Vital Stats

1.8L I4
148 HP / 131 LB-FT
6-Speed Manual
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,919 LBS
51 CU-FT (max)
27 City / 39 HWY
Adding More Fun And Function To A Winning Formula

Truth be told, we've always had a soft spot for the Hyundai Elantra Touring. Rather than being just another compact hatchback, the Touring was a bona fide small wagon – the sort of thing commonly reserved for the European market. It was a less-expensive alternative to the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen with an impressive warranty, though its milquetoast demeanor and somewhat odd styling never really made it a hit with the masses.

Nowadays, also-ran status is absolutely unacceptable for Hyundai, especially with anything in the Elantra family. After all, the compact sedan was named the 2012 North American Car of the Year and has been selling like hotcakes ever since it launched. So when we got word that a successor to the Elantra Touring would be on deck, out interest was indeed piqued.

Well, here it is – the 2013 Elantra GT. And while it's wholly different than the Elantra Touring that came before it, Hyundai hopes that its new GT will appeal to the buying public in a much larger way, even besting stiff competition from the likes of class-favorites like the Ford Focus and Mazda3.

This new five-door certainly has a lot riding on its (hatch)back. But does it deliver? We hit the roads outside of San Diego to find out.
2013 Hyundai Elantra GT side view2013 Hyundai Elantra GT front view2013 Hyundai Elantra GT rear view

It's only about 100 lbs heavier than the sedan, but the GT still manages to be the lightest car in its class.

In all fairness, we sort of knew ahead of time what the Elantra GT would offer. The outgoing Touring was based on the European-market i30, and the sleek new model debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show this past September. Surprise, surprise – it's nearly exactly the same as the North American-spec Elantra GT that took the stage at the Chicago Auto Show earlier this year. And from the first time we laid eyes on it, we found it to be an attractive, well-rounded little thing – perhaps even better-looking than the already svelte Elantra sedan.

The GT is only slightly different than the i30, though it features some slightly reworked headlamps and different wheel and tire options. But because of its slightly different platform, the Elantra GT has a few dimensional differences compared to its sedan brethren – and we aren't just talking about the addition of that handy hatch. It's a full nine inches shorter in length versus the sedan (169.3 total) and rides on a two-inch shorter wheelbase (104.3). It's also ever-so-slightly wider and taller in height. All of these changes add up to a curb weight that's about 100 pounds heavier than the sedan, but the GT still manages to be the lightest compact car in its class. The base car is a full 151 pounds less than the spritely Mazda3.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT headlight2013 Hyundai Elantra GT grille2013 Hyundai Elantra GT wheel detail2013 Hyundai Elantra GT taillight

When it comes to the compact class, Hyundai is indeed leading the pack with its interiors.

If you're a fan of Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design language, you'll really like the Elantra GT. There are a lot of pretty things going on here, elements like the pronounced front wheel arches and swooping character line that moves up the side and drops off following the curve of the taillamps, all of which give the GT a fresh, modern appearance with hind quarters that are decidedly European in appearance. Squint and you might think you're driving behind some sort of Seat five-door. Standard rolling stock are some rather generic 16-inch alloy wheels, but an attractive set of chrome-accented 17s – as seen on our test car – can be had as part of the Style Package, wrapped in P215/45-series tires.

Moving inside, the GT's interior has a noticeably different look to that of the Elantra sedan, and while the dashboard, instrument panel and center stack are clean and well-organized, they don't look quite as modern compared to what's found in the sedan (or new-for-2013 Elantra Coupe). Still, the materials used throughout the cabin are high quality and overall fit-and-finish is good, and the main connection points between driver and car – the steering wheel, shift knob, etc. – are wrapped in leather and feel good to the touch. When it comes to the compact class, Hyundai is indeed leading the pack with its interiors.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT interior2013 Hyundai Elantra GT front seats2013 Hyundai Elantra GT rear seats2013 Hyundai Elantra GT rear cargo area

The real win here is the full 51 cubic feet of cargo space available with the seats folded.

Furthermore, the Elantra GT offers a full 96 cubic feet of interior space – more than anything else in the segment. It doesn't feel as cramped or claustrophobic as, say, a five-door Focus, and the nicely bolstered seats are comfortable and supportive. Rear seat room is adequate, and taller passengers did not have to squeeze into the back bench. But the real win here is the 51 cubic feet of cargo space available with the seats folded. That's not nearly as capacious as the 65.3 cubic feet offered in the outgoing Elantra Touring, but we'd gladly sacrifice the extra space for the sleeker overall packaging. Even so, 51 cubic feet is nothing to sneeze at – that's roomier than both the Focus and Mazda3.

We had high hopes when we first met the Elantra GT in the parking lot of the Pauma Valley Country Club about 55 miles northwest of San Diego. After all, in the product presentation earlier that morning, we were told about the sport-tuned suspension setup and improved steering feel. Ten minutes later, we found ourselves blasting up the gorgeous roads of Palomar Mountain, the sort of roads where you're exiting one turn and setting up for another at the same time. You really dream about being in something like a Mazda MX-5 Miata here. And on an uphill ascent like this, a car's engine, transmission and steering really get a workout.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT driving2013 Hyundai Elantra GT driving2013 Hyundai Elantra GT driving

The GT uses the same 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine as the Elantra sedan, good for 148 horsepower at 6,500 RPM and 131 pound-feet of torque at 4,700 RPM. Those are perfectly adequate numbers for the 2,919-pound six-speed manual-equipped hatch. In fact, the Elantra GT has the best power-to-weight ratio of any five-door in the compact class.

If manuals are your thing, you'll be happy to know that you can still spec the stick in even the highest of Elantra GT trims.

But here's the thing: None of that really helps when the engine can't get its power to the wheels. Going uphill like this, the 1.8 feels absolutely gutless below 4,000 RPM, and the ratios for second and third gears aren't well-matched. You'll be pushing 6,000 RPM in second, shift into third, and you're back below 4,000, completely out of the powerband.

Luckily, the six-speed manual transmission is well-sorted and a friendly companion for lots of shifting action, with a good amount of feedback built into the clutch and a throttle that hasn't been tuned to deliver all of its power at initial tip-in. We've driven some truly terrible manual setups from Korea, Inc. before (Kia Forte, anyone?), so this more engaging setup is a welcome change of pace. If manuals are your thing, you'll be happy to know that you can still spec the stick in even the highest of Elantra GT trims.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT engine

Power issues aside, a drive like this allowed us to really test the full capabilities of the steering and suspension – two big wins for the Elantra GT. For the first time ever, Hyundai has employed a driver-selectable steering system, with Comfort, Normal and Sport modes on offer. Of course, we've tested wishy-washy versions of systems like this in vehicles like the 2013 Lexus ES, but here in the Hyundai, there are noticeable differences between the action of the different modes – "Sport" doesn't just mean that a false sense of weight/feel was added to the steering effort.

For the first time, Hyundai has employed a driver-selectable steering system with Comfort, Normal and Sport modes.

This is the sort of steering feel we wish were standard across the Elantra board: good on-center feel with plenty of feedback, though a slightly quicker steering ratio would be welcome. Still, for a company not known for great steering feel – especially when incorporating electrically assisted setups – this is a huge step forward.

When asked, Hyundai officials told us that the selectable steering would only be offered on the Elantra GT for now, simply so the automaker can gauge customer reaction. Based on our experience, we certainly hope it spreads throughout the lineup.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT steering mode display

The suspension felt surprisingly well-sorted here, too. Of course, there's a slight bit of body roll during tight cornering and the front-wheel-drive setup incorporates safe, yet predictable understeer when really pushing, but all-in, it's exactly what we expected. Hyundai tells us that the i30's MacPherson front and torsion-beam rear suspension was tuned specifically for American markets (read: softened), but even so, it's perfectly capable of handling a bout of spirited driving while remaining comfortable and solid on highways and city streets.

The five-door will achieve 39 miles per gallon on the highway with either transmission.

A quick mountain climb isn't the best way to judge the Elantra GT's dynamics. After heading back out onto the road, we were faced with less-engaging roads, the sort of stuff that the majority of drivers will experience day in and day out. Here, the Elantra's powertrain woes weren't nearly as noticeable. Sure, it still feels sluggish while revving low in a gear, but there's ample get-up-and-go off the line and the engine soundtrack doesn't sound wheezy and strained. And as much as we enjoy the Sport steering mode, it's really nice to be able to click it into Comfort and lighten up the steering rack for parking lot maneuvers.

We must remember, too, that the GT's engine and transmission are tuned to offer good fuel economy above all. With either the six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, the five-door will achieve 39 miles per gallon on the highway. Very good stuff there, though in the city cycle, you'll only be hitting 27 or 28 mpg, depending on your transmission choice.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT rear 3/4 view

There have been rumors of Hyundai offering a version of its 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four in the Elantra GT, and we'll be crossing our fingers and toes that this comes to fruition. Even with a bit of detuning, some more low-end thrust and better gearing would easily make this hatchback one of the best-driving cars in its class.

Hyundai is only expecting the GT to account for maybe 20 percent of Elantra sales.

The 2013 Elantra GT is making its way to Hyundai showrooms as you read this, priced from $18,395, not including $775 for destination. The six-speed automatic will set you back an additional $1,000, and there are only two options available – a style pack that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, leather seating surfaces and a handful of other goodies ($2,750), and a navigation pack that adds, well, sat-nav, along with a backup camera, automatic headlamps and automatic climate control ($2,350). Check every box and you'll be spending $25,270 out-the-door.

Hyundai only expects the GT to account for maybe 20 percent of Elantra sales, but from where we sit, it stands to gain more traction. The American market is warming up to hatchbacks now more than ever, and since this eye-catching new five-door already has the Elantra's strong credentials riding along with it, it's a far better offering than the Touring it replaces. The Elantra sedan indeed put the entire compact class on notice, and with the addition of this more functional GT, Hyundai is further cementing its place as a class leader.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Mazda 3 and the Focus are still the class of the segment. But most people won't appreciate their crisp handling. For them, the Elantra is just fine.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Focus feels positively claustrophobic compared to this, if my Veloster is any indication of how this very similar layout is.
      • 2 Years Ago
      How can you not compare it to the Kia Forte5. They are stalemates and the Forte5 only weighs in at 2840lbs yet has 156HP. If you move up to the Forte5 with the 2.4L you get 173HP and only add about 100lbs to 2944. So how can the Elantra GT have lowest in class weight and best power-to-weight ratio?
        • 2 Years Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't understand why the Volkswagen Jetta gets lampooned for its lack of an independent rear suspension, but here the Hyundai Elantra GT is lauded for its handling prowess WITH a torsion beam rear setup. I understand that Hyundai is (was?) the up-and-comer, but come on. That being said, I think this is the best implementation of the Hyundai fluidic design - it looks really sharp. Put in a better engine/independent rear suspension and lets get a cheap GTI competitor out of this.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Me too. The torsion bema thing really irks me, especially since the last Elantra had a fully independent set-up.
        Albert Ferrer
        • 2 Years Ago
        The i30 has multilink rear suspension (both generations), so I don't know why the torsion beam is mentioned in the article, unless the Elantra GT has been downgraded. We have a first generation basic i30 1.4 at home and it has entertaining handling, natural understeer (of course, it's front wheel drive) but lift off oversteer is available and the rear axle helps you round off corners. Shame about about the slitghtly lifeless steering.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd love to see it compare to Mazda3, Ford Focus, VW Golf, and especially Subaru Impreza.
        • 2 Years Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like the car it's melting under the sun. Not in a good way. The overdone style got tired really fast IMO.
        • 2 Years Ago
        i agree...its a little too wild for my taste but I understand how some people could like it. Those tail light are similar to the for focus which I think looks better than this...but options are good!
        • 2 Years Ago
        I guess the ever increasing number of buyers of Hyundais did not get your memo
      • 2 Years Ago
      That doesn't look like the perfect mix of Focus and Mazda3. AT ALL. Nice rip-off Hyundai.
        • 2 Years Ago
        What is this a ripoff of exactly? That is a serious question...
          • 2 Years Ago
          I see a mix match of different styling cues. Mazda3 in the front fascia and fender bulges Focus sloped rear hatch and 3/4 proportions Oddly enough, CR-Z with a hint of CX-5 in the grille In Hyundai's defense (I don't even like Hyundai/Kia), they're not the only company guilty of taking "inspiration" from other companies: Mitsubishi put a mouthpiece on the last/final generation Eclipse and cars today still use an adaptation of that design element, Audi put a strip of LED's in their headlights and Lexus has gone rampant with the idea, this kind of practice is every where and not just in the automotive industry.
        • 2 Years Ago
        • 2 Years Ago
        Looks more like other Hyundais to me.
        • 2 Years Ago
        >implying copying the other guy(s) isn't prevalent in the auto industry
      • 2 Years Ago
      Holy ripoff of the Mazda 3. I'll stick with the much better handling and driving Mazda for that price. Plus you can upgrade the Mazda with much better engine options. Second would be a Scion tC with lots more power, and cheaper!
        • 2 Years Ago
        Based off your test drive of the yet to be released Elantra GT?
      • 2 Years Ago
      fuel economy be damned. i'd never trade in my mazda 3 hatchback for this thing. the mazda 3 is better looking, has more power and a linear power delivery thanks to a kickass 2.5, and it has the best steering/suspension setup i've ever encountered.
        • 2 Years Ago
        I like te Mazda 3 too but I can't stand that face resembling Pixar's Cars characters.
      • 2 Years Ago
      i think this car looks great!
      • 2 Years Ago
      God that car is hideous...
      • 2 Years Ago
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