The recipe appears to have the right ingredients.
The redesigned 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT compact hatchback boasts a European-style exterior with classy, restrained design cues; a well-finished, ergonomically sensible interior; and loads of features for the money, starting from a reasonable base price of $20,235.
But some design foibles, engineering shortcomings and hard-to-find tech options hold back the Elantra GT against such outstanding competitors as the Honda Civic and Mazda3.
First of all, don’t confuse the Elantra GT with the Elantra sedan, the Korean brand’s bestselling product. Although the sedan and GT share some mechanical components under the skin, the Elantra GT is essentially a renamed version of the Hyundai i30 that the company developed for the European market – where compact-car buyers expect more sportiness and luxury than Americans are used to.
The Elantra GT starts off its performance specs with more standard horsepower than the sedan: 161 rather than 147, both from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. There’s also different tuning of their six-speed automatic transmissions, and the Elantra GT lacks the fuel-saving but performance-blunting “eco mode” option found in the sedan.
This leads us to the Elantra GT’s biggest and most obvious failing: gas mileage. With the base engine and automatic transmission, it’s rated for a miserable 27 miles per gallon in mixed driving. That figure trails every competitor and even many larger sedans or crossovers. It’s 7 mpg worse than a competing Honda Civic, and 5 mpg worse than the comparable Elantra sedan. In a recent weeklong test of mixed driving with long stretches of highway, admittedly affected by this month’s bitterly cold temperatures, a 2.0-liter Elantra GT averaged just 28 mpg.
The Elantra GT Sport model steps up to 201 horsepower with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With more advanced powertrain technology, including a sophisticated dual-clutch automatic transmission, it’s rated for 28 mpg despite its livelier acceleration. But several competitors offer nearly as much power with thriftier fuel consumption, including the Mazda3 and the Civic.
Even the Sport model doesn’t exactly deliver a sporty driving experience. It doesn’t feel budget-grade, to be sure, but it’s also not as fun to drive as the Civic, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus.
Another issue with the Elantra GT’s value proposition is that high-end safety features such as adaptive cruise control with emergency automatic braking are offered only on the fully optioned version of the Sport model. The price? $29,000. This handy system is standard equipment on the Toyota Corolla iM and Mazda3, and a widely available option on the Civic and Subaru Impreza.
That said, if you aren’t particular about emergency automatic braking, the Elantra GT can otherwise be a pretty strong value for the money. Pricing site Truecar.com is optimistic that large discounts are available off its already compelling sticker price, and Hyundai offers such high-end luxury features as heated and cooled seats, a panoramic sunroof and a wireless smartphone charger.
The Elantra GT’s aesthetics are another strong point, at least if they’re to your tastes. The car is modern without looking overly flashy, and its dashboard manages to be both stylish and functional. These are key advantages over the Civic in particular, whose hatchback version could be considered cartoonishly-styled and whose dashboard is over-reliant on cumbersome touchscreen controls. The cabin is also a big step up from the comparatively drab Elantra sedan.
So if you’re looking for a pleasant enough small hatchback that’s not too expensive to buy and can be optioned up with nice luxury features, the Elantra GT can fit the bill. But remember to factor elevated fuel expenses into any value calculation, and don’t expect the car to dazzle on the road.
Meanwhile, several other compelling hatchbacks are similarly affordable, notably the Focus, Corolla iM and Chevrolet Cruze. And no comparably-equipped competitor is more than a couple of thousand dollars more.
The result: While it’s a nice enough small hatchback with a tempting price tag, the 2018 Elantra GT’s overall experience comes up short of stellar. It’s worth considering, but it’s no standout against a number of appealing competitors.