Driver's Seat: A hatchback Elantra; not living up to the 'GT' part of its name

The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is pleasing to the eye and offers an air of sportiness, if not actual sportiness.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is pleasing to the eye and offers an air of sportiness, if not actual sportiness.
Posted: November 01, 2012

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Auto: A hatchback Elantra.

Price: $25,365 as tested. A base Elantra GT starts at $19,395 with six-speed ShiftTronic transmission ($1,000 less for a stick).

Marketer's pitch: "Elantra with a twist."

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com says "Lots of features for the money; spacious and well-built interior"; but "not as sporty as some rivals; sluggish automatic transmission responses."

Reality: Definitely not living up to the GT portion of its name.

A nice look: I've always been partial to the five-door sedan/hatchback/small wagon configuration. It's versatile, economical, and can be an attractive and fun package.

So when Hyundai added a hatchback to the swoopy Hyundai Elantra in the form of the Elantra GT, I thought I may have found a contender for my own fleet. I definitely love the look more than the wedgy sedan.

Fun ride? The button offering "sport steering" first caught my eye. Did Hyundai finally catch on to what Mazda has been offering for a decade now?

The short answer is no. The sport mode changed the GT's handling from lackluster to adequate, with little of the fun of, say, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart in last week's test, or any Mazda.

And power from the 1.8-liter four-cylinder is merely in the "OK" category. It's better than a Toyota or Civic sedan, though. But I found the Elantra could be a little balky in shifting gears.

Versatility? Sure the hatchback holds rings around the standard sedan model. But it has its shortcomings.

Friends and stuff: One shortcoming is rear legroom and foot room, which are not that terrific, maybe slightly better than the Chevrolet Spark.

On the bright side, the storage bin between the seats accommodates many CDs, while a cellphone holder in front of the gearshift is roomy and easy to access, storing lots of change, napkins and assorted paraphernalia.

The armrest slides forward, which is nice, but the second cupholder is covered when it does.

Shifty: The ShiftTronic automatic transmission adds the idea of sportiness, but the shift operation is less than sporty. And there's no good place to rest your elbow while shifting.

Sore butt: The leather seats (part of the $2,750 style package, which also added sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, and power driver's seat) were pretty firm. Long trips in the Elantra were borderline painful, along the lines of my old Protege5.

Let the sun shine in: The panoramic sunroof adds a nice touch. And the sunroof cover closes and opens separately from the glass in a consistent fashion. I've had some that seemed tough to navigate separately.

Staying warm: The heater controls are easy to find and operate, and I love the arrows that pop up on the infotainment screen showing the HVAC's mode.

But Hyundai's swoopy dashboard incorporates similarly swoopy heater vents that lack the full range of adjustability of round vents.

Dual automatic temperature control came as part of the $2,350 tech package, which also included navigation, rear camera, and automatic headlights.

Tunes: The buttons down the side of the LCD make changing functions and tracks on the CD player super easy.

The steering wheel controls are nice and easy to follow. They look better than the Kia versions.

Warning falls flat: The Elantra GT was nice enough to tell me I had low pressure in one tire, but the display did not say which one. I guess it's good to check them all, but kind of a pain. And none of them was actually that low. (I think it was the change in temperature that set it off.)

Fuel economy: I observed 29 m.p.g. in a mix of driving.

Where it's built: Ulsan, Korea.

How it's built: Consumer Reports calls it "recommended," but the Elantra's reliability is rated only about average.

In the end: For a reviewer who didn't balk at a $60,000 Cadillac a few weeks ago, I admit to being a bit asnark about the idea of a $25,000 Elantra. An Acura ILX starts at just a few thousand more, and a TSX wagon would be add just seven more thousand, with much more room and better real-world fuel economy.


Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or ssturgis@phillynews.com.

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