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First Drive: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

A sporty hatchback in a sea of crossovers.

by on Aug.29, 2017

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is a new hatchback that gives the maker a chance against popular crossovers and sport-utes.

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport is something of a segment buster in a world where the automotive fleet is broken up into categories like passenger cars, pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers.

But as a hatchback, the Elantra GT isn’t all that easy to define. It doesn’t have the lifted seating position of a SUV and overall design reduces vehicles overall height, leaving it with the low-slung profile of a passenger car. The cabin is also surprisingly quiet, making it easier to hold conversations on a longer drive.

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With its scaled down proportions, the Elantra GT Sport is bound to remind some older motorists of a small station wagon or the Euro-style hatchbacks popular during the 1970s and 1980s. However, Hyundai’s designers have given the car’s exterior sheet metal character and a contemporary appearance.

In addition, the front of the car with its tailored corners and grille has a unique look while the inward sloping rear hatch adds a distinctive design element to the car’s appearance.

But it’s roomy on the inside and the rear liftgate and ample interior space makes it convenient for loading and unloading light cargo such as luggage or sporting gear much like the small crossovers that have grown in popularity exponentially in recent years because of their perceived versatility.

The new Elantra GT hatchback is powered by a 1.6-liter four cylinder engine putting out 201 horsepower.

(Hyundai’s new Elantra is leading the hatchback comeback. For the story, Click Here.)

Moreover, the ride and handling of the Elantra GT Sport is like that of what you would expect from a sporty sedan or coupe. The steering, while it could use a little more feel, is responsive and the improvements to the suspension engineered in by the Hyundai bolster the Elantra GT Sport’s driving characteristics, which are every bit a match for competitors such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which is up until now has defined the emerging hot-hatch segment.

The roads in Southeast Michigan are generally flat but we found that the Elantra GT showed up impressively on a stretch of narrow, hilly, road north of Detroit that twist around the source of the Huron River. The car handled curves easily, climbed small hills and was quite maneuverable. The brakes are excellent and the steering wheel fits comfortably into the driver’s hands.

The 1.6-liter turbo charged engine with direct injection puts out an impressive 201 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque gives the Elantra GT sport plenty of power that easily came into play with a minimum of fuss and quickly when summoned by the throttle.

We drove a version of the Elantra hatchback that was equipped with Hyundai’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that changed gears as needed virtually imperceptibly, but never seemed to miss a beat even during relatively complicated stretches of road with lots of stopping and lot of traffic.

The Elantra hatchback can be equipped with Hyundai's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

However, the dwindling band of automotive purists who believe cars should come with a stick shift will be glad to hear that a manual transmission is standard on the Elantra GT Sport.

(Click Here for more about Hyundai’s struggles in the U.S. market.)

Hyundai isn’t offering all-wheel drive on the Elantra GT Sport but the car’s front-wheel-drive configuration and 18-inch wheels are probably a could match for most kinds of weather, except for unusual weather events like a 50- or 100-year flood or a major blizzard that dumps a foot or more of snow in a few hours.

What Hyundai is offering on the Elantra GT Sport is a full array of safety features, including multiple air bags as well as driver assistance features such as blind spot detection. Other features that have rapidly migrated from more expensive luxury sedans such as smart cruise control with a stop-start function and lane departure warning are also available on the Elantra GT Sport.

The overall level of technology and comfort features is impressive. The list of features includes LED headlights, power windows, keyless entry, USB and MP3 input jack, a 3.5-inch information screen within the instrument cluster and an 8-inch touch screen for entertainment and an optional navigation system and to Hyundai’s Blue Link connectivity system with its Bluetooth connection.

The Elantra GT offers an 8-inch touch screen for entertainment and an optional navigation system and to Hyundai's Blue Link connectivity system with its Bluetooth connection.

A panoramic sunroof is also optional on the Elantra GT Sport, which in keeping with Hyundai’s basic corporate philosophy is quite affordable.

The price of the Elantra GT Sport with a manual transmission starts at $23,250 before the application of $885 destination charge. Prices for the GT Sport with the seven-speed automatic starts at $24,250 plus the destination charge. The version I drove with the optional sunroof and tech package was an affordable $27,460.

(Hyundai rushes revised Sonata to market. Click Here for the story.)

The Elantra GT Sport is a really impressive car with the latest technology that also roomy and great fun to drive. One can only hope that it doesn’t get lost as motorists move to SUVs and crossover vehicles.

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