By on March 27, 2018

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport front quarter

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.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport rear

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?

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport interior

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.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport front seats

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?

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport rear seat

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.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport dash

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.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport gauges

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.2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport center stack

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]

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43 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Review – Take the Long Way Home...”


  • avatar
    tallguy130

    The real world price on these has to be factored in. Anyone with two brain cells won’t pay anywhere near that full list price. When these roll out the door at 18k it’s a whole different conversation when cross shopping the GTI or Civic Si. (Same with the Elantra Sport)

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    What’s with the angled Sport emblem at the back?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Does this not have hill-hold built into the ABS? Though otherwise, I agree, I find electric parking brakes to be silly and just one more thing to expensively break someday.

    I look forward to a hot-hatch shootout article. Though I would never pick this over a GTI because it is ugly inside and out. Especially inside – yuck!

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep. The Elantra’s interior is the one area where it really loses out to the GTI (or a Civic Si, for that matter). It’s also substantially louder than a GTI, and the loud sounds you hear ain’t all that pleasant.

      It’s not like Hyundai can’t make nice interiors – check out a Genesis, or even a Sonata – but if they spent a few bucks on nicer materials, this would be a lot more tempting to me. As it is, a GTI feels like money well spent in comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        The Elantra GT’s interior is more competitive for its segment (better than anything save the Golf and Mazda3) than the Sonata due to its European origins.

        Like the Sonata, the Elantra needs an interior upgrade (which likely will come with the next gen model).

        But generally, Kias have nicer interiors than the corresponding Hyundais and Hyundai has nothing like Kia’s upmarket SX-L trim.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Civic Si? Dude, one mention of that car’s instrumentation makes me nauseated.

        Actually, GT has way better interior than Sport Sedan

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        RE the interior, I also call BS on the claim that this thing has adequate rear seat room. I test-sat in one of these, and I could see I’d have no problem fitting back there provided I had my legs severed with a reciprocating saw. Tonn better hope his kids don’t grow, but many have a nasty habit of doing so.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    22 city mpg….I can’t fathom why this car even exists.

    Buy a EP3 Civic Si or just get a GTI.

    If this were 40mpg combined then we’d have something to talk about other than a wonky badge.

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      yeah that seems to be the probably with hyundai/kia vehicles the rated mpg just doesnt seem to match the competition with similiar specs. Even 2014 versions si,gti are rated about the same

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Yikes – I hadn’t noticed the mpg figures – those are terrible. I never get less than 30mpg with my GTI – 80mph highway and suburban traffic light h3ll around here. 35mpg easy on a long highway run at speed.

      I think I would rather have a regular Golf than this, never mind a GTI. A tick slower, but a lot nicer. And a LOT more fuel efficient.

  • avatar
    EX35

    Does it feel as solid/stable as the Golf/GTI does at high speed? Hyundais seem to suffer in this area.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      This is one thing VWs do excellently compared to even solid competition like Honda/Toyota. Even a Jetta at 85 MPH feels more solid/stable than a Civic or Corolla, Mk VI American model included.

    • 0 avatar
      ijbrekke

      Huh, I thought this was just something my wife’s Elantra GT was bad at (stability at freeway speeds). I didn’t know it was considered a problem for all Hyundais.

      • 0 avatar
        EX35

        Every Hyundai/Kia that I’ve driven in the past 5 years has had terrible high speed stability. Santa Fe, Elantra, and accent were not great, even at moderate high speeds like 80mph. I’m considering picking up a CPO 2nd gen Genesis, but this is the number one thing I’m concerned about. I often traverse highways out west where it’s not unusual for me (and some other traffic) to travel at 90mph+ for long periods of time when safety/speed limit allows. I want as solid a car as possible at those speeds. No one seems to be able to honestly tell me if the Genesis will give me the same solid feeling at those speeds as an A6 or 5 series.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        My 2014 Elantra GT is very stable at 95 and I have to watch myself to stay under 80 lest the VSP try to pinch me for reckless.

        The torsion beam rear isn’t fully adjustable for alignment. Many require shimming to properly set rear alignment. Not many shops and virtually zero Hyundai dealers can do it. I got lucky and mine was in spec. I’ve also heard about changing rear shocks to help but mine are stock at 48k miles. There is a lot of bump steer from the rear end, especially if there are rear passengers or cargo.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      No problem for the i30N.

      • 0 avatar
        dougjp

        Hey there over in Europe, we can’t get it. And there’s no indication we will. Just a Veloster, a model many don’t want. Talk about a bad decision by Hyundai.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Haven’t tried the hatch out, but I have sampled an Elantra Sport four door sedan, which is similar.

    On the one hand, I’m impressed with how far Hyundai’s come. All the stuff you need for a good hot compact is here (in particular, the ride/handling compromise is well handled, and it steers well). I also like the styling a lot.

    But it feels and sounds cheaper than the best stuff in this segment – the GTI and Civic Si – and the interior is a real letdown. It’s all hard plastic in there, and the decor is glum, to say the least. It’ll also lose drag races to a GTI or Si.

    Is it a great value? Yes. But if you ask me, a GTI – which, by the way is also being heavily discounted these days – definitely feels like it’s worth a few grand more.

    • 0 avatar
      seanx37

      Is the difference worth the real world price difference? Because these will really sell for $18-19k. A well optioned GTI is around $25-37k. In reality, you can get two of these for the price of a GTI Autoban. Price being the same, the GTI wins every time. Even $4-5k difference, GTI wins. But $10-15k? More?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        A GTI with a manual can be had for around $23,000 in my area (or around $21,000 if you can find a ’17). Granted, it lacks the “leather” and a sunroof, but I can do without those things.

        If you drive an Elantra, and then try a GTI (which I have done), there’s no question the VW’s five grand nicer. It’s quicker, it’s far more refined, it’s built more solidly, and the interior plays in an entirely different league when it comes to quality and style. I suppose we all have to make up our own minds whether the GTI is worth the difference, but it is for me – no question about it.

        But the Elantra’s good enough that if Hyundai could work on the refinement issues, and put in a nicer, more stylish interior, they wouldn’t have to give five grand off on it.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      For nicer interiors, generally the Kia version is the one to get.

      The new Forte reportedly has a pretty upscale interior (for the segment; nicer than the new Jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      jbm0866

      I don’t think the Elantra GT is meant to be a GTI competitor, that would be the N model which we don’t get in North America yet, and that may actually be a GTI killer (performance wise) even if it doesn’t quite match the VW for refinement.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The MkV GTI has met its match.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    For kicks I went to CarsDirect to price this model.
    Unfortunately (according to their configurator) you can’t get the Sport/Tech Package (which includes all the goodies) without dropping the manual for the automatic.
    And, as the they say on Shark Tank: For that reason, I’m out.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Wouldn’t exactly call the Elantra GT Sport a “hot hatch” – at best it’s a “warm hatch” and slots beneath the Civic Si, much less the GTI (the base i30N is more the GTI competitor).

    The i30N is Hyundai’s hot hatch – but the top spec slots beneath much of the European competition (and the Type-R) when it comes to power output.

  • avatar
    EX35

    I was curious so I did a national search of new GTIs on cars.com to see what they are listed for. I found a bunch of leftover ’17 4-door DSG models listed for $18-19K (not demos, only 20-40 miles). seems like a steal.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Huh:

    http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/2720/1781/6798390003_large.jpg

    http://images.newcars.com/images/car-pictures/original/2017-Volkswagen-Golf-GTI-Coupe-Hatchback-S-2-Door-2dr-Hatchback-Photo-17.png

  • avatar
    JohnH

    The fail for me is that the rear seats don’t fold all the way flat, which creates a kind of shelf. Lame compared to most hatches, like the Fit. I was surprised they got that so wrong.

  • avatar
    donk1

    This is our i30 here in Australia. Available with petrol/diesel powertrains, manual/auto/ DCT gearboxes, models range from the base GO to the SR premium 1.6 T GDI turbo petrol engine. Now the i30 N Hothatch is here it will add flavour to the mix. These vehicles are big sellers here, & are priced from around AUD $20K to around AUD$42K driveway. All are loaded with standard Sat Nav apart from the base model GO, Hyundai connect services, Apple Carplay/Android auto, thru to heated /cooled seats in the top Premium Diesel & SR premium turbo petrol. The i30 N adds more again & a more powerful engine. Great cars, great value.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I see a lot of mentions of VW.

    I drove the Golf and Jetta before I bought an Elantra Sport.

    The Golf for the same price had a 5 speed manual and ugly wheels. The Jetta had a 1.4L.

    There were no GTIs or GLIs for anywhere near the same price.

    The Elantra Sport has more options, doesn’t look like a stripper model, and drives *better* than a base Golf or Jetta.

    Plus, no diesel gate and a reputation for continuing improvement vs. being perpetually at the bottom of numerous reliability studies.

  • avatar
    cyclingfan67

    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

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      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.

  • avatar

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


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