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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

For those of us not blessed with an unlimited budget, car purchasing decisions almost invariably wind up involving a compromise between our heads (as represented by our inner accountants) and our hearts (as represented by our inner driving enthusiasts). It’s no surprise then that Hyundai, which has lately been doing an admirable job serving up enthusiast-level helpings of style and equipment at budget-friendly prices, has three models ranked among Canada’s top-25 best selling cars of 2012, with its Elantra coming in second only to the Honda Civic in passenger car sales, and its Santa Fe third behind Ford’s Escape and Honda’s CR-V for top-selling SUV honours.

Joining the Hyundai lineup for 2013, the Elantra GT replaces the outgoing Elantra Touring, and continues Hyundai’s value-for-money approach while adding an extra dash of practicality and sportiness compared to its sedan and coupe siblings. Styling-wise, the GT makes a favourable first impression with flowing lines similar to the sedan and coupe, but a slightly different (and I think better looking) grille treatment. My SE trim test car added to the overall appeal with a set of stunning 17-inch chromed alloy wheels.

The Elantra GT is based on a slightly different platform than the Elantra Coupe, with a shorter wheelbase and 230 mm (9 inches) less overall length (which is also about 150 mm shorter than the Elantra Touring). The hidden benefit to this is that it helps keep the Elantra GT light on its feet – with the automatic transmission the Elantra GT weighs about 68 kg (150 lb.) less than a comparably equipped Mazda3 and 100 kg (220 lb.) less than a Volkswagen Golf, and it feels quicker on its feet and more nimble than the Elantra Sedan.

Under the hood the Elantra GT gets the same 1.8L inline-four as the sedan and coupe, which develops 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque and is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The engine develops decent oomph through the middle of the powerband, though with the automatic it can sometimes feel a bit shy on low-end power. But that can be easily forgiven at the gas pump, where the Elantra GT rewards you thanks to its frugal city/highway fuel consumption of 7.6 / 5.3 L/100 km with the automatic (the manual-equipped version is rated the same on the highway and a tiny bit thirstier – 7.8 L/100 km – in the city). The US EPA’s more realistic figures predict 8.7 and 6.4 for city and highway driving, respectively.



296 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Inside, the Elantra offers room for five and an almost premium feel, especially in SE trim. The stylishly functional dash gets some nice visual interest thanks to satin metal-look trim on the centre stack and around the vents, and the switchgear all has a quality look and feel to it. My SE test car featured perforated leather upholstery, and soft-touch materials covered all the major touch-points including the dash and door uppers. I found the front seats very comfortable and spacious, and the back seats fit my 5’11″ frame reasonably well, although there wasn’t any headroom left over for taller passengers.

Despite its smaller size compared to the outgoing Touring, the Elantra GT doesn’t give up too much in terms of cargo space: Admittedly it does come up about 170 L (six cubic feet) shy, but you still get a useful 651 L of room in the trunk, which expands to 1,444 L if you fold down the rear seatbacks. Speaking of rear seatbacks, these can be folded entirely flat if you first take a couple moments to flip the seat cushions forward or, if you are in a rush and don’t need a flat floor, you can simply flip the seatbacks forward onto the seat cushions.

On the road I found the Elantra GT to be a notch above the Elantra sedan, which is itself a very competent, easy-driving car. True to its name, the GT is just a little more engaged and sporty to drive, with a well-controlled ride and precise steering. The only negatives that I noted were the bulky and therefore somewhat obstructive front and rear roof pillars.

The Elantra GT is available in four trims levels – GL, GLS, SE, and SE Tech – and in the usual Hyundai style they all include a lot of features for the money. Starting at a suggested price of $18,794 including destination charges, the GL includes air conditioning, keyless entry and alarm, power locks, power windows, six-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio with USB plug, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, heated seats, power mirrors, a cooled glove box… shall I go on?

As expected, the GL comes equipped with the manual transmission (the automatic is a $1,200 option), but what’s less expected is the driver-selectable steering mode (DSSM). This varies the power steering boost to allow better feedback when cornering at high speeds, easier steering when maneuvering at low speeds (such as when parking), or medium effort for normal driving. I could see occasionally switching it into sport mode when tearing along twisty back roads, but I reckon most people will leave it in normal mode most of the time – the sport mode feels heavy-ish around town, and comfort mode feels decidedly over-assisted.

The GLS trim, which starts at $21,019 (destination included) adds a panoramic sunroof, power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped wheel, under-floor storage box, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels and a few other features – a lot of nice goodies for only $2,225 more.

The SE trim is a bigger leap forward, starting at $24,039 and adding perforated leather seating, fully automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, automatic headlights, one-touch driver’s window, solar glass, chrome grille and side window moldings, 17-inch alloys and included automatic transmission. I do find it a shame that, sports cars aside, manufacturers tend to think of manual transmissions as a lower-end feature (I’d prefer to have my Elantra GT with the SE package and the manual transmission), but I guess I’m in the minority because if there was much demand for higher-trim cars with stick-shifts, surely manufacturers would offer them.

At the top of the range, the SE Tech trim starts at $26,039 and includes all the features of the SE plus a proximity entry system and touchscreen navigation system.

With its comprehensive list of standard features (I didn’t yet mention the seven airbags, stability control and other safety features), sporty yet relaxed road manners, frugal fuel consumption and economical price tag, the Elantra GT certainly deserves the honours it won from AJAC (the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) as the best new small car over $21,000. It offers a compelling alternative to competitors such as the Mazda3 Sport, Kia Forte5, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback, and if you’re considering buying a sporty compact hatchback it should definitely be on your list of contenders.

Pricing: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT SE
Base price (SE): $22,544
Options: None
Freight: $1,495
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $24,139

Mazda3 Sport
Kia Forte5
Volkswagen Golf
Ford Focus
Subaru Impreza
Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

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