2014 Hyundai Elantra GTPosted on June 27th, 2014
Five-door hatchback for active urbanites
By Nina Russin
When Hyundai introduced the newest version of its compact Elantra for the 2013 model year, product planners discontinued the former Touring wagon and introduced a five-door hatchback called the GT. This year, the GT gains a more powerful two-liter engine in place of the former 1.8-liter block, giving it 25 more horsepower and 23 additional foot-pounds of torque.
The result is a stylish, fun-to-drive car with a small footprint that is ideal for active urbanites. Since the car weighs less than 3,000 pounds, it has a positive power-to-weight ratio, resulting in 28 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy and surprisingly peppy performance.
Hyundai has built its reputation by offering buyers exceptional value. Base price for the Elantra GT is $18,750 excluding the $810 destination charge. Standard convenience features include air conditioning, power heated outside mirrors, satellite radio with Bluetooth interface, iPod and MP3 compatibility, remote keyless entry, cruise control, heated front seats and 60/40 split-folding rear seats that extend the cargo floor.
A convenience package on the test car adds 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, power driver’s seat, aluminum pedals, a sport-tuned suspension, LED headlamps, under-floor storage in the cargo area and Hyundai Blue Link telematics. A tech package adds navigation, automatic headlamps, dual-zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof, bringing the final MSRP to $25,485.
Test drive in Phoenix
Having driven the 2013 model year Elantra GT at a media preview two years back, I was anxious to see how the more powerful engine on the 2014 car impacted the car’s performance. While I loved the 2013 GT styling and versatility, the 1.8-liter 148-horsepower engine in that car felt anemic on the highway.
A twenty-five percent gain in power is a significant upgrade. The new engine transforms the Elantra GT it into the hot hatch I had hoped for two years ago.
Buyers who don’t mind pushing a clutch pedal should opt for the six-speed manual gearbox as opposed to the automatic transmission. It’s an easy manual to drive, with a short-throw shift lever and light clutch. The advantage is better control over engine speed, enabling the driver to keep it in its 3500-4000 rpm sweet spot.
My drive route included surface streets and highways in the East Valley as well as a rural road through the foothills of the Superstition Mountains to the east. I wanted to see how well the Elantra would handle a thousand feet of elevation gain, and test the sport suspension on a road with some off-camber turns.
The Elantra met both challenges with aplomb, eating up the uphill grade on the Beeline Highway between Phoenix and the mountain town of Payson, Arizona. On the Bush Highway, the hatchback proved a nimble and delightful adventure partner. Hyundai has once again delivered a product that feels like a more expensive car than it actually is.
Buyers of compact cars need to shop components, much as one would when putting together a competitive road or mountain bike. It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. For example, the Elantra has four-wheel disc brakes whereas some competitive products have rear drums. The discs stop better in wet weather and are easier to service.
The suspension consists of an independent setup with MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam rear axle. The live rear axle can’t match an independent rear end for performance, but since most of the front-wheel drive Elantra’s weight is up front, it isn’t particularly noticeable. In fact, torsion beam rear ends make up the majority, though not all products in the segment.
The sport-tuned suspension is noticeable on challenging roads such as the two-lane thoroughfare I tested the car on. It significantly improves on-center response from the electric power steering system.
The Elantra’s exterior styling is typical of Hyundai’s current products with its high beltline and narrow greenhouse, but devices such as the standard rearview camera and convex inserts in the outside mirrors eliminate what could otherwise be dangerous blind spots.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing engine, wind and road noise inside the cabin, enabling occupants to converse on the highway or enjoy the audio system.
The five-door Elantra’s well-equipped interior is its ace-in-the-hole, as least as far as buyers with active lifestyles are concerned. The rear doors make it easy for passengers to access the second-row seat, and also help the owner load large cargo items that may extend over that part of the cargo floor.
Although the two option packages on the test car add some nice features such as the larger wheels and sport-tuned suspension, the base model is quite well equipped. Buyers on a budget can feel quite comfortable going without, and leaving the dealership with a solid car priced under $20,000.
I’m not a big fan of leather upholstery in areas such as Phoenix with exceptionally warm summers. It’s uncomfortable and harder to clean than cloth.
The standard tilt steering column enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. I found the optional power driver’s seat controls intuitive to operate, and offering plenty of lower lumbar support.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob when unlocking the vehicle and firing the ignition. The rearview camera is an important safety feature, eliminating what would otherwise be large blind spots in the rear corners.
Standard satellite radio, iPod and MP3 compatibility and Bluetooth interface make the Elantra a great road trip car.
The 60/40 split rear seat enables owners to load a bicycle into the back of the car and still have room for a rear passenger. Designers did a good job of equipping the interior with cup and bottle holders as well as 12-volt power points.
The Hyundai Elantra comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and daytime running lamps.
The Elantra GT received a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Like: The Elantra’s new, more powerful engine makes the five-door hatchback as much fun to drive as it is practical to own. Nobody can question the value of Hyundai’s compact car family.
Dislike: Center stack screen image tends to disappear in bright sunlight. A hood over the screen would solve the problem.
Model: Elantra GT
Base price: $18,750
As tested: $25,485
Horsepower: 173 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 154 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 24/34 mpg city/highway2014, Urban 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Hyundai, performance, pricing, standard safety
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