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Hyundai’s European hatch is obviously functional, surprisingly fun
By Colum Wood
Sharing the front subframe with its 4-door cousin, a chassis engineer explains the underlying reason why the Elantra GT is related to the sedan. A blast though the swerving, curving roads near Santa Ysabel outside San Diego and we’re convinced he’s either an idiot or a liar. And yet he’s neither, the GT riding on shared underpinnings, though delivering surprising levels of driving enjoyment.
One of three new Hyundai products made available to the motoring press during the brand’s largest ever press drive, the Elantra GT stands out as a genuine surprise and a blast to drive, even when driving options included the 201 hp Veloster Turbo.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the Elantra GT is a 5-door hatchback designed for the European marketplace and looks it. The car is an admission by Hyundai that it is tossing away any old Toyota Matrix ambitions it had with the Elantra Touring. Instead, the GT is positioned as a competitor to cars like the Mazda3, VW Golf and Ford Focus.
STICK-SHIFT AVAILABLE ON TOP-TRIM
Powered by the same 1.8-liter 4-cylinder found in the sedan, the Elantra GT makes an identical 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque. Available with the same choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, it comes as just one trim level with two choices of option packages. Targeted at a smaller segment of the marketplace than the sedan, the GT gets more standard equipment, and costs a few thousand above a base sedan as well. A unique quality of the one-trim selection is that you can have a fully-loaded model, with a stick-shift.
And that’s exactly what we drove, experiencing a level of enjoyment no front-drive Hyundai has ever before offered. Slap that boosted 1.6-liter from the Veloster Turbo under the hood and we’d have the first ever Hyundai-Speed GT.
With the current engine it’s still capable enough, and delivers a perfectly acceptable amount of around-town juice. Slicing up steep canyon roads, however, it’s hard not to notice the excessive ratio gap from 2nd to 3rd gear, meaning that even if you push the revs past the redline, once in 3rd, the engine drops outside its ideal powerband.
Making it a particular shame is the fact that the stick-shift is actually an excellent unit, with short and precise throws.
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