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2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: First Drive Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Hyundai Elantra GT, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT Review

The new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT has a fairly impressive pedigree. Not only has the Elantra been sold in the United States for more than 30 years; worldwide, more than 5 million Elantras have rolled out of showrooms in 190 countries. A global car? You bet. Doubling down on the global theme, the Elantra GT is based almost entirely on Hyundai’s i30, which is sold in Europe.

Here’s how the Elantra stacks up in the U.S.: Hyundai has pushed more than 2.9 million Elantras out the door in America since 1991. The Korean carmaker sold more than 200,000 Elantras for the fifth consecutive year in 2016. The Elantra accounts for 27 percent of all Hyundai Motor America sales and is the carmaker’s number one selling nameplate. Oh, and the Elantra sedan is built in Alabama, where more than half the Hyundai vehicles sold in America are assembled.

Unlike sedan sales, which are struggling against the crossover onslaught, hatchback sales are growing: There’s been a 17 percent uptick so far in 2017. This is good news for the Hyundai Elantra GT. See the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT models for sale near you

Wide-Open Spaces

You probably can’t tell by looking at the Elantra GT, but it’s sufficiently roomy inside to be categorized as a large car by the EPA. Not only does this mean plenty of elbow room for up to five people, but its nearly 25 cu ft. of cargo-carrying capacity behind the rear seats can accommodate almost twice as much stuff as the cargo hold of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

Against segment competitors, the Elantra GT can hold more gear than the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf. But it gets even more impressive. With its back seats folded, this Hyundai hatchback outcarries some small crossovers, such as the Chevy Trax, Toyota C-HR, Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-3.

Who’s on First?

Hyundai offers two versions of the Elantra GT keyed to powertrain choices. The $20,235 Elantra GT pops out of the box with a 161-horsepower version of the tried-and-true 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Funneling engine power to the front wheels is either the standard 6-speed manual or an optional ($1,000) 6-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Stepping up to the $24,135 Elantra GT Sport, a new 201-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine turns the wheels via either a sport-tuned 6-speed manual or an optional ($1,100) 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Regardless of the engine, the automatic tranny delivers better fuel economy than the 6-speed manual. By government estimates, the Elantra GT with the manual transmission will get 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Opting for the automatic ups the mileage to 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy. Springing for the Elantra GT Sport will ensure a lot more punch under the hood, but fuel economy results are mixed when compared to the entry-level version. With the manual transmission, the 1.6-liter turbo loses a little ground to the 2.0-liter, at 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. But with the 7-speed automatic, the Elantra GT Sport bests the base grade’s city fuel efficiency with 26 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.

More Than Skin Deep

Hyundai is more than a little proud of its steel. It makes its own, you know. It’s the only carmaker sourcing its steel from, well, itself. In the case of the Elantra GT, Hyundai nearly doubled the amount of high-strength steel in the new model over the previous one, making it 22 percent more rigid. In addition to goosing driving dynamics, the new structure weighs less than the previous GT by more than 60 pounds. In another nod to its in-house steel production, Hyundai incorporated its new family cascading grille in the 2018’s styling. Based on the shape created by a cauldron dumping its load of molten steel, the grille sets the tone for the fresh exterior lines.

New standard vertical LED daytime running lights also dress up the front end. LED headlights are available. In the rear, available LED taillights, a rear spoiler and an optional dual exhaust highlight the design. Hyundai did a lot of work in the wind tunnel in developing improved aerodynamics. Because of their relatively squared-off shape, hatchbacks are notoriously difficult to streamline. With the new Elantra GT, Hyundai achieved a 0.30 drag coefficient.

Hyundai relied on more than the extra kick of the Elantra GT Sport’s powertrain to elevate performance. A fully independent multilink rear-suspension setup replaces the rear torsion-beam suspension in the entry-level car. It also comes with standard 18-in alloy wheels, as well as larger front and rear brake rotors. Engineers tinkered with the steering system, too.

Take a Seat

Inside, the cabin is roomy and quite comfy. Rear-seat legroom would be a bit tight for taller folks, but that’s about the only nit to pick. The cars we drove in and around Charleston, South Carolina at the GT’s southeast regional media debut were well-constructed inside and out. The most striking interior change is the new infotainment system. Anchoring the new system is a larger 8-in touchscreen, now occupying its own stand-alone space in the center of the dashboard.

Standard on every Elantra GT are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other standard goodies inside the GT include full power accessories, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel with redundant audio controls, an audio system with satellite radio capability, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, seven airbags and remote keyless entry. Hill-start assist is also standard.

Ponying up the extra money for the GT Sport adds features like lane-keep assist, LED headlights and taillights, automatic dual climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather seating and heated front seats. Optional on both the entry-level and GT Sport is a panoramic sunroof.

Safety/Driver-Assist Tech

If we have a second real gripe with Elantra GT, it’s that only the GT Sport offers a suite of safety/driver-assist technologies, and all but one of those are folded into the optional Sport Tech package. Lane-keep assist is standard on the GT Sport. Bundled in with the Sport Tech package are advanced smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward-collision warning, high-beam assist and driver-attention assist.

At the Helm

At the Charleston media launch, we were able to drive the Elantra GT on a variety of roads, as well as on dry and wet pavement. Hyundai set its sights on the Volkswagen Golf when planning the i30. Although it may not have quite hit the bulls-eye, it came close. It feels stable and well-planted in the turns, and the turbo in the GT Sport is responsive, with almost no hint of turbo lag when goosing the throttle. Although the entry-level GT is a bit sedate, it performs efficiently and without drama.


In the Elantra GT and GT Sport, Hyundai found the sweet spot between function and fun. This is particularly true of the GT Sport. Good looks, ample cargo capacity, a comfortable ride and excellent road manners make the 2018 Elantra GT a serious competitor in the sporty hatchback segment.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street Performance Compact magazines. He supplied financial content and automotive-industry analysis to and

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