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.