To be competitive in the compact segment, an automaker must offer a hatchback model in addition to a traditional sedan. Over the last few years Hyundai had been cheating somewhat with the Hyundai Elantra Touring, a small wagon that offered a good amount of additional interior room but wasn't quite capable of fitting into the hatchback mold. When the Elantra gained a new platform for 2012 and the Touring didn't follow, it was only a matter of time before Hyundai got back in line with the rest of the industry and imported a true hatch to the United States.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is now here and it brings with it the updated features, fuel economy, and looks gifted to last year's Elantra sedan. More importantly, it fills a crucial hole in Hyundai's lineup and serves as a significant improvement over the departed Touring.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT grins and bears it as it finds itself facing down an exceptionally competent group of rivals for the affections of compact shoppers. Fans of sporty driving will appreciate entries such as the Mazda Mazda3 and the Ford Focus hatchbacks, while practical-minded individuals have no doubt already scoped out the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris. Somewhat upscale comforts await in the Volkswagen Golf, while the Subaru Impreza hatchback provides a fresh platform and standard all-wheel drive. There are a wide variety of small hatches currently available, each speaking to their own unique market niche and most boasting new, or nearly new, platforms loaded with high tech goodies in addition to their excellent fuel mileage numbers.
In the U.S. the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is offered in a single trim level that is designed to be customized via the selection of various options packages. The Hyundai Elantra GT starts at an MSRP of $18,395 and can be customized with the Style Package ($2,750) and the Tech Package ($2,350). Opting for the vehicle's automatic transmission over the base manual adds another $1,000 to the final price tag.
Our test vehicle for the week was a Canadian-market Hyundai Elantra SE Tech Auto (the Elantra is offered in three different trim levels up north), which includes most of the contents of both the Style and the Tech package and brings the equivalent American edition's MSRP to roughly $24,745.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra is served well by the beautifully sculpted lines given to last year's Elantra sedan. Although the Elantra GT shares many aspects of its platform with its four-door sibling, the five-door hatch is significantly shorter (nine inches), which works in its favor in terms of creating a sporty look. The rounded roofline also adds a bit of height to the Elantra GT compared to the Elantra sedan, and somewhat wider sheet metal works to create a vehicle that looks more like a family member than a twin.
Muscular flaring at the front and rear wheel arches, a broad trapezoidal grille treatment framed by canted copperhead headlights, and large cutouts for the vehicle's running lights at the bottom of the front bumper indicate that the Hyundai Elantra GT is meant to add some flash to the brand's 'fluidic' styling language. We were especially enamored of the optional 17-inch chrome rims that came with our tester, as they were the perfect fit - and attitude - for the Elantra GT's extroverted character.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT differs from the Elantra sedan inside as well as out. Drivers are treated to a classic one-two tachometer and speedometer gauge package with a now de rigueur driver information screen tucked at the top of the binnacle. Simple yet effective controls flank our test vehicle's navigation touchscreen, and just underneath that are a set of buttons and dials that manage the automatic climate control system. We were able to pair a Bluetooth device with the Elantra GT's hands-free calling system with no difficulty, although the transmission had to be in Park in order for us to accomplish this task. The voice recognition system received mixed marks from drivers, especially when it came to entering specific addresses into the nav system. For dialing purposes, parsing the commands required to make a phone call required a learning curve, but the feature functioned adequately enough that it wasn't a distraction out on the road.
Hyundai has chosen to make extensive use of brush metallic trim throughout the passenger compartment of the Elantra GT, and this is most apparent up front where it frames the vehicle's air vents, highlights the door panels and window controls, and brightens up the steering wheel's button clusters. The effect is cheerful and sporty at the same time, almost making one forget that they are behind the wheel of one of the most affordable vehicles in the Hyundai stable. The dash and door panels themselves are hewn out of a pleasant, soft-to-the-touch material, and the Elantra GT's center console is deep and aided and abetted by two additional storage cubbies located just underneath the dash (near the inputs for the vehicle's iPod, USB, and A/V ports). We also enjoyed the panoramic sunroof, which let copious amounts of light into the vehicle and which stretched from the front all the way to the very back of the passenger compartment.
There is plenty of rear seat room in the Hyundai Elantra GT, even for adult passengers, and cargo space was also quite impressive at 51 cubic feet with the back row folded forward. We were a bit disappointed that we were unable to get the seat to lie completely flat (we needed to pull up on the seat bottom to get it out of the way first - something we learned after we had returned the car), and the cargo cover that came with our week-long tester was obtrusive when trying to load in bulkier items, but other than that the Elantra GT was a champ at hauling home our weekend yard sale bounty.
The leather-upholstered front seats, unfortunately, were not as supportive as they could have been, a fact that we discovered during an extended highway trip where certain posteriors became numb after the first hour of continuous driving. We also had a bone to pick with the Elantra GT's key fob, which would not let us unlock the rear doors with the car running, nor pop the hatch - an irritation that seems more like an oversight than a genuine design decision.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is offered with a single engine option, a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder unit that generates 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque. This motor, which is the same as the one that is found under the hood of the Elantra sedan, can be mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The latter features the ability to select individual gear ratios by way of the center consoler shifter. Fuel mileage for the Elantra GT checks in at a reported 28-mpg in stop and go driving and 39-mpg on the highway.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT doesn't just look sportier than the Elantra sedan, but it has also been given a unique suspension system that is intended to further underline the 'fun-to-drive' nature that the vehicle is advertised as having. The Elantra GT comes with a rear torsion axle as opposed to the sedan's torsion bar, and the springs have been tweaked to be stiffer out back. Our Elantra GT SE featured an even more aggressive spring spec all around in order to provide the most responsive ride available from the vehicle.
How does it all pan out? The Hyundai Elantra GT is pleasant enough to drive, with no bad behavior at city speeds or when bouncing over railway tracks or grooved pavement, but this is most certainly a car that does not like to be hustled. Get on the gas and attempt to convince the Elantra GT to take a corner at speeds higher what might be posted by the local constabulary and one will quickly discover the hatchback's body roll and general malaise with being asked to perform such a maneuver. The Elantra GT is not intended as a performance car, and 90 percent of drivers will never hoon the hatch as hard as we did when testing its limits, but it's important to understand that comfort takes precedence over control when attempting to drive the Hyundai quickly.
High speed cornering aside, there's a lot to like about the rest of the Hyundai Elantra GT's ride. The 1.8-liter engine came across as somewhat rough around the edges when the six-speed automatic transmission in our tester downshifted to accelerate up a steep incline but it got the job done time and time again without ever making us feel like we were low on horsepower. Three selectable steering modes are available at the push of a button with the Elantra GT, and while Comfort proved to be a bonus during highway driving, we preferred Normal over the too-heavy Sport setting when tooling around town or on secondary roads. It's worth noting that the electric power steering system was loud enough while parking to be heard from inside the passenger compartment.
The Elantra GT featured an Active Eco button on the dash which was advertised as offering roughly a seven percent improvement in fuel efficiency by altering shift points and engine management accordingly, but over the course of a 100-mile road trip we notice no real difference in the vehicle's already excellent fuel consumption habits. Shifting the automatic transmission ourselves gave us predictable and relatively quick gear changes, although we preferred to leave the car in Drive in almost every situation.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT has been loaded up with airbags. The hatchback features forward dual-stage units, side impact airbags for the front two passengers, dual side curtain airbags that extend along both sides of the cabin from front to rear, and even a driver's knee airbag. Electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, and traction control work together to keep the Elantra GT pointed in the right direction, while brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution help the anti-lock braking system maximize stopping power without sacrificing control.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is an excellent entry into the compact hatchback marketplace, a competent, comfortable, and attractively-designed automobile that is head and shoulders above several key competitors (such as the Yaris and the Fit) in terms of styling. From an interior perspective, the Elantra GT also throws down the glove by way of its tasteful, high end look that honestly feels as though it belongs in a more expensive automobile.
No, the Hyundai Elantra GT isn't going to reward drivers looking to enter it in local autocross events on the weekend, but it is certainly going to offer pleasant accommodations on the daily commute and ample space for friends and their associated gear to tag along when it's time to put some highway miles on the odometer. The Elantra GT is another strong statement from a brand that seems bent on raising the bar on expectations amongst affordable cars.