First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Hyundai is a brand on an upward trajectory, and its current lineup — which spans traditional sedans and sport-utility vehicles to three-door hatchbacks — is competitive with the most capable offerings from America, Japan and Europe. For 2013, Hyundai is expanding its lineup with a variant of its popular Elantra sedan: the Elantra GT hatchback. Are its driving dynamics good enough to match its looks?

After our brief drive through the winding hills along New Jersey’s Palisades Parkway, we were able to draw some impressions about the Elantra GT’s real-world performance.

It’s stylish

See those swoopy lines? The pushed-back windshield? That shapely backlight? Devoid of exterior badging, the casual observer would be hard-pressed to identify this hatchback as a Hyundai. Size-wise, it fits comfortably in between the longer Ford Focus, and wider and taller Volkswagen Golf. In person, the sharp lines work well with the curves to present a taut, shapely hatchback.

The interior is similarly handsome. If you’re familiar with the no-nonsense layout of the Elantra sedan, the GT will look quite familiar. Fit and finish is above average, given the price point, and ever-important, soft-touch surfaces cover the dashboard and areas where hands go and eyes veer. A significant downside to the curvaceous lines, though, is a thick A-pillar that obstructs the driver’s leftward view.

It’s particularly versatile

Opting for the Elantra GT means a cavernous cargo area is standard. The rear seat cushions flip forward, and the seatback folds down, for a flat, squarish load floor. The Elantra GT’s total cargo capacity (51 cu. ft.) is in step with its rivals, and is proportionally less than larger SUV competitors.

From a driver’s standpoint, however, the GT’s versatility far exceeds its physical dimensions. Hatchbacks based on sporty, small-car platforms have the added capacity of being
fun to drive as well. In that respect, the GT is an true all-rounder. It steers with the appropriate amount of weight, neither overboosted nor strained, irrespective of the driver’s choice of steering mode, though Sport felt artificially enhanced. Braking is also well modulated.

It’s not particularly fast

Some cars are called GT because they are true grand tourers, with aspirations of long, winding drives and no particular destination. The Elantra GT is not one of them. In the rest of the world, the Elantra is known as the i30, which has almost the same weight as the word “Elantra.” Either way, while GT happens to be attached to the Elantra moniker, this is not a fast car.

The Elantra GT’s engine is shared with the Elantra sedan: a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 131 lb. ft. of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard. Our tester was equipped with the 6-speed automatic transmission, which did a surprisingly good job of eking out power and helping the Elantra climb twisty bends and ascend the hills around Bear Mountain. Brakes are modulated well, and are neither grabby nor too light to the touch.

Over our short driving loop, the GT exhibited some body roll in tight corners, but proved capable and engaging. It might not be a sports car — or even, truly, a sporty car — but the GT’s low center of gravity keeps it firmly planted among a sea of roly-poly SUVs.

A leap ahead

Overall, it’s a giant leap ahead of its predecessor, and the moniker-bearing GT hatchback that came before it, in almost every single way. In the past, the American buying public has shunned commonplace, multipurpose vehicles like this one (Kia Rondo, anyone?) and only embraced niche hatchbacks like the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

With driving dynamics that exceed expectations, the Elantra GT is a solid choice. We’re hoping to spend more time with the GT soon in order to deliver a full opinion.

Autosavant attended a manufacturer-sponsored event at which the Hyundai Elantra GT and two other vehicles were available for evaluation. Want to know which ones? Stay with Autosavant this week, and LIKE our Facebook page for updates as they happen!


Author: Jeff Jablansky

Jeff Jablansky was born with his hands planted firmly at 10 and 2. He has written for automotive enthusiast publications in the United States and abroad. His favorite road trip memory involves a Hyundai, a winding desert road and a herd of sheep. He is convinced that there is a car culture that goes beyond taxis in his current city of New York.

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  1. I view of this car has evolved over time. When I first saw it, I thought it was gorgeous. I looked forward to selling it as a Hyundai salesman. Then I went to the NY autoshow and saw it in person. I saw that it was in fact gorgeous, but had lost most of the utility of the Elantra Touring it replaced and I branded it useless. Then we started getting them at my dealership. Gorgeous overrode useless, and I leased one this week. I got the Style Package – heated leather, 17″ wheels, panoramic roof, with the 6 speed manual. What a nice car. Better looking than the sedan, with a much nicer interior, this might be the nicest car I have ever owned. It’s not fast, and certain types of bumps in the rode crash through the body in an unpleasant way, but the overall package is really unbelievable. I am very happy I got one and look forward to selling them.

  2. I was similarly impressed. Extremely well equipped and not bad on the eyes, either.

  3. I would love this to be my next car. I was considering the Veloster, but the Elantra GT has better looks and 4 doors. To me, it’s what the latest Mazda 3 should have been.

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