For 2013, Hyundai is testing the waters of America’s on-again-off-again love affair with the hatchback. Does the new Elantra GT Deliver? Why, yes. Yes, it does – and to be honest, we’re not that surprised, either. Although Hyundai hasn’t been known for their killer hatchbacks here in the United States, one thing’s for sure, and it’s that Hyundai has a winning formula for producing high-value hatchbacks from sales experience in Europe. The Elantra GT we get here in the U.S. for 2013 is the same as the Hyundai i30 that is sold in Europe and South Korea – a vehicle that has been hugely popular overseas.
Probably the first thing that you’ll notice when you see an Elantra GT in the flesh is how different it really is from the Elantra sedan and Elantra Coupe. It’s a shorter car – by nine inches in fact – but when you climb inside the vehicle, you get the same feel as you do when you’re in the Elantra sedan. The interior specs for hip room, leg room, and head room are nearly identical in every dimension, yet the cabin feels more open and airy – and there are two culprits for this illusion. The first being the available panoramic sunroof that spans across both rows of seating, and the second being the simple fact that hatchbacks’ cargo areas naturally expand the interior space. While the standard cloth seats are very comfortable and stylish, those who opt for the Style Package will be rewarded with supple leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (and it’s the same grade of leather found in the Azera – much higher-grade than what’s found on the Elantra sedan and Elantra Coupe), leather door inserts and door arm rests, larger 17” wheels, LED turn signal indicators on the side mirrors, and a sport tuned suspension.
In terms of features, the Elantra GT is packed to the gills – even more so than the award-winning Elantra sedan. It’s borderline ridiculous how much content you can get on the Elantra GT, not to mention it’s the first Hyundai to come equipped with Driver Selectable Steering Mode – a feature normally found on high-end performance cars – that lets the driver choose from Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes. The difference between these modes is very noticeable, with “Comfort” mode offering little feedback, like what you’d expect from the Elantra sedan, then a “Normal” mode that offers a more acceptable amount of feedback, and “Sport” offering the most driver feedback, allowing the Elantra GT to offer amounts of feedback that driving purists only expect to find in sports cars. Best part about it? It’s a standard feature. Other features include BlueLink, projector beam headlights, fog lights, a six-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/iPod/Aux audio system with Bluetooth phone connectivity, a standard cooled glove box, three 12v power outlets, available sport-tuned suspension, and a 6-speed manual transmission is standard. What’s nice about this is if you want to add the Style Package or the Technology Package, you don’t lose the manual, and are thus not required to upgrade to the 6-speed automatic (a $1,000 premium over the manual). The tech package adds 7-inch navigation screen, features like XM Data (Weather, Traffic, Sports, and Stocks), keyless access with push button start, and a rear backup camera that’s hidden in the rear emblem – just pops open when you need it.
While our time behind the wheel of the 2013 was very brief (as the car had not been through its pre-delivery inspection), we can attest that the driving characteristics of the Elantra GT differed dramatically from those of the Elantra sedan. While the Elantra sedan is no slouch, the Elantra GT offered a more engaging experience, which was further enhanced by the six speed manual transmission in our subject car, which was a base vehicle with no option packages. While we had units available to showcase on the lot that came equipped with many more options, we felt that the amount of equipment on the base vehicle was so impressive that we took the opportunity to evaluate one. Granted, when it comes time for a video review, we’ll likely get one that’s all optioned-out to give you an impression of how awesome the Elantra GT can be.