Stoking the fire that burns within hatchback fanatics is not always an easy task. While CUV sales continue to climb and wagon interest remains low, the compact hatchback segment retains its place as a smaller alternative to both. Practicality, a pint-sized footprint, surprising amounts of performance, and affordable pricing all help the modern hatchback earn its keep, which is where the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport comes into play.
While the outgoing model has its fair share of both hits and misses, the all-new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT that was recently revealed at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show connects with a resounding smack. Aesthetically, mechanically, and technologically remastered, it appears that Hyundai has amended nearly every single issue we found last year in our review of the 2016 model. And it adds even more to the already capable platform.
All models of the GT get a lower, wider, and longer appearance, but the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport is what captures the spotlight with a new approach to both styling and driving dynamics. Slated for arrival later this summer, the most powerful and agile Elantra GT ever made is a United States-spec version of the latest Hyundai i30, a European success story that’s loaded with hot hatch underpinnings.
While the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport may not have hit hot hatch status right out of the gate (mainly due to not having the performance numbers, or being able to handle tweaks typically reserved for this elite sub-segment), we feel this is just a warm-up round. If buyer interest continues to inspire cars like the Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type-R, there’s potential for the Elantra GT Sport to someday receive a modified version of the 2.0-liter turbo motor in the Santa Fe Sport. In the meantime, here are 10 reasons why the regular Sport version will keep most buyers plenty happy.
1. Hello, handsome
Featuring near perfect proportions, lines that are strong and stylish, and a new cascading grille, the Elantra GT Sport stands head and shoulders above the soon-to-be-extinct model. Plus, it has a snazzy LED lighting front and rear, and a dual-port angular exhaust to boot. This lower, wider, and longer presence gives the Korean hatch a suave European appearance. And we really like how all of the contrasting black accents give the vehicle a two-tone look.
2. Go ahead, stiff arm the segment
According to Hyundai, around 53% of the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT’s body features “advanced high-strength steel,” which is nearly double that found within the version it will be replacing. Along with 367 feet of industrial adhesive, they make the hatchback significantly stiffer, stronger, and lighter than before, with a 22% gain in rigidity and a 61 pound weight reduction over the old GT.The drag coefficient has also been reduced to just 0.30.
And while there hasn’t been word on things like shock tower bracing and larger roll bars on the Sport model, we get the feeling that most drivers won’t find this chassis lacking in the rigidity department. Sport versions will also benefit from 18-inch alloy wheels and larger brake rotors all around for a tighter driving feel.
3. Playing the performance part
The 2018 Elantra GT will come outfitted with one of two inline four cylinder engines, with the Sport version foregoing the direct injected 2.0-liter engine in favor of the 1.6-liter turbo engine out of the Hyundai Veloster. Housing 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, this boosted four-banger features solid reliability ratings, respectable fuel economy, and a clean, linear power band.
Couple that to either a six-speed manual or a snappy seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that comes attached to paddle shifters, and you’ve got one fun form of propulsion that’s easy to control and keep running right. We just hope that manual versions of the Sport will be offered with the B&M short shifter out of the Veloster Turbo.
4. Acting spacey
Despite having the external footprint of most compact hatchbacks, Hyundai has found ways to turn the interior of the next-generation Elantra GT into a prime example of micro management. Offering room for five is one thing, but giving buyers 96.5 cubic-feet of passenger volume and almost 25 cubic feet of cargo volume is huge. With 55.1 cubic-feet of storage space on hand, the new Elantra GT easily beats Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf, and Ford Focus in the storage department. This car’s cabin is so voluminous that Hyundai is predicting that the EPA will likely classify it as a large car.
5. A better structure means smarter suspension
Handling snobs are in for a real treat. Hyundai has admitted openly to testing and developing the base model of the Elantra GT on the graffiti-bombed apexes of the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany. After running lord knows how many laps, Hyundai’s engineers were able to determine exactly what kind of ride, handling, and durability levels were required in order to strike the perfect pose between badass and unperturbed.
The automaker also claims that the car’s suspension now sits somewhere between “taut and comfortable,” and that minimizing body roll while maximizing wheel impact absorption was their primary focus during this portion of the engineering process. GT Sport buyers will get even more agility thanks to the addition of a fully-independent multi-link setup instead of a rear torsion beam design.
6. Let’s get loaded
A few key options buyers might want inside the Elantra GT include heated and ventilated leather seats, alloy pedals, and dual-zone climate controls. But Hyundai didn’t feel like the party should stop there. So they tossed in things like Infinity Premium Audio with Clari-Fi sound restoration, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless charging. Add in standard features like an 8-inch display, an electronic e-brake, and loads of safety features to the mix, and the brand shows us that value is still synonymous with “Hyundai.”
7. Better, safer, but never sorry
Speaking of safety, the Elantra GT can be outfitted with several systems, many of which are often reserved for top-tier luxury vehicles. A few key features include Smart Cruise Control with stop/start capabilities, Automatic Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, Lane Keep Assist, Attention Assist, High-Beam Assist, and Blind Spot Detection with rear cross-traffic alerts. Based on our experience in other Hyundai vehicles, having this latest suite of accident avoidance features is a major selling point for anyone that’s concerned with safety.
8. Brilliant Blue Link
Since its debut in 2011, Blue Link customers have performed more than 25 million remote starts, according to Hyundai. But while remote start is an awesome way to beat burning your butt on hot seats in the summertime or freezing them solid during frigid winters, there’s a lot more to this system than controlling a car’s cushions.
The latest and greatest remote start with Climate Control features are quite clever. By tying the rear defroster and heated side mirrors into its Blue Link mobile app, Hyundai was able to turn the Elantra GT into a test mule of sorts. Teaming up with Amazon’s Alexa now allows drivers to fire-off commands to any enabled device by saying things like, “Alexa, tell Blue Link to start my car at 90 degrees and play Glenn Frey’s ‘The Heat is On’ while I wait.”
9. The contextual little tech intellectual
The GT hatchback will be the first vehicle in the Hyundai lineup to debut the next generation of AVN 5.0 infotainment systems, which boast an upgraded processor for faster response times, as well as a larger 8-inch touchscreen. Presets with AVN 5.0 are now a cinch thanks to AM, FM, and SiriusXM channels being built into a single screen, which has an intuitive layered menu layout and gorgeous full-color graphics. There’s also a bird’s eye view option within the navigation maps now, allowing drivers the perks of tracking traffic incidents and congestion woes on the fly without ever having to pay for an HD Radio subscription.
10. The hot hatch uprising is about to heat up
Toward the beginning of this post, we made mention that this generation of the Elantra GT is based upon the Euro-spec i30 hatchback. For those of you who aren’t hip to Hyundai’s international divisions, the i30 has been a forced induction performance test mule for the automaker for quite some time now. It’s been rapidly gaining ground on vehicles like the Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Type-R, and Ford Focus RS in regard to power and performance handling. Some may believe that it’s just a matter of time until Hyundai turns out a hardcore, Rally Edition of the Elantra GT. But until that happens, we feel that the Sport version should be plenty sufficient for most buyers in the meantime.