Subcompact crossovers are a relatively new vehicle segment, but they have quickly won the hearts of the car-buying public with their high seating position, versatile utility, good looks and affordable prices – much to the chagrin of hatchbacks and wagons, which have long offered the same benefits (even all-wheel drive!) but have not received the same endearing adulation. Hyundai hopes to change that with its all-new Elantra GT, taking aim not only at direct-competitor compacts, but also flavor-of-the-year entry-level crossovers.
A Fashionably Late Hatchback
Based off of Hyundai’s Europe-only i30 fastback, the Elantra GT is smartly dressed. Albeit a latecomer to the five-door fashion show (many compact cars were all-new or facelifted for the 2017 model year), the South Korean automaker’s entry is a handsome one with strong curves and a head-to-taillights character line that further elongates the vehicle’s profile.
Complementing the sedan-heavy Elantra lineup, the hatchback is available in two trims: GT and GT Sport. Its exterior design features the new corporate “cascading” grille, satin chrome window surround, a wraparound rear windshield, a rear spoiler, dual exhausts and 17- and 18-inch wheel options.
The interior is straightforward and uncluttered; however, the touch points and materials do not match the high-quality impression of the Elantra GT’s exterior. Hard plastics abound and the 8-inch “floating” multimedia touch screen is unimpressive and cheapened by a high-gloss piano black casing.
That said, the standard cloth seats are comfortable and supportive, and the GT Sport bumps up the sensatory amenities with red “Sport” trim including contrast-stitched leather seats with a heat setting, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The crimson elements certainly present a racy persona but may seem a bit aftermarket gaudy, especially in contrast to the blue-illuminated control buttons.
Conversely, major plus points are awarded regarding cargo capacity, which makes the Elantra GT essentially a chasm on wheels. The wheelbase remains the same but the hatchback is longer, wider and shorter than the outgoing model, which affords 24.9 cubic feet of volume behind the rear seats but a whopping 55.1 cubic feet with them folded down. Only the Volkswagen Golf surpasses the mid-century mark with 52.7 cubic feet.
The Elantra GT also can carry more warehouse-boxed goodies than the dimensionally larger (and generally pricier) crossover utility vehicles like the mass-market Toyota C-HR (36.4 cubic feet) and luxury Audi Q3 (50.3 cubic feet).
Pricing has not yet been released for the all-new 2018 Elantra GT, which hits dealerships later this summer. But the 2017 Elantra GT started at less than $19,000, not including the $885 destination fee, so final 2018 figures should be competitive, especially with the targeted competition extending beyond the traditional segment to include subcompact crossovers and wagons.
The entry GT is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 162 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices include a standard six-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic. Fuel economy is EPA rated at 23/31 mpg city/highway if you row your own gears; the automatic offers a slightly better 24/32 mpg.
Unfortunately, driving dynamics are anything but. Road noise infiltrates the cabin and drowns out the already anemic sound of the engine. Body roll, especially in the front passenger seat, is noticeable and akin to fighting rough seas when cornering. Regarding hills of even moderate ascent, the power band feels stuck in another time zone and never quite catches up.
Moving up to the GT Sport begets a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a higher output of 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Like the base model, two transmissions are offered. The same six-speed manual transmission is the standard equipment with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission available as an option. The EPA-rated numbers are 22/29 mpg city/highway for the manual and 26/32 mpg when optioned with the dual-clutch automatic. Pep and poise are apparent from the get-go as the GT Sport also receives a sport-tuned suspension, naturally.
Equipped with the same MacPherson strut front suspension as the base Elantra GT, the standard rear suspension torsion beam is replaced with an independent multi-link in the GT Sport. A stabilizer bar is added; front and rear spring rates are increased and larger brakes are installed. The front and rear dampers and steering are also specially tuned. Ride quality is vastly improved and turning the steering wheel is made fun again. There is little to complain about any of the transmissions, but the manual offered surprisingly smooth shifts.
Elantra GT: An Easy Decision
Even though pricing remains a mystery, features and options are confirmed. Although all-wheel drive is not available, the Elantra hatchback does offer a simplified packaging structure. Standard on GT models are 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, steering wheel-mounted controls, cloth upholstery, an 8-inch multimedia display, blind spot monitoring and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity. Style and Tech packages offer added niceties.
The Style package includes a mix of luxury and safety features, including keyless entry, push-button start, a 4.2-inch driver information display, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats with driver’s seat lumbar, rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist.
The Tech package adds LED head and taillights, ventilated leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, Infinity premium audio, wireless smartphone charging and a three-year complimentary subscription to Blue Link, Hyundai’s suite of remote start/connect car services.
GT Sport models include equipment of the GT with Style package plus Sport front seats, a rear air vent, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist as well as LED headlights and taillights. An available Sport Tech package is similar to the GT Tech bundle, but adds high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and driver attention assist.
Five-door hatchbacks are not going down without a fight as the segment looks to stave off and survive the expansion of small crossovers. The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT makes a strong save-the-hatchbacks case toward conscientious car buyers with its style, safety, and spaciousness. And even the most enthusiastic of drivers can opt for the GT Sport for that added fun-to-drive power.