Sporty, useful, practical, some hatchbacks have it all
Sporty, useful, practical and bordering on fun to drive a hatchback often gives you more for your money than any other car design on the market. Think of crossovers as hatchbacks on steroids and you get the picture for useful and practical, but without the sporty.
Hyundai’s hatch, based on its stellar Elantra sedan launched as a 2012 model, provides room for four adults and has 23 cubic feet of cargo room under the hatch. Compare that to most coupes and sedans with 12-15 cubic feet. Heck, this has nearly as much room as some small sport-utility trucks.
Yet hatchbacks are almost always fairly sporty looking due to their hatch, and the Elantra GT is aces in this department too, with the same sweeping curves as the sedan, but with a rear reminiscent of Mazda’s Mazda3 5-door. (By the way, 5-door is car company lingo for a hatch because somehow the term “hatch” has become off-putting to some buyers. Pish Posh!)
Sporty naturally is in the eye of the beholder, but I feel the 2013 Elantra is the most attractively styled hatch available at the moment, with an equally well styled interior.
Is it fast and flickable like a racer? No, but it’s competent and bordering on sporty. My gorgeous “Atlantic Blue” test car was the automatic version loaded with Tech and Style packages. But at its heart remains the same 1.8-liter D-CVVT (Dual Continously Variable Valve Timing) 4-cylinder as in the manual-transmission model, the only other trim for the GT.
The engine creates a solid 148 horsepower and in a 2,784-lb. car, that’s plenty for normal driving. One reason the GT weighs so little is the generous use of high-tensile steel throughout. Credit Hyundai too with a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic that gives the car a bit of a luxury feel it’s so seamless on most shifts. Yet it also has Shiftronic, which allows the driver to shift manually, without need of a clutch. Using this, the Hyundai became more playful and fun. In automatic mode the car was fine for city acceleration, but you wanted to crunch the accelerator to more quickly reach highway speeds.
The GT has moderate acceleration, but I never felt slow or like I was about to be overrun by other traffic pulling away from a stoplight. My only complaint, as with so many moderately powered cars, is that they seem to hesitate and give you flat acceleration as you turn a corner and then accelerate. From 30-40 mph it smoothed back out.
Best yet, the GT rides on a 104.3-inch wheelbase that helps spread the bumps, more like a mid-size car. There are MacPherson struts up front along with twin-tube gas shocks, coil springs and a 22mm stabilizer bar. In back is a torsion axle with gas-filled monotube shocks and coil springs. These do a great job of handling our rough city streets.
Handling is fine, the car displaying just slight body lean in tight turns, but the steering effort can feel a bit heavy and vague at times. That seems odd as Hyundai features its Driver Select Steering Mode on the GT, accessed by a small button on the steering wheel hub. This allows you to set the steering to Sport, Normal or Comfort modes, with Sport being way too heavy for normal city driving and I couldn’t tell much difference between the other modes. But those were what I chose most of the time because they lightened up the wheel’s feel.
Braking is good in the GT, with four-wheel discs and vented units up front. ABS and both traction and stability control are standard.
Gas mileage is touted by Hyundai, but I was a bit disappointed with 26.2 mpg in about 70% city driving. That’s because the EPA says to expect 28 city and 39 mpg highway. I didn’t get close to that. I should note though that there was barely 1,000 miles on the odometer when I got the car, so it was still in its early break-in period. Regular gas is all that’s required, too.
Note that there also is an Eco button on the left dash. Press that and it’ll adjust shift points down to improve gas mileage about 7%. I used it sparingly.
Inside, the car is stylish and well laid out for function and clarity. This one featured a brown over tan leather interior, the tan seats having matching stitching. A matte silver trim on the doors, air vents, center stack and by the shifter made the GT look ritzier than most cars in this class.
Granted the leather, along with an impressive panoramic sunroof are part of a $2,750 Style package. That also added power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a leather wrapped steering wheel (pretty slick, it needs more texture for better grip) and shift knob, along with a driver’s auto-up window and aluminum pedals to spiff up the interior and add more functionality. Outside the package upgraded with 17-inch alloy wheels and 17-inch tires.
This one also added a Tech package with navigation and rearview camera, automatic headlights, dual automatic climate controls and a remote key fob and push buttons start, for another $2,350. Toss in some carpeted floor mats for $95 and a $775 delivery fee and the modestly priced $19,395 GT moved to $25,365. Even at that, it competes well with many other compact and sub-compact sedans and hatchbacks, similarly equipped
To me the key inside though is GT’s simple dash and stack design and large buttons that are logically laid out and labeled for easy use. I also like the blue rings on gauges that makes them easier to read at night. I’d say this is a near perfect interior that also is quiet, not something you expect too much of at this starting price.
There also is good room for four adults and the car features a tilt/telescope steering wheel along with 2-speed heated seats. Overhead is Hyundai’s BlueLink communication system, similar to OnStar, plus the visors feature extenders. I know I’m a fanatic for these, or sliding visors, but they really help block side sun.
Elantra GT also features two large open bins under the stack, for storage, plus a cooled glove box, in case you want to store some bottled water there while driving. I also like the well contoured seats and out back, the rear hatch wiper, a real benefit during winter (you do still remember winter, don’t you?)
Overall the Elantra GT is a fine family friendly car that’s easy on the savings account and is a comfortable, practical and somewhat sporty ride. Give it a look, along with the sedan version and a new coupe has been launched about the same times as the GT. Hyundai also continues to offer its 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, 5-year roadside assistance, and overall 5-year, 50,000-mile warranty.
All that says value to me!
Fast Stats: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea
Engine: 1.8-liter D-CVVT 4-cyl., 148 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/Shiftronic
Weight: 2,784 lbs.
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Cargo: 23.0 cu.ft. (51.0 cu.ft. rear seat down)
Base Price: $19,395
Dealer’s Price: $18,690
Style package (17-inch alloy wheels/tires, sport-tuned suspension, panoramic sunroof, side-mirror turn signal indicators, leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped wheel/shift knob, power driver’s seat w/power lumbar support, aluminum pedals, driver auto-up window), $2,750
Tech package (navigation w/rearview camera, automatic headlights, dual automatic climate controls, proximity key entry w/push buttons start), $2,350
Carpeted floor mats, $95
Test Vehicle: $25,365
Sources: Hyundai, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy Hyundai
Hits: Sporty looking hatch with panoramic sunroof, simple dash and stack and blue rings on gauges. Near perfect/stylish interior that is quiet and offers good room for four adults, tilt/telescope steering wheel, 2-speed heated seats, visors with extenders and an Eco setting to help fuel economy. Good ride and smooth shifts.
Misses: Moderate acceleration with lags when you give it gas coming off a corner. Steering wheel leather is too smooth, needs more texture for better grip.