2013 Hyundai Elantra
Base price: $17,445 (GS coupe) or $19,179 (GT)
As tested: $21,520 (automatic SE coupe), $22,015 (manual GT)
MPG: 28 city/40 highway (coupe), 27 city/39 highway (GT)
- Excellent, sporty new vehicles expand the Elantra’s versatility
- Impressive fuel economy
- Well equipped, fun to drive, value priced
- Could use more horsepower
- GT gets pricey with packages and options
- Minimal rear headroom in the coupe
By Jim Prueter
There’s no denying the Hyundai brand is red hot. Sales are skyrocketing, up 10 percent over 2012, and all-time sales records are being set, seemingly on a monthly basis. Products are receiving rave reviews from auto journalists and consumers alike with cutting edge designs, excellent quality scores, and a cabinet full of awards. As a result, most Hyundai vehicles are in short supply.
There’s not a weak vehicle in the lineup; almost everything is either completely new or has been restyled within the last year. Which brings us to Hyundai’s compact Elantra, the 2012 North American Car of the Year, which has two new variations: the Elantra coupe and the Elantra GT. On a side note, there’s also a new Hyundai Veloster version — the funky, wild-style three-and-half-door sibling that shares the Elantra platform — that is now available with a higher performance turbocharged engine.
The Elantra GT is based on the new generation i30 model, as it’s known in Europe. It replaces the previous Elantra GT that had more of a station wagon layout than the current, more conventional five-door hatchback setup.
While the GT looks larger, it’s about 9 inches shorter than the sedan, and the new coupe and has a 2-inch shorter wheelbase. Yet, because designers pushed the wheels out to the far four corners of the platform, passenger interior space is nearly identical to the coupe, giving up 1.5 inches of legroom up front and adding it to the rear. There’s also a standard driver’s knee air bag, perhaps to compensate for the loss of legroom.
The benefit of having a five-door hatchback is, of course, the added cargo space. In this case, it’s 50 percent more than the coupe’s spacious trunk. With the rear seats folded forward there’s a huge advantage over the Elantra sedan. When they are in the upright position, there isn’t much room behind them, but a deep well in the back compensates.
The coupe is a two-door version of the Elantra sedan platform, with a swoopy roofline and profile design that doesn’t disappoint. As expected, most style changes are to the rear quarter panels and unique rear end, which features dual chrome exhaust tips integrated into the matte black lower diffuser panel. The other pronounced visual change is the blacked-out trapezoidal grille that varies slightly depending on trim level.
Inside, the coupe is surprisingly large for a compact two-door and is significantly larger than the Honda Civic coupe. The instrument panel is straight from the Elantra sedan, along with the rest of the cabin, other than a bit more bolstering to the standard heated seats. A technology package includes a 7-inch navigation screen/rearview camera, 360-watt sound system, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics for iPod and USB inputs. The rearview camera is cleverly concealed behind the rear Hyundai badge until the vehicle is shifted into reverse, when the badge tilts to reveal the lens. Proximity key entry with electronic push-button start, leather seats, a power sunroof, and dual automatic climate control are also available.
Both the GT and the coupe are front-wheel drive and powered by the same 1.8-liter, 148-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with a choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Our manual shift GT’s fuel efficiency was rated at 27 city/31 combined/39 highway mpg, and the automatic gets a bump of one mpg city. The coupe with the manual transmission is rated at 29 city/33 combined/40 highway with one less mpg city for the automatic.
I drove both vehicles (and the turbo-powered Veloster) on a combination of city, highway, and rural roads in the Texas Hill Country, in and south of Austin. The coupe had a bit softer ride, yet was actually more fun to drive — though certainly not what I would classify as sporty. Handling was predictable with moderate body lean on the curves and corners. We did wish for an additional 20 to 40 horsepower.
Unique to the GT is an electric Driver Selectable Steering Mode setup, activated through a steering wheel-mounted button with choices for comfort, normal, and sport. Each choice alters the on-center tension and effort weight from a light to a heavy steering feel, depending on driver preference. I preferred the normal setting but honestly couldn’t tell much difference between the three anyway.
If there was one thing that left us scratching our head, it was the liberal application of the name GT on a compact economy car. Every vehicle I’m aware of had to earn GT distinction (Porsche Carrera GT, Audi R8 GT, Ford GT40, historic Italian performance cars such as Ferrari, and even the more reasonably priced Mustang GT). We wouldn’t place the performance capabilities of the Elantra GT anywhere near those vehicles.
The GT comes in just one trim level with a base price of $19,170, costing $1,000 more for an automatic transmission. Two optional packages are available: Style ($2,750) adds 17-inch alloy wheels, sport suspension, panoramic sunroof, leather seats, power drivers seat, and some other extras. The Tech ($2,350) requires you to first purchase the Style package, and adds navigation, rear backup camera, automatic headlights, dual zone temperature control, and a proximity key with push-button starting. Combine all the options, and the price exceeds $25,000.
The coupe is available in two trim packages: GS ($17,445) and SE ($19,745). The SE adds side mirrors with integrated turn signals, leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power sunroof, and larger 17-inch alloy wheels. Consistent with the GT, the automatic transmission is an extra $1,000. Neither the Style nor the Tech packages are available on the GS, and just the Tech on the SE.
Compared to competitor vehicles such as the Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf, or Honda Civic, both the coupe and the GT wind up being a bargain choice. But for more power, performance shoppers will most likely prefer the Civic Si, MazdaSpeed, or VW Golf GTI.
Overall, both the coupe and the GT are excellent fits and expand the already excellent Elantra product line. We expect them to sell extremely well.