The compact hatchback has been making serious inroads of late — Ford, Kia, Mazda, Subaru and Volkswagen all now offer a five-door hatches. The addition of the GT to the Elantra lineup addresses the one of biggest holes in Hyundai's portfolio.
Rather than being a hatched take on an established sedan, the GT is markedly different from its four-door sibling. To begin, the wheelbase is 50 millimetres shorter, while the length has been cut by 230 mm. Neither, however, really puts a crimp in the versatility. In fact, while the available legroom shrinks slightly up front, there is actually more rear seat space — better legroom and more headroom.
It also benefits from the versatility that only a hatchback can supply. In this case, the GT brings 23 cubic feet of cargo space with the 60/40-split/folding seats in the upright position and 51 cu. ft. with them folded down. When in the prone position, the seats do deliver a flat floor, but there is a nit — getting the lot flat is a bit of a chore. First, the headrests must be removed and the seat bases lifted. Only then do seats fold to form said flat load floor. Perhaps more annoying is the question of what to do with the headrests. Yes, there are some flimsy loops that are supposed hold them when the seats are folded flat, but the reality is they do not work.
The GT hatch comes with a needed rear washer/wiper and a clever surprise. When reverse is selected, the Hyundai logo on the liftgate opens to reveal a back-up camera. The advantage is that hiding it behind the badge keeps the lens clean, which means it is always functional regardless of the weather. This is the sort of thinking one expects from the likes of BMW, but it's a bonus in Hyundai's case.
Up front, the GT comes together nicely, especially the SE Tech version tested. It brings a raft of upgrades, including dual-zone automatic climate control, a better 180-watt audio package and a seven-inch touchscreen that houses the navigation system and the view from the back-up camera. In both cases, the screen boasts high-end clarity.
The materials are also a cut above the entry-level norm. Again, the SE Tech includes heated leather seating and an eight-way power driver's seat. The latter makes establishing the correct driving position a simple venture. This is important, because during the test, I never could get the mirrors adjusted far enough out to suit me. The good news is that the GT's sightlines are pretty clean, so it was not as big a wart as it might have been.
The GT is powered by a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. This is enough to motivate 1,342 kilograms with the expected authority. The engine also manages to remain quiet and refined even when it's worked in the upper reaches of the rev range. Now, that is an important consideration because to get the best out of the engine it does need to be revved.
While the base transmission is a refined manual gearbox, the tester arrived with Hyundai's six-speed automatic with a manual mode. It slips through the gears smoothly and it's willing to kick down when the driver floors the gas pedal. In the end, the powertrain managed to propel the Elantra GT from rest to 100 kilometres an hour in 9.8 seconds and it accomplished the 80-to-120-km/h passing move in 7.3 seconds. Neither time is outstanding, but both are more than enough to deal with the cut and thrust of the morning commute. It also proved to be frugal, delivering a test average of 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres, and that was without using the ActiveEco mode — it is claimed to cut consumption by up to 7% beyond the posted numbers.
The Elantra GT rides on front struts and an anti-roll bar with a torsion beam axle holding up the back bumper. In terms of handling, the GT proved to be pretty adroit when the road began to twist and turn. Yes, there is a degree or two of body roll through a fast corner, but the GT proved to be surprisingly agile and willing to obey driver input.
There is, however, a definite must — the larger P215/45R17 tires that come with the SE models. The base cars make do with P205/55R16s. The wider, lower profile tires make a big difference as they provide much better lateral grip, which pushes understeer out to the point where it is much less of an issue. The dynamic complaint is the steering. In spite of being able to adjust the level of assist in three stages, it still feels numb across the board. Blame the electric assist.
The Elantra GT is a well-conceived hatchback that will find many fans. It is fun to drive, it has adequate power and, in SE Tech guise, it brings a wealth of equipment. The hang-up is the richness evident in the test car drove up the price. The entry point was under $20,000. However, the loaded Elantra GT SE Tech tested here carried a $26,349 price tag.
For than sort of money, I want another letter — an "I" to go with the G and T. As in the Golf GTI!
Type of vehicle: Front-wheel-drive compact hatchback
Engine : 1.8L DOHC inline four
Power: 148 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 131 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manumatic
Brakes: Four-wheel discs with ABS
Base price/as tested: $19,149/26,349
Destination charge: $1,495
Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km: 7.3 city, 5.0 hwy.
Standard features: Dual-zone automatic climate control, power locks, windows and heated mirrors, cruise control, power panoramic moonroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power driver's seat, tilt/telescopic steering, 180-Watt AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers, iPod/aux/USB inputs and steering wheel-mounted controls, navigation system with seven-inch touchscreen, back-up camera, smart key with push-button start, Bluetooth, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, trip computer, rear washer/wiper, rear spoiler, fog lights