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First Drive: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport

A worthy competitor in an increasingly crowded segment.

by on Dec.28, 2017

The new Hyundai Elantra GT Sport is ready to run with the others in the "hot hatch" segment.

As a challenger brand, Hyundai has never been shy about pushing into new segments so the fact the South Korean automaker elected to take one of the company’s most popular models and turn it into a “hot hatch” should not come as a big surprise.

The result of the effort is the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport, a nifty hatchback that I thought clearly lived up to the GT nomenclature that has been hung on the car.

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The fact is the 2018 Elantra GT Sport spices up the Hyundai’s strong and popular Elantra line.

The package includes a suspension, an area where Hyundai has its share of shortcomings during the years, that is nicely modulated, giving the Elantra GT Sport something of a goldilocks ride that’s neither too harsh nor too soft.

The new Elantra GT Sport provides plenty of power, but also offers an abundance of utility.

The handling, starting with the steering and solid brakes, which provide stopping power even on slick surfaces, and the sporty feel of the Elantra GT’s driving dynamics, make it a worthy competitor for vehicles such as the well-established Volkswagen Golf GTI or Civic R Type.

I also found the steering was very responsive and the brakes responded quickly even on very, very slick surfaces when the tires seemed to have a limited grip.

(Hyundai may build new pickup, SUV in the U.S. Click Here for the story.)

Hyundai offers buyers the choice of two inline-four-cylinder engines in the Elantra GT, either a direct injection 2.0-liter that can produce 162 horsepower that is matched to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The GT Sport that I had the opportunity to test was equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo engine that produces 201 horsepower and torque peak of 195 pound feet. It was equipped with the six-speed manual transmission that was easy to use but had one small quirk.

When you pushed the gear shift knob up and to the left into first gear it had a tendency to jump into reverse. Reverse was protected by a ring that had to pull to move it in the reverse gear but it didn’t always seem to work as planned, though it worked fine once you got used to its idiosyncrasies.

The new infotainment system in the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport is the among the easiest on the market to navigate.

The overall driving dynamics also benefited from the increased stiffness in the structure, more than half of which is made from advanced high-strength steel, which is bonded with 367 feet of structural adhesive. This is 22% more rigid than the previous GT and the body-in-white weighs 61 pounds less, which allows for additional safety equipment and electronics such as driver-assistance features.

The cabin of the Elantra GT Sport not only seems nicely furnished for a compact car with a good mix of textures and material that feel plush to the touch, but it is also larger than those its principal rivals from Honda, Volkswagen and Ford Motor Co. and packaging comes with room inside for five passengers and additional cargo space underneath the rear hatch.

(Click Here for more on the Hyundai Kona.)

The exterior styling also is lower and wider and is tailored with a European flair and includes features such as LED running lights, wide wheel openings and a nicely shaped lift gate in the rear. Overall, while the five-doors have been a feature of small car designs for more than 40 years, it still manages to look fresh and contemporary in the hands of Hyundai’s designers.

Hyundai’s designs also did a very nice job on the machine interface of the standard eight-inch display audio with Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration. The entrainment system and other controls in the 2018 Elantra Sport GT is easy to use. In fact it’s one of the easiest to understand that I have come across and the simplicity lets the driver concentrate on the road rather than fiddling with the controls.

The interior of Elantra GT Sport is comfortable and spacious for a compact car.

Also available on the 2018 Elantra GT Sport are features usually found on more expensive sedans and sport-utility vehicles such as dual-zone climate control, high and low beam LED headlights, wireless Smartphone charging, Amazon Alexa Blue Link remote starting as well as other heated features found provided by Hyundai’s Blue System for connectivity.

Besides being fun to drive, the Elantra GT Sport, including the 201-hp engine was quite affordable. The price, including Hyundai’s $885 destination charge, came to $24,260, which is very good considering everything that was included that came in the total package.

The passenger car business in the United States is going through something of a GT moment as manufacturers tack on the GT nomenclature with its deep roots in automotive history onto all kinds of models.

(For more on the Hyundai Santa Cruz plans, Click Here.)

However, the 2018 Elantra GT Sport really is really deserving of the name as a very contemporary and update version of a car that can carry the driver and his passengers a long distance in genuine style without breaking the budget.

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