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The Scoop

Ever since the latest Hyundai Elantra arrived, it has been a hot seller; in fact it took a run at the long-standing sales champ, the Honda Civic for top selling car in Canada. Hyundai Canada executives claim they could have sold more Elantras had they received more to sell.

The Elantra sedan is such a hit, it won both the Canadian and North American car of the year awards last year. To help propel the Elantra brand, Hyundai has introduced the 2013 Elantra GT, a hatchback model ready to take on the Mazda3, Ford Focus, Toyota Matrix and even VW Golf. This Elantra GT replaces the Elantra Touring, which was more of a station wagon, and is based on the Hyundai i30 model that is sold in other markets, especially Europe. In fact, this car was designed in Europe and it would look perfectly happy on the roads of France or Italy.

The Skin

This stylish hatchback has a similar front design to the sedan; the sweeping side profile that provokes a sense of motion. The side windows narrow as the flowing body line arches up, but the rear windows are still large enough that kids can see out. The back hatch cargo area isn’t huge but this design is attractive to a lot of young people who might want an Elantra but don’t like the idea of driving the more conservative sedan. Basically, this GT model is trying to appeal to a younger, more active buyer who can use the hatch for an active lifestyle. The Elantra GT isn’t the value leader the sedan is. It starts at $19,149 and runs up to $26,349. The test car, seen here is the SE with auto for $24,349. Compared to other hatch designs like the Mazda3 and Ford Focus this Elantra GT is more expensive.

The Cockpit

As mentioned, this GT is based on the European i30, so the dash is slightly different from the sedan. The sedan has a covered storage area under the radio and heat controls, where this GT has a large open area for storage. The back seat and interior room is on par with many in this class, so space isn’t a standout feature. What is a standout are standard features, include air conditioning, power windows and doors, USB and auxiliary jacks, Bluetooth, tilt and telescopic steering, height adjustable drivers seat and heated front seats. The huge, and optional, moon roof covers the front and rear seats and has a power cover. The Ford Focus and Mazda3 hatchbacks might have lower starting prices, but the Elantra GT comes with standard Bluetooth and heated seats, with the others these features are optional.

The Ride

The engine under the hood is the same as the Elantra sedan, a 1.8-litre 4-cylinder with direct injection producing 148 horsepower. The Mazda3 base engine has identical power but from a bigger 2.0-litre engine, while the Focus is more powerful at 160hp. A 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic are matched to the GT’s engine, but the manual is only available on the base GL and middle GLS trim. My test unit was equipped with the automatic and it does a good job of getting this car away from a light, and the driver can manually shift the auto from the centre-mounted shifter. The GT differs from the sedan in the type of rear suspension that it uses. It still has a torsion axle design, but gets a 22mm sway bar to add a bit more road capability. In comparison the Mazda3 and Ford Focus come with a superior independent rear suspension. The GT also has Hyundai’s driver selectable steering. By pushing a button on the steering wheel the feel goes from comfort to normal to sport. This really only adjusts the weight of the steering and does not get rid of the dead on-centre feel that has plagued Hyundai cars for the last few years. They really need to address this in order to compete with the real performers in this class.

The Good, The Bad

Good: A more youthful option for Elantra buyers.

Bad: The starting price might exclude some potential buyers.

Zack’s Verdict

Hyundai is clever. They know that their Elantra GT is a strong car and are capitalizing on the fact that Honda does not have a hatchback in the Civic line (even though they have a very cool looking one in Europe). Hyundai has also introduced a Coupe version of the Elantra, so now they have a three-pronged approach to take on the Civic’s crown. It is interesting to see this brand evolve from a value purchase to one that competes with very well established brands. This GT is a perfect example; it isn’t the cheapest of the competition and it doesn’t have the most sophisticated suspension but it is well equipped. My guess is that they will need to offer a lower trim version, at a better starting price, if they really want to compete with the very established compact hatchbacks. The biggest improvement needs to come in the form of a more precise power steering feel in order to come close to the very agile Ford Focus and sure-footed Mazda3. The Elantra GT is a nice looking, well-equipped car but if I were looking at a Hyundai hatchback, the less expensive Accent would be my choice.

Power: 1.8-litre 4-cylinder with 148hp

Fill-up: 7.6L/5.3L/100km (city/highway)

Backup: 5-year/100,000km

Sticker price: $19,149-$26,349

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