2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Review - Take the Long Way Home

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport

1.6-liter inline-four, DOHC (201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 195 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm)
Six-speed manual transmission, front wheel drive
22 city / 29 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
26.3 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $24,135 (U.S.)
As Tested: $24,260 (U.S.)
Prices include $885 freight charge.

I’m not joking. The Supertramp song in the title did indeed start playing on SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind station as I pressed the start button after another long day at the office. I’m sure “Take The Long Way Home” and Foghat’s “Slow Ride” are the most often-played afternoon drive time songs for classic rock stations nationwide, but it seemed serendipitous.

I didn’t have to be home right after work. It was a dry, sunny, albeit brisk afternoon. And I had a willing partner – the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – fitted with a proper six-speed manual gearbox. Instead of turning south at the roundabout toward home, I turned north, dropped a gear, and followed the meander of the river. Magically, I’d forgotten about the day I’d spent glued to spreadsheets.

That’s the beauty of a hot hatchback. It can pull commuter duty admirably – I sat in nasty traffic that morning in the GT Sport, inching along as someone certainly spilled coffee on their Dockers. The hatch can swallow every bit of crap a family of four can throw in it. A hatch can be economical – I saw 26.3 mpg over my week with a 201 horsepower turbocharged engine. And, when that right song coincides with the right road, a hot hatch is happy to dance.

There are certainly elephants looming when I talk about hot hatches. Volkswagen arguably defined the segment with the GTI, and Honda stimulated a generation of enthusiasts with the Civic Si. Both models have legions of loyal fanatics built through decades of dedication to performance cars. Hyundai, on the other hand, has only occasionally acknowledged the fun car market – and most of those efforts have been half-hearted. Recall the Scoupe?

I’m not ready to say the Elantra GT Sport is the equal of the GTI or the Civic Si – I need time with all three back to back, preferably with timing equipment on an autocross course (and a better driver) to quantify my judgement. I do feel, however, that this Hyundai is capable of inducing grins just as well as the established competition. It rides quite nicely, though it’s obviously tuned to be a bit stiffer than a standard Elantra.

Interestingly, the GT Sport trim uses a very different rear suspension compared to the standard Elantra GT. While the regular GT makes do with a torsion beam axle, the GT Sport uses a proper multi-link independent rear suspension that gives better control of the rear wheels. It feels composed in spirited driving, though understeer is ever present. Maybe the aftermarket will bring a larger rear sway bar to help the rear rotate more easily?

I’d struggle to call the Elantra GT Sport pretty. It’s quite plain, really. Nothing about the style stands out in a parking lot full of compacts and crossovers, and that might be a good thing. It’s an incognito mode for the road. I’d argue the demure style should age nicely – that second or third owner won’t be ashamed to be seen in this hatch in a decade. The Electric Blue Metallic paint is the only thing that livens up the look of this hatch – short of the “Sport” badge on the tailgate and the twin tailpipes, there is no hint of the extra performance beneath the plain wrapper.

The interior is similarly plain, though red trim on the dash, seats, and shift knob brighten up a dull black interior because everyone knows red means fast. Everything is laid out logically, and the chunky steering wheel feels quite good in my hands. The six-speed manual shift lever is well placed, and the shift action is well defined with widely-spaced gates. I’ll note a little bit of dislike for the electronic parking brake – I prefer a traditional lever paired with a manual transmissions to ease hill starts.

The leather sport seats are perfectly comfortable and well-bolstered for spirited driving. The kids had plenty of space in the rear behind me, which is increasingly a concern as they grow ever taller. 24.9 cubic feet of space in the cargo area – with the seats up – means there is plenty of room for just about anything we need for a weekend of kids’ sports or a week’s worth of groceries.

Indeed, that’s the everlasting essence of a hot hatch: practicality mated with fun. I could easily live with this Elantra GT Sport as my only car, as it hauls kids, stuff, and a smiling driver with equal ease.

[Get new and used Hyundai Elantra GT pricing here!]

Knowing how good this Hyundai is with “just” 201 horsepower, I’m incredibly excited for the future N models, including the 271hp Veloster revealed in Detroit.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

More by Chris Tonn

Join the conversation
3 of 43 comments
  • Cyclingfan67 Cyclingfan67 on Mar 28, 2018

    I recently purchased the GT Sport just this past Friday. I did so after much research into other hatchbacks in the market. Drove the Mazda 3, Civic, GTI SE and others. The dealership loaned me a car for a 24 hr period which really allowed me to get a feel for the car. It is interesting to read so many negative comments on here from many who probably have not even sat in this vehicle. For those who are truly interested, I find this car to be just the right mix of sportiness and civility. It is "disguised" by a more subdued design. I find it to be tasteful and will have longevity. The seats are comfortable. The handling is spirited albeit a bit stiff. The bells and whistles work great. It has all of the safety attributes available; AEB, lane departure, rear back up warning, blind spot monitoring. The infotaintment system is great with the Infinity sound system. Oh, and it goes 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. All of this can be had for about $24.5K. Kinda hard to beat. Happy driving

    • Tylanner Tylanner on Mar 30, 2018

      You are the authority here based on your experience...most of us would probably admit to being scornful out of ignorance. I'm happy you like your car and it sounds like the dealer was helpful...you got your moneys worth.

  • Akear Akear on Apr 07, 2018

    Why can't Detroit produce a plainly good vehicle like this. I mean we have been saying this for almost 40 years.

  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon