Traditionally, if you wanted to buy a hot hatchback, you had to turn to the Ford Focus or the Volkswagen Golf, both of which completely dominated the segment, while buyers didn’t even give other brands a second look. However, these days the tables have turned. Ford’s Focus is not the once fierce rival it used to be, and VW’s Golf is all but special and unique. They’re not bad cars by any means, but they’re no longer ahead of the curve. Other manufacturers have started to catch up, and in some cases even overtake them.
A prime example is the new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT. This overhauled Elantra will completely shatter any misconceptions you have about the Korean manufacturer. In the last decade or so Hyundai have really stepped up their game. They’re no longer just an alternative to the European and Japanese offerings, but rather a more than capable competitor. You should step into the 2018 Elantra GT expecting a brilliant hatchback, because that’s exactly what you’re going to get!
Visually, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is a lot more appealing than an equally equipped Golf or a Focus. With the latest 2018 edition, Hyundai has removed the bulky grille at the front and replaced it with something more civilized and well mannered. The grille screams Genesis more than it does Hyundai, and I mean that in the best way possible. Adding to the front end, the headlights have a certain dose of aggressiveness about them that the Golf just can’t match. It’s not over the top or too crazy, but just enough to distinguish itself and stand out from the rest of the class.
The 2018 Elantra GT comes in a nicely compact package as well. Hatchbacks these days are relatively large cars when compared to hatchbacks from a decade or two ago, but the Elantra GT gives the illusion of being smaller than it actually is. The proportions are visually appealing and the small overhangs provide a square and pointy appearance. The GT Ultimate model gets larger wheels, which sets it apart even more.
Moving around to the rear end of the 2018 Elantra GT, you can see the same sleek yet refined lines. While I’m not a huge fan of the taillights, I do think Hyundai could have made a little more distinct, but overall I do like the understated design. The rear hatch showcases some diverse creases, one just below the taillights and one right at the bottom of the bumper. Speaking of the bumper, it sports a dual exhaust to subtly let you know there’s some performance lurking within. Overall, the 2018 Elantra GT is a car with sporty credentials, but nowhere near as brash as the Focus or as dull as the Golf.
Surprisingly, I have to say that I prefer the cabin of the 2018 Elantra GT over its competitors as well. While the exterior is well executed, it’s outdone by the interior. My first emotion when stepping inside was shock as I couldn’t believe this interior belonged to a Hyundai. The build quality is up there with the Germans and the materials used are top-notch. Passengers are greeted with leather upholstery and high quality seats with heating and ventilation.
The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is truly a car built for drivers. The driver is ideally positioned sitting nice and low, while supported with plenty of side bolstering. Due to the compact nature of the Elantra, there’s plenty of room for four people to travel in sumptuous comfort, while five is a bit cramped in the rear. The trunk is massive for this class and with split folding rear seats, almost any type of cargo can be accommodated.
ENGINE AND DRIVE
While the base 2018 Elantra GT comes with a naturally aspirated 2.0L engine, the Sport editions get a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder with a lot more performance on tap. The official figures for the 2018 Elantra GT Sport are 201hp with 195 lb-ft of torque, all of which are sent to the front wheel drive. A six-speed manual comes standard in the Sport, but the Sport Ultimate DCT gets, as the name suggests, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s a true DCT as well, and not an automated manual. The shifts are lighting quick, just pull the paddle and you’re in gear. It’s fast and utterly smooth, giving VW’s offering and good run for their money.
Straight-line pace is one thing, but a hot hatchbacks need to perform in the corners as well. The new 2018 GT is mostly made out of high-strength steel, which means it’s got incredible rigidity. On the road, this is immediately obvious. The chassis doesn’t twist or flex, even when pushing hard. Understeer is basically nonexistent and you can balance it on the throttle and the brakes. It’s almost like an old-school hot hatch in the way it turns in, and that’s something not even the new Golf GTI can offer you.
Overall, the 2018 Elantra GT Sport provides an exhilarating driving experience with responsive accelerations, rigid handling and precise turns. To be able to achieve this driving experience, paired with a top notch interior, truly goes to show how far Hyundai have come in such a short time.
While the top of the line 2018 Elantra GT Sport Ultimate isn’t what you’d call cheap, it does offer incredible value when compared to the equivalent Ford, VW and even Mazda. Its superb cabin and its driving dynamics will wow you in a heartbeat and taking it for a test drive just may win you over.