This year, the 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT gets a few updates as it faces a brand-new Golf and the fierce upcoming Focus RS—not to mention the Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, even the Kia Soul.
While the Elantra compact sedan that shares most of the same name is a best-seller, the Elantra GT is more of a niche vehicle—and really, a completely different one developed primarily with Europe in mind. While the Elantra takes aim at the Toyota Corolla and Chevy Cruze among many others, the GT looks to rival hatchback versions of the Ford Focus and the VW Golf.
In the past, Hyundai's sold various Elantra GT hatchbacks and wagons, but this time, the five-door version's much more closely related to the model that's sold in Europe—even more so than the four-door and two-door. The drivetrains and some front structures are similar, but the Elantra GT has its own wheelbase, its own bodywork, and its own rear suspension.
The shape's gone heavily in the continental direction. Some of Hyundai current global styling cues show up on the Elantra GT, particularly on the front end, where its hexagonal grille links it to the Elantra coupe and sedan—though the grille's grown bigger and sharper this year. From the front pair of doors back, the GT drops its roofline and ties its fortunes to the fastback look that characterizes the best of the hot hatches from overseas, including the latest Mazdas and Fords. It's an internationally recognized symbol, code language for sporty in a way the other Elantras are not.
For 2016, the Elantra GT hasn't changed much. At the rear, there are available LED taillights. Sharp new 17-inch alloy wheels are available, too.
Inside, the Elantra GT's dash is more conservative than the body lets on. It's a straight-edged design that's less adventurous, with a soft pad capping the dash and a more refined blender knob controlling the air temperature.
Powering the 2016 Elantra GT is a 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through either a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.
The GT teams up well with either the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic Hyundai offers. If anything, the Hyundai manuals feel like VW cable-shifted manuals, with a peg-in-slot shift quality, but good clutch uptake not far off the floor. The automatic in our test vehicle short-shifted the GT's rev range, moving up to the next gear well before it reached redline—before 6,000 rpm in its first two gears, likely a choice for economy and durability.
Elantra sedans have strut front and twist-beam rear suspensions; the GT has its own twist on that formula, with an upside-down V-shaped beam replacing the crimped tube on sedans. It's threaded by a 22-mm stabilizer bar, and GT hatches also get upgraded to Sachs rear shocks for better ride control. All told, the five-door has slightly better transitional behavior than the sedan, and on base models and on those with uprated wheels and tires on the option sheet, it's firm enough and grippy enough to create some worthwhile space between its road manners and those of the sedan.
Hyundai also wants the GT's electric power steering to stand out, so it's endowed with three driving modes: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. The column-mounted system doesn't have a variable steering ratio, though, so the modes simply add steering weight without more feedback. We left it in Normal for most of a long test drive, without regrets.
The hatchback body style abbreviates the Elantra shape, while granting more cargo space. The GT is 9.0 inches shorter overall than the sedan, and its wheelbase is 2.0 inches shorter; it's 0.2 inches wider and sits 1.4 inches taller. Front-seat passengers will notice a touch more knee room, while rear-seaters will see noticeably less—back-seat space being a hallmark of the Elantra sedan.
Behind the back bench, the 2016 Elantra GT has 23 cubic feet of storage space, better than some compact luxury crossovers. The rear seats fold down for better storage: when they're nearly flat, the GT holds 51 cubic feet of cargo. Elsewhere inside, the GT has a shallow storage tray under the cargo floor; a deep center console bin for smartphones, next to the USB port; a cooled glove box; and a center armrest with a sliding cover.
All GT hatchbacks have seven airbags, including a driver knee airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. The federal government has given the Elantra GT high marks: five stars overall with a four-star rating in frontal crash and rollover protection. A rearview camera is an option—it hides beneath the flip-up Hyundai logo on the tailgate.
Inside, the Elantra GT adds an available BlueLink infotainment system. It includes navigation, HD Radio, and Apple Siri Eyes Free integration. Ventilated front seats are a new option—and Hyundai says they're the first in the class—and heated rear seats are available as well. Rounding out the tech update is an available remote start system with climate control and destination search powered by Google.
Other standard features include an AM/FM/CD/XM sound system with USB and Bluetooth; rear spoiler and wiper; satellite radio; heated front seats; tilt/telescoping steering; keyless entry; 16-inch wheels; Bluetooth; cruise control; cooled glove box; heated front seats; and steering-wheel audio controls. Options include a 10-way power driver seat; automatic climate control; ventilated front seats; a sport suspension; panoramic sunroof; leather; rearview camera; navigation; and automatic headlights.
The Elantra GT's fuel economy estimates are the same, regardless of transmission. According to the EPA, the Elantra GT manages 24 mpg city, 33 highway, 27 combined.
- 2016 Mazda MAZDA3
- 2016 Subaru Impreza
- 2016 Ford Focus
- 2016 Volkswagen Golf
- 2016 Kia Soul
The Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback is the enthusiastic companion piece to the heavily sculpted sedan. It's not as pert in the handling department when it comes to rivals like the Mazda 3, Ford Focus, and VW Golf, but it's more than a match for other competitors. The left-brained Volkswagen Golf is an excellent choice in this niche, whether you choose a GTI or a base turbo-4. It's sturdy, has an excellent ride/handling balance, and lots of adult-sized space. The Ford Focus and Mazda3 are the current class leaders when it comes to engaging driving feel, either as sedans or hatchbacks. The Mazda may have slightly better steering feel, while the Focus leads on infotainment features and outright power, particularly with the new 247-hp ST. Finally there's the Subaru Impreza, a versatile hatchback or sedan with standard all-wheel drive and fine road manners, albeit with a standard CVT that hones off some of the driving edge.