2013 Hyundai Elantra GT First Drive: Not quite a hot hatch
The expectations are even higher when it comes to hatchbacks, since there's a common thread running through the likes of the Mazda3, Ford Focus, VW Golf, even the Subaru Impreza--the next step up into performance editions dubbed Speed, ST, GTI and WRX.
The Elantra GT is a long way off from earning those initials, but it's a competent, pleasant piece that has more in common with the European Hyundai lineup than with the Elantra Coupe or sedan. It's more useful behind the rear seats than the two- and four-doors, and to some eyes, it's the best-looking of the trio.
That said, it's the least fluidically sculpted of them all. The GT has a front end that blends in perfectly with the other compact Hyundais, but from the front doors on back, it's pure Euro hot hatch. The cockpit does an about-face, though--it's conservative, not forward-looking like the one in the sedan and coupe, without the definitive hourglass at its center. It is a little more finely finished, though, with a synthetic-leather dash cap and some higher-quality switchgear.
With the usual Elantra 148-horsepower four-cylinder, and the same six-speed automatic and manual shifters, the drivetrain experience carries over from sedan to GT, with some reluctance to shift on the automatic we drove. Like the Coupe, the GT gets a V-beam rear suspension with a baked-in roll bar--and all to itself, the GT adds Sachs rear shocks for better ride compliance. It may be the most well-sorted Elantra, by a slight margin, but sometimes its road manners are masked by three-mode electric steering. Given the choice of comfort, sport, and normal modes--all with their own heft, but the same steering ratio--we left it in Normal after briefly experimenting with the other modes.
Interior space gives the nod to other Elantras. The GT cuts 2.0 inches from its wheelbase and 9.0 inches from its overall length to get to its snappy five-door layout. It's 1.4 inches taller, though, and a bit wider, All the front passengers will realize is a touch more knee room, while the adults in back will definitely feel the loss of some leg space. Cargo room of 23 cubic feet beats some $50,000 crossovers we've tested this year.
With gas mileage topping out at 39 mpg highway, and stickers starting at just under $20,000, the Elantra GT leaves very little wiggle room for the competition to play pricing games. It's extraordinarily well-equipped, with standard satellite radio; heated front seats; Bluetooth; cruise control; and steering-wheel audio controls. Topping it off with both the Style and Technology packages--including a panoramic sunroof, leather seats, a power driver seat, a rearview camera, and a navigation system--brings the most expensive hatchback to just over $26,000.
We'd still opt for a Focus or a Mazda3 if handling prowess topped the purchase reasons, but in the balance the Elantra GT's value seems destined to suck some of the oxygen out of the small niche containing these hatches. And what about those GTIs, STs, and WRXs? Hyundai barely disguises its interest in adding more power to the Elantra GT--so it's possible there's room for another letter on its badge too.
We say bring on the R-Spec--we'll trade you two steering modes for it.
For more, see our review of the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT.