By on August 9, 2017

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, Hyundai Elantra GT

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT GLS

2.0-liter inline-four, DOHC (162 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm; 150 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)

Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

24 city / 32 highway / 27 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

9.4 city / 7.2 highway / 8.4 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

30.5 mpg [7.7 L/100 km] (Observed)

Base Price: $20,235 (U.S) / $22,281.50 (Canada)

As Tested: $22,035 (U.S.) / $25,931.50 (Canada)

Prices include $885 destination charge in the United States and $1,832.50 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Back in late June, Hyundai’s Canadian division bundled myself and a group of fellow journalists into a Quebec hotel, then proceeded to explain how crossovers are eating the compact car’s lunch.

The 2018 Elantra GT, the company’s representatives said, almost didn’t happen because of the unstoppable popularity of high-riding, cavernous utility vehicles. Hyundai’s U.S. crew apparently needed convincing that the next-generation GT was even worth the trouble. Essentially just an overseas-market i30 with a name change, the new GT’s North American salvation came from the fact few buyers opted for an Elantra-badged hatchback in recent years. Far more buyers take home a Ford Focus or Mazda 3 with five doors.

And so, having been assured that a much-improved GT — a hatchback with more cargo room, more available power, greater handling and sporting prowess, and cohesive, flirting-with-premium looks — would boost overall Elantra sales, we’ve come to this. An Elantra GT, now with more GT.

In GT Sport trim, the vastly reshaped, fourth-generation compact hatch dons the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder from the Elantra Sport, calls dibs on its athletic cousin’s sporty transmissions, and goes to town delivering value-packed driving excitement for the commuter who likes taking the long (and twisty) way home. This tester, however, is no Elantra GT Sport. Nope. It’s the plain ol’ Elantra GT — the Elantra GT you’ll see far more often than the throaty, scrappy Sport, probably while its owner performs the mundane cargo-hauling duties Hyundai so desperately wants its buyers to attempt.

Even in base form, Hyundai hopes the Elantra GT’s sporting abilities and generous cargo volume whispers a siren song would-be subcompact crossover buyers simply can’t ignore. Is it a convincing come-on?


2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

“Luckily” for me (most journalists would surely regard my plight with pity), I was in a position to find out. This tester embodied the volume-model persona to a “T.” While U.S. Elantra GTs arrive in two trims — GT and GT Sport — those cold creatures across the border see each U.S. trim broken down into two more: GL and GLS, plus Sport and Sport Ultimate. This tester was a GT GLS, essentially an entry-level model outfitted with popular options and 17-inch wheels.

The big news for 2018, at least to any observer, is design, design, design. The GT’s top-down re-do looks mature, leaning towards the Germanic, with straight lines and a longer nose fronted with air-curtain vents and a large grille. A traditional two-box shape. None of this clashing angles or bland oval crap.

Overall length is up 1.6 inches, with width growing by 0.6 inches. A slightly lower ride height and more upright rear glass adds up to an impression of greater length.

Friends incapable of giving praise to a Korean hatchback for any reason stayed silent on the tester’s looks. For what it’s worth, those who might be in the market for a compact in the foreseeable future were instant converts —my father, owner of two small crossovers, among them. This news no doubt provides hope to nervous Hyundai execs.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Under the hood sits another perk: a direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder pumping out significantly greater oomph than a base Elantra sedan — 162 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. (That’s actually down from last year’s sole offering: a 173-horse, 154 lb-ft 2.0-liter.)

Naturally, marshaling that base power to the front wheels is a six-speed automatic, only fitting for a volume model. There’s a six-speed manual available, something I craved every moment of my week spent in this vehicle. Not because the base GT is a slug, or that it can’t keep up with the duties of a modern compact — rather, it’s because a stick-shift would only enhance the GT’s long list of positives.

Hyundai’s German engineering braintrust endowed the i30 fourth-gen GT’s body with 53 percent high-strength steel (up from 27 percent), extra structural adhesive and sound insulation, while decreasing the number of body parts from 418 to 314. It all translates into a far more rigid structure than before. Appreciation grew with every pavement crack and chopped-up curve, with the GT emitting zero rattles or squeaks, even with that liftgate out back. Keeping its composure in check is a refined-feeling suspension — firm but forgiving — which softens jolts small and large without feeling like a skateboard.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

The GT Sport tested in June checked numerous hot(ter) hatch boxes, but road imperfections came calling by way of the firmer suspension. Tossing the thing around the hills (and one parking-lot handling course) revealed less body roll more than the already steady GT — kudos to a rear anti-roll bar and independent multi-link suspension — but both models can only take a corner with so much gusto before the front end washes out.

Yes, the experience of throwing this volume GT into a tight turn — manumatic locked into 2nd gear, of course (*sigh*) — soon elicits memories of the 1970s cop flicks you watched as a child. Is there a Dodge Polara nearby? No wait, that’s you. Embarrassing front-tire squeal from even cautious attempts at corner-carving shows this competent commuter, shod with upgraded 225/45 R17 tires in GLS trim, needs stickier rubber before playing the role of value performer.

Still, the potential’s there. Even the nicely weighted steering provides a surprising amount of feedback.

That low-drag rubber also keeps things reasonably quiet at speed, though wind noise wasn’t helped by the optional panoramic sunroof. Who buys a compact hatch with one of these, really? Have we hit peak glass? It’s a clear selling point for Hyundai, and I’ll admit to making ample use of it. It also brightens up the roomy, two-tone cabin (sorry, monochrome motifs only in the GT Sport, though colorful accents abound).

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

However, the real story, as Hyundai would tell it, remains the interior volume. Horsepower’s nice, and ride quality, too, but cargo space is king on North American roads. As such, the GT’s crossover-fighting cargo area is the first thing mentioned in Hyundai marketing materials. With 24.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 55.1 cubes with backseat folded, there’s almost enough room on the nearly flat surface to lie down and take a nap (I tried, but alas…too tall). There’s even a 12-volt plug back there, presumably for wild and crazy liftgate parties.

Volume-wise, the Elantra GT smokes the Chevrolet Cruze hatch, Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla iM and Ford Focus five-door. Score one for Hyundai. It’s also more cargo room than you’ll find, seats up or down, in the Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade and Toyota CH-R. Honda’s subcompact HR-V falls behind the GT in rear cargo volume, but beats the GT by just under 4 cubes with seats folded.

Obviously, the GT doesn’t provide the perk of available all-wheel drive or a lifted ride height, though you won’t find AWD on a C-HR or Kia Niro (or Soul) option list, either.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

All GTs arrive with an 8.0-inch touchscreen rising from the centre stack, each equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. A host of driver’s aids fall into the “available” category. This uplevel tester boasted the two nannies drivers want above all else: blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

While it excels in many areas, a week in the GT wasn’t without gripes. The front seats, while not uncomfortable, remain on the flat side. The engine, smooth and quiet at speed, doesn’t exactly emit a knee-weakening note under hard acceleration, and the optional automatic is merely okay. Rear-seat passengers will find their knees threatened by hard plastic seat backs that look plucked from the 1990s. As well, very tall back-seat passengers suffer the same lack of headroom found wherever panoramic sunroofs roam (though six-footers needn’t worry). Navigation, always a perk, remains reserved for buyers with deeper pockets.

With a pre-delivery entry price of $19,350 in the U.S. and $20,449 in Canada, the Elantra GT shows Hyundai hasn’t lost its head and forgotten the company’s traditional value proposition. In base trim, a Elantra GT retails for $350 less than the less capacious Honda Civic hatch. In GT Sport guise, the little Hyundai undercuts the price of a Volkswagen Golf GTI by more than $2,000. (Meanwhile, Honda’s Civic Si isn’t available in a five-door bodystyle.)

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

Unfortunately, sweeping differences in trim and equipment between Canada and U.S. Hyundai models makes for a tricky pricing situation. This GLS tester retailed for $25,931.50 after delivery, taxes and fees, equipped with all options found in the $1,800 U.S. GT A/T Style Package, plus the $1,000 automatic transmission. However, in the U.S., panoramic sunroof availability (standard on a Canuck GLS) requires the purchase of the $4,300 Tech Package.

With that package, you’ll gain LED headlamps and taillights, leather, a host of creature comforts (including upgraded audio), and Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system.

It’s a tough world for any new compact car. You know it, we know it, and Hyundai knows it. Still, with its fourth-generation Elantra GT, the Korean automaker has produced an impressive vehicle in a segment once known for yawns, not lust. The availability of a truly sporting powertrain only makes the new GT more desirable.

To some, targeting the GT’s marketing at would-be crossover shoppers might seem like desperation. However, if even a small fraction of those people are value-conscious and capable of appreciating driving dynamics, it could be a smart move. Maybe buying a car isn’t a silly thing to do after all, they’ll think.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

[Images: © Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

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35 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Elantra GT GLS Review – Wouldn’t You Really Rather Have a Car?...”

  • avatar

    The GT Sport comes with the 1.6L Turbo, not a 2.0 Turbo. Same engine in the Veloster Turbo and the Kia Forte5 SX, among other HyunKia offerings.

    • 0 avatar

      Why even offer this with the lower power engine?

      You call it the “GT” – just make it 1.6 turbo only and then offer us an “N” version with 250 hp.

      • 0 avatar

        You offer it with the 1.6L turbo because that engine and the DCT its mated to does a very admirable job in the Sonata and Tucson, so this hatch will do even better.

  • avatar

    Definitely will be worth a look when I’m car-shopping next, like the looks other than the two reflectors on the rear, just hope it doesn’t feel as sterile as Korean cars always do. The new Mazda 3 will be out by then though so I’m sure it’ll be overshadowed if the 3 follows the lead of the new CX-5.

  • avatar

    Not bad at all. This car looks like something an adult might buy without embarrassment.

  • avatar

    Hyundai does have a racing program, but they do very little “sell on Monday” so to speak. To that end may I suggest a “GTI” version of this little hatch?

  • avatar

    Perhaps my history with modified cars has skewed my perception, but honestly if it’s a choice between a car tuned to appease automotive civilians who prefer texting to driving or a crossover, I’m probably rolling with the crossover. A Tuscon won’t drive much worse, but will be a lot more practical and versatile.

    The vestigial C pillar window doesn’t help either. Completely ruins an otherwise cohesive + handsome design. They should have just bit the bullet and went full on Golf (as they did with the handsome Forte hatchback).

  • avatar

    I like it but I fear if it doesn’t take off, Hyundai will cover the fenders and rocker panels with black plastic, raise the ride height by 2″, and rename it “Elantra GT-x4.”

  • avatar

    “Back in late June, Hyundai’s Canadian division bundled myself and a group of fellow journalists into a Quebec hotel…”


  • avatar

    I love pano roofs but $4300 for it ,yeah you get some other stuff , which I could live w/o no sale. I would stick w a GTI for 2k more

  • avatar

    This morning President Trump is threatening to rain “fire and fury” on the North Korean peninsula. The North Koreans are threatening Guam, which would automatically draw South Korea into the middle of it all. So, no, I wouldn’t be buying any cars from the Korean Peninsula for quite awhile. I would hate to see my Factory Support in cinders.

  • avatar

    “A slightly lower ride height”

    This would appear to refer to less ground clearance but the same overall height. If so, I fail to see how it would add “up to an impression of greater length.” If anything, it should give it a sense of obesity.

  • avatar

    We might have a winner here; this Hyundai looks like a cross between a sporty hatch and a utilitarian crossover, kind of like a Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan or a Ford B-Max. It also doesn’t have the acutely upswept rear side windows and gunslit rear window so common on new cars. The dashboard is low and uncluttered, and it looks like it is easy to see out of.

  • avatar

    Not bad looking, a potential candidate to replace my Sportwagen. When I first saw it, I thought it was hideous but I think it’s growing on me. Anxious to be able to build one on Hyundai’s site. I bet it’ll be quite a bargain used with the 1.6 engine.

  • avatar

    I had a 2014, fully loaded (including that pano roof, which really opens up the cabin) and a manual and it was a great little car that could pack a lot of stuff.

    It looks like from one of the pictures that the rear view camera is just hanging out on the hatch now. Does it no longer hide in the rear Hyundai emblem?

  • avatar

    I didn’t like the dash but I’m getting over it. This could be my next car in a couple years.

  • avatar

    I surprised this is compared to the regular Golf/GTI and not the Golf Sport Wagon. Would think that is a better comparison.

    Also if you have young kids you will really appreciate the hard plastic seat backs. My E46 wagon has those and kept the seats much nicer than my wife’s Golf Sportswagon.

    • 0 avatar

      I found out on another site that the new Elantra GT is 170.9″ long.

      The current Golf wagon is 179.6″ long and the regular Golf hatch is 167.5″.

      So the Elantra GT really doesn’t compete with the Golf wagon, its direct competition is other hatches.

  • avatar

    Too bad dealer inventory of Elantra GT is very low and hard to find any in North East.

  • avatar

    My first impression was that it looks like a Kia Niro. Nice styling, good space utilization and it sounds decent to drive.

  • avatar

    There was no Civic or Corolla hatchback when I bought my ’15 Civic sedan. I’d have much preferred a hatchback, but Hyundai wasn’t on my radar at all. I didn’t like the poorer fuel economy that seems to go with all Hyundais and Kias, and long term reliability was another concern. I’m sure the first 100,000 miles would have been fine, not so sure about the second.

  • avatar

    I looked at the local lot this past weekend but they didn’t have any GT’s, new or otherwise.

    The pics above look better than I thought it would, but I’m still more partial to the current style.

  • avatar
    Sam Hall

    My neighbor and I both own current-generation Ford Escapes (his is a pre-facelift 2014, mine is 2017). He says it’s “the Focus hatchback on stilts”. That’s not entirely true as the Escape’s interior is larger overall and has more upright seating, but if I look at it from the outside it’s easy to picture it an inch or two lower, so that it would still have the 1940s form factor but with better aerodynamics. Looks like Hyundai had the same thought but started from the other end. It’ll be interesting to see how it sells.

  • avatar

    24/32 mpg seems about 10 years out of date from a 162 hp engine. The fact that the seam between the a pillar and front fender doesn’t meet the hood gap would drive my OCD crazy.

    Can you get the sunroof with a manual transmission? That is becoming a very rare combination…..

  • avatar

    Looks good to me. Worthy of consideration.
    Despite it having a track record in Europe, I would like to have some reliability history in NA before making a purchasing decision.

  • avatar

    This is pretty much the 2018 rendition of the 2009-2012 Elantra Touring wagon, isn’t it?

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