2018 HYUNDAI ELANTRA GT FIRST DRIVE: GOLDILOCKS HATCHBACK
New for the 2018 model year, the Hyundai Elantra GT joins the growing compact hatchback segment and is pitched as a crossover alternative that’s more fun to drive. To back that up, Hyundai has made a six-speed manual gearbox standard on all models and added the Elantra GT Sport, a variant that sits above the standard Elantra GT with a turbocharged engine and its own unique suspension setup. Like most Hyundais, the Elantra GT is packed with plenty of tech features to keep you connected on the road.
The Elantra GT’s development happened mainly in Europe under the watch of Albert Biermann, head of vehicle test and high performance development at Hyundai and formerly boss of BMW’s M division. Both models feature bodies constructed of 53 percent high-strength steel, which is nearly double the outgoing car’s 27 percent. There’s also 367 feet of structural adhesive used throughout the car, which, along with the extensive use of hot stamping throughout the body, has improved its body rigidity. Compared to the standard Elantra GT, the GT Sport gets a fully independent suspension all around with a multilink setup in the rear instead of the base car’s torsion beam. Front and rear spring rates are up 12 percent and 22 percent, respectively, while the dampers and steering system have also been retuned for sporty driving. There’s also a 15-mm rear stabilizer bar in the GT Sport to help improve handling.
Hyundai invited journalists to San Diego, California, to drive the 2018 Elantra GT and GT Sport where we took it to winding roads, freeways, and city streets. For the first half of the route, we drove the base Elantra GT with the 2.0-liter I-4’s 162 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque paired six-speed automatic and found it surprisingly punchy. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and holds gears longer in Sport mode; however, there are no paddle shifters so you have to shift manually via the gear shifter. Handling is surprisingly nimble with minimal body roll even when pushed hard despite the torsion beam rear suspension on the base car. There’s more compliance on the standard Elantra GT because it rides on 17-inch alloy wheels with more sidewall, giving it slightly better ride comfort than the GT Sport. The steering is nicely weighted and precise, but it lags slightly behind the Honda Civic and Mazda3 in terms of feedback and feel. Read more...