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One of the benefits of how far automotive engineering has come in recent years is the fact that we have to endure fewer compromises than ever before. For example, owning a truck or SUV used to mean you had to live with a fairly harsh ride and clumsy handling, but that has changed dramatically with the latest utility vehicles that display car-like manners on the road. Another disappearing compromise includes cars with sporty driving dynamics being saddled with a huge appetite for fuel, because as this week’s Hyundai Elantra GT shows, you can have an aggressively-styled car that delivers both stimulating driving dynamics and excellent fuel economy, too.

A member of the compact class, the Elantra GT is also affordable, despite being very well-equipped and graced with striking, “fluidic sculpture” styling. This design philosophy not only helps the car stand out from the competition; it also improves aerodynamics so the car has a low coefficient of drag to aide fuel efficiency.

The GT is one of the newest members of the Elantra line (there’s also a Coupe and Sedan), and comes as a five-door hatchback riding on a 104.3-inch wheelbase. This front-drive beauty is powered by 1.8-liter “Nu” Inline Four with 148 horsepower, and when it comes to transmissions, the number is six (you can choose from either a six-speed manual or a six-speed Shiftronic automatic). Our test Elantra GT had the automatic gearbox, and while this engine is no powerhouse, acceleration was respectable even though the transmission is geared toward delivering optimal fuel economy. Where the GT really shines in the fun-to-drive factor is in the handling, for not only is the car the lightest five-door in the segment (thanks to generous use of high-strength steel), it also has considerably more body stiffness compared to the Elantra Touring model it replaces in the lineup. A firm Sport Suspension, good balance and something unique called Driver Selectable Steering including Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. Comfort adds boost for parking and city driving, Sport increases feel for aggressive driving on curvy roads, and Normal is a mix of the two. It works well, and when you toss excellent brakes into the mix, the GT is a great pleasure to drive in challenging conditions, as well as around town. I wish it had more muscle, but it does well with what it has on tap.

Inside, the GT has Hyundai’s typically excellent interior design that’s high on functionality and quality materials and low on unnecessary clutter, despite the company’s Blue Link infotainment and an optional Navigation System being present. Our car came with the optional Style package that included a panoramic sunroof, which made the already roomy seating seem even more generous. Rear seat comfort is especially laudable, considering the car’s compact external dimensions. There’s 23 cubic feet of cargo space under the hatch, expanding to 51 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Auto is EPA rated 27 MPG city/37 highway and has a base price of $19,395. With extensive options, our MSRP came to $25,365.

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