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Stylish new hatchback version increases practicality of popular model

When Hyundai completely redesigned the Elantra sedan in 2010, it immediately jumped to the top of many Best Compact Car lists. The swoopy new styling was eye catching, the interior design and materials were greatly improved, the fuel economy was near the top of the class, and the price was well below several of its competitors. And it drove pretty good, too.
For 2013, Hyundai has upgraded the interior and released two new models, a coupe and a five-door hatchback called the Elantra GT. The name is somewhat misleading because GT usually designates a sport version. The Elantra GT has a slightly firmer suspension and adjustable steering, but the same single engine and transmissions as the other models — a 1.9-liter inline four mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
Quibbles over the name aside, the 2013 Elantra GT is the same kind of bargain that has made the sedan so attractive over the past two years. The higher rear end and hatchback are well integrated into the flowing exterior lines. The interior is incredibly roomy for such a small car, and the redesigned center control stack looks much more sophisticated. Fuel economy is an impressive EPA estimated 28 city, 39 highway with the optional six-speed automatic transmission. The hatchback features an impressive amount of storage space behind the back seat — even more when it is folded down.
And it still drives pretty good.
Our automatic-equipped test car pulled away smartly from stops and handled rough pavement surprisingly well, considering its short wheelbase. Freeway passing was a little challenging, even with the transmission slipped into the manual shift mode. This is not terribly surprising, given that it only produces 151 horsepower. The trade off is the nearly 40-mile-per-gallon freeway rating.
The Elantra GT is not as refined as some competitors, including the Ford Focus and Vokswagen Golf. The seat belts drag when being pulled out, the engine sounds rough when first started, and the rear wheels occasionally hopped around on tight uphill turns.
But the base model costs much less than most entry level competitors, and it still comes with an impressive list of standard featuresm including power accessories and a six-speaker audio system with iPod/USB interface.
The Elantra GT can also be purchased with two trim levels. The Style package adds 17-inch wheels, leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, a power driver seat with power lumbar support, and a panorama sunroof. The Tech package includes a navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control and a proximity key with push-button start.
Our test car included Style package but not the Tech package. The most obvious additon was the huge sunroof, which covered both the front and rear seats. The interior was already very light and airy, but the Elantra GT felt like a convertible when it was fully open.
To make the GT look sportier, Hyundai designers have blacked out the wrap around front bumper the divides the grill. They’ve done this on several other models, too, We think this is a mistake because it makes the grill look like the huge, goofy-looking ones that Mazda is phasing out. That’s a small problem, though, compared to how much else the designers and engineers have gotten right.
Hyundai have made great sales gains in recent years based on the strength of their new and redesigned products. We predict the 2013 Elantra GT will add to the momentum.
Facts and figures (all models)
• Model tested: 2013 Elantra GT.
• Manufacturer: Hyundai.
• Class: Compact.
• Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive.
• Style: Five-door hatchback.
• Engine: 1.8-liter inline 4 (148 hp, 131 lbs-ft).
• Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
• EPA estimated city/highway/average mileage: 28/39/32.
• Price: Beginning at approximately $19,000 ($24,000 as tested).
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