Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 4, 2018
The Elantra GT is a 5-door hatchback that Hyundai has recently added to their lineup, and have engineered it to appeal towards compact buyers looking for a more “engaging driving experience” and you’ll see the phrase “tuned at the famed Nurburgring” everywhere on their marketing materials. The Elantra GT even comes with a Sport model, like the one I’m driving today. That means under the hood is a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder pushing out 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.
There is a 6-speed manual transmission as standard fare so that’s nice, but I am unfortunately stuck with the optional 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that demands a $1,500 premium. The Sport also gets a multilink independent rear suspension, a rear stabilizer bar, sport-tuned dampers, 18-inch wheels and dual exhaust tips. So let’s see if its performance credentials are up to snuff with the Honda Civic Si ($28,490) and Volkswagen Golf GTI ($30,595). Perhaps it offers a bargain with its $26,999 starting price tag?
Right off the bat I can tell you that the Elantra GT Sport could use a bit more power, especially in the mid-range where thrust is sorely lacking. The 201-hp output is more than enough for this small chassis but the detrimental turbo lag makes it difficult to speed up on the fly, and split-second decisions are punished by slow acceleration despite having a quick shifting transmission. I also noticed some torque steer as well when gunning it from a stop. The engine just doesn’t feel as responsive or as eager as the comparative ones in the Golf and Civic. The same goes for the steering, which is gentle but doesn’t have that crispness I want from a performance-oriented hatch.
The dual-clutch transmission is smooth 90% of the time, with only mild shudders at low speeds if you’re too light or hesitant on the throttle. First to second shifts are the weak spot as you still feel some of that typical DCT-jerk. Once it gets going though it shifts and fires off gears nearly as quick as the Volkswagen Golf’s DSG.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of my drive was realizing how rigid and stiff the chassis was, resulting in a firm but composed ride. The Elantra GT is nimble and taut when leaning around corners, and when zipping through traffic the body stays relatively flat without much roll. Just don’t call it comfortable - if you value that above all else, best to stick with the regular Elantra GT or sedan with their softer dampers.
From a performance perspective, the Elantra GT Sport is definitely a hoot to drive but I can’t say I had as much fun in this as the Civic Si, which feels like a more complete package. I think a limited-slip differential would make the GT a lot gripper and more playful. When you wring out the motor, it does have a decent growl and exhaust note, though.
The rest of the Elantra GT hatchback is undeniably functional. I don’t think it looks as handsome as the Golf or Focus - it’s rather bloated and swollen but definitely the most grown-up out of the bunch.
The interior provides a clean and ergonomic layout - I love how the heated seat and heated steering wheel buttons are placed right next to the shifter, since you’re bound to need those buttons when starting up right before slotting into gear. The driver’s gauges will also display where your signal stalk is currently positioned so you don’t have to fiddle around with it. The seating position is excellent, and the wheel telescopes and tilts a considerable amount. There is ample room for all five passengers, and my six-foot figure is able to sit comfortably in the back on a long trip. With the seats up, the Elantra GT actually has more cargo space than the Focus and Golf. The red seat belts are a nice touch too.
The infotainment system is not the prettiest and I still don’t like how it's perched on top of the dashboard rather than being nestled right into it, but it functions well. I like how Hyundai kept hard buttons on the side for shortcuts and actual knobs for volume and tuning - I’m less likely to take my eyes off the road when trying to reach for them. Nevertheless, the steering wheel is now littered with enough buttons that you might never need to use the touchscreen. It’s a great wheel, thickly padded, and neatly designed with that sporty swoop at the bottom.
Gripes? There are still a lot of cheap feeling materials and plastics running rampant but this is expected at this price point. Somehow Honda and Volkswagen find a way to dress it all up prettier and more convincingly, though. Cabin insulation isn’t very good either with a great deal of tire and wind noise seeping in at any speed. Highways are where it gets especially loud. This wasn’t a problem in the Civic or Golf. Start stop technology also fails to make an appearance, and the steering wheel annoyingly squeals under heavy rotation.
It’s a shame how you cannot get the top-end Ultimate trim with a manual transmission, meaning if you want to row your own gears, forget about ventilated seats, the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, safety features including lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control, and Bluelink Connectivity, an app that links your car to your phone, allowing you to start the car remotely, set the cabin temperature, and lock or unlock the vehicle.
The Elantra GT is a welcome hatchback in this highly competitive field. The Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen Golf GTI set the bar exceptionally high, and the Elantra GT Sport simply lacks that oomph to convince buyers to think otherwise. The Civic Si offers crispier steering and a livelier engine, while the Volkswagen Golf GTI hammers down with interior quality and powertrain refinement. The Elantra GT Sport stands out with its spacious interior, rigid chassis, and attractive price tag, however it’s missing that extra sauce in the powertrain to really justify the Sport in its name.
Model: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Ultimate DCT
Paint Type: Iron Grey ($150)
Base Price: $30,499
Price as Tested: $30,649
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,340 / 1,795 / 1,465
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 201 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 195 lb-ft @ 1,500 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.1