world, but they've brought a level of competence and attention to it that just sort of makes you feel good about the whole experience.
The Elantra GT gave me a similar feeling. It's not the most exciting or interesting car, but it knows its job and it does it quite well. And, you don't have to tip it.
(Full Disclosure: Hyundai wanted me to drive the Elantra GT so **** much. They flew me out to San Diego, even though I could have driven. They put me up in a non-filthy hotel and gave me a key to the minibar, which makes me wonder why I bothered filling the vodka bottles back up with tap water.)
The Elantra GT I think is the best of the entire Elantra family (which now numbers three members, and not the Elantra Pickup I keep pushing), which is sort of a shame, since the product planners told me this is the one they expect to sell the least. The GT is, essentially, a 5-door hatch version of the Elantra, and was designed more for European tastes than American, and it's in Europe that they really expect to sell these. We in the US just kind of got them as an afterthought. But it's this slight European sensibility that sets the car apart from its Elantroid siblings.
What I liked about the car doesn't have much to do with the specs or technical details; if we're really honest, it's a bit anonymous in many technical aspects. The overall package, though, is a very practical, usable car that offers a little bit of driving enjoyment, has a decent look, and, most importantly, feels good when you're inside it. It's a cheap car that doesn't feel like punishment, and that's a great thing.
One of the biggest keys to the enjoyable nature of being in the car has to do with the panoramic roof option. I've rarely seen an option change a car's character so much. With the large glass roof, the cabin feels airy and open, sort of like sitting on a screened-in porch. It was nice enough that I was able to keep from vomiting when I accidentally drank a water bottle with my driving partner's cigarette butt in it. By laying back and looking up through that panoramic glass, I was just able to put the vile nicotine-water taste out of my mind and keep from spraying the dash with masticated buffet food. That says something.