Hyundai breathes fresh life into its little sport hatchback.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT
2018 Hyundai Elantra GT.

Automakers are responding to a wholesale shift in consumer demand by building more SUVs and fewer car models. This unprecedented shift means some manufacturers are catching up, including Hyundai which will release its small Kona SUV early in 2018, giving it four lines of crossovers.

At the same time, while brands such as Mitsubishi, Dodge, and Chrysler have abandoned certain small car segments, you’ll learn that not all manufacturers plan to do likewise. Indeed, Hyundai is redoubling its efforts, having already updated its Elantra sedan and following that with an all-new Elantra GT hatchback for 2018. The next-generation subcompact Accent arrives this fall and early next year the Veloster hatchback returns as a 2019 model following a one-year hiatus. Oh, and don’t forget the Ioniq line of electrified vehicles — hybrid, electric, and PHEV.

Who said manufacturers are abandoning small cars? Certainly not Hyundai.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

Hyundai offers the 2018 Elantra GT in two grades GT ($19,350) and GT Sport ($23,250). Add $885 for the destination charge.

The Hyundai Elantra GT is a compact five-door front-wheel drive hatchback with room for five. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter four cylinder generating 161 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Hyundai pairs this engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Customers can also opt for a 6-speed automatic transmission, raising the base price by $1,000.

The Elantra GT Sport comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Making 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, this engine is also paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. A 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is a $1,100 option.

Package options are available, except on the base model with the manual transmission. You’ll find two choices here: an $1,800 Style Package and a $4,300 Tech Package. A separate Tech Package comes with the GT Sport with automatic transmission — more on that below.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

The Style Package brings in a proximity key with push-button start; blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist; side-mirror turn signal indicators; an instrument panel display with sharper graphics; dual-zone climate control; a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; a power-controlled driver seat with lumbar support; heated front seats, a driver’s automatic up/down window; and a sliding armrest.

Opting for the Tech Package requires purchasing the Style Package. This package adds full LED headlights, LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, leather seating surfaces, and an electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold. Hyundai also adds a larger rear disc brake, rear console vent, an 8-inch navigation system, Blue Link telematics, a 7-speaker Infinity audio system with subwoofer, and a wireless charging pad. Ventilated seats, an automatic dimming rear view mirror, a covered cup holder, and a front storage lid cover round out the package.

My 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT test model with the automatic transmission had both packages and added carpeted floor mats ($125) for a grand total of $27,460.

Exterior Highlights

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

I like the shape of the Elantra GT with its long hood and short rear quarter, giving this wedge-shaped vehicle a shoe-like appearance. Or should I say running shoe?

Up front you’ll find a honeycomb grille, supplying a look that is at once upscale and sporty. Upswept headlamps, distinct pockets for the fog lamps, and a small lower grille opening contributes to the GT’s sporty persona. A slightly rising beltline, the falling roofline and dramatic profile sculpting and signature lines add to the distinctiveness. Alloy wheels, wraparound tail lamps, a rear spoiler and reflector lights complete the look.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels set within all-season tires. You’ll also find automatic headlight control, a chrome/gloss black grille, and power-heated side mirrors. The Elantra GT brings in 18-inch wheels, full LED headlights, LED taillights, and side-mirror turn signal indicators.

Interior Highlights

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

The Elantra GT seats five, although the best number is four. Up front are comfortable and supportive bucket seats. The rear 60:40 split-bench seat holds two comfortably, especially with the middle arm rest folded down revealing a pair of cup holders. The only caution here is that a tall driver or front passenger demanding maximum legroom may put a crimp on your personal space if you sit on the rear seat.

If you’re expecting a budget look and feel in the Elantra GT, I’m happy to disappoint you. The interior is stylish and offers soft touch materials across the dashboard, on the door inlays and in other places where you might expect plastics. The texturized plastics are actually quite pleasing — there’s no sense of cheapness here or feeling as if you’re settling for something less than what you really want. I found all controls are sensibly placed and easy to decipher. You’ll find multiple in-door beverage holders as well as cup holders. I appreciated the deep storage pocket at the base of the center stack.

Standard equipment includes power windows and door locks, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, cloth seating surfaces, air conditioning, sun visors with extensions, illuminated vanity mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls, a center armrest with a flip-up storage compartment, and a cargo area cover. The Elantra GT adds alloy pedals (including a footrest pedal), leather-covered seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone climate control, and an electronic brake with automatic hold.

Safety Highlights

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2017 Hyundai Elantra sedan with a Top Safety Pick+ rating, its highest score. No doubt, the same score will apply to the 2018 Elantra GT. We’re also expecting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to carry over its 5-star rating for the 2017 version to the new model.

All models come with brake assist, hill start assist control, traction and stability control, and a suite of airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag. Driver-assist technologies are available too, as outlined in the section following.

Technology Features

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

You’ll find a generous supply of standard and available technology features with the 2018 Elantra GT, including an 8-inch display audio system with satellite radio, HD radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The amenities customers may desire most comes in the GT Sport’s Tech Package ($3,850). Here, you’ll find a navigation system, wireless charging pad, and a full Blue Link telematics system with remote and guidance packages. This package is where you’ll find driver-assist safety features, including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency detection with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, high beam assist, and driver attention alert.

My test model did include the navigation, but I was happy to use Apple CarPlay for my directions.

On the Road with the Elantra GT

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

My test Elantra GT came with the standard engine paired with the automatic transmission. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to drive with the manual gearbox, but one wasn’t offered.

That said, the base model has a peppy four-cylinder engine at the ready. Most of my drive time was a solitary experience, so there wasn’t the added weight of other passengers.

The Elantra GT isn’t a performance maven, particularly in standard form, but it gets the job done and then some. On twisty roads I wasn’t afraid to push it a bit, plowing into twists and easing up only slightly on turns. You’ll want to operate it in sport mode too, what adds weight to the steering and extends shift points for a more engaging driving experience.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

Typically, I’ve found small front-wheel drive cars offer a fun driving experience with torque steer adding a certain measure of steering fun without overwhelming the handling experience. That’s exactly what I found with the Elantra GT.

Shoppers wanting more kick should consider the GT Sport. You get a 25 percent boost in power and have the benefit of the dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. No, the Elantra GT doesn’t pretend to make a run for the Volkswagen Golf GTI or the Ford Focus ST, but the fun is there, thanks also to a new multi-link rear suspension system for optimum handling. Imagine the possibilities if Hyundai decided to go head to head with VW and Ford, by offering an all-wheel drive variant with a twin-turbo engine. Just saying….

Elantra GT Parting Thoughts

Fully loaded, a 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT will cost you just over $29,000 and that’s a steep price point for most any small car. If you’re happy with the manual transmission and the turbo, you’ll shave $5,000 off your cost, although that also means going without the packages available on the automatic transmission models.

To sum up, the 2018 Elantra GT offers improvements in style, performance and package offerings to woo Ford Focus and VW Golf/Jetta owners. Oh, and don’t forget the Mazda3 and Subaru WRX when comparing Hyundai’s sporty compact hatch.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

  • Sticker price from $19,350
  • Price as tested: $27,460
  • Seats five
  • Engine No. 1: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas
  • 161 horsepower @ 6,200 RPM
  • 150 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,700 RPM
  • 6-speed manual or automatic transmission
  • Engine No. 2: 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo gas
  • 201 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM
  • 195 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,500 to 4,500 RPM
  • 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
  • Length: 170.9 inches
  • Width: 70.7 inches
  • Height: 57.7 inches
  • Passenger volume: 96.5 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 24.9/55.1 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: NR
  • EPA: 28/37 mpg city/highway (est.)
  • Regular gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 14 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 2,901 to 3,155 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: NR
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 7 years/unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Montgomery, Alabama

This article was originally published by Auto Trends Magazine.

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