ESTEREL, PQ: The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is a very clever piece of packaging.
It looks like a compact CUV for those leaning in that buying direction — as, it seems, everyone in Canada is these days.
Yet it’s really a five-door hatchback but not bare bones equipped. For example, even the base model is fitted with standard heated front seats and – get ready – standard leather wrapped heated steering wheel.
Even as I pulled into the Elantra GT media launch site in Esterel, PQ, I wondered what all the compact CUVs were doing in the staging area, not the semi fastbacks I was expecting.
The Elantra GT has been around for 18 years with the 2018 model kicking off its fourth generation.
Always a hatchback, the idea of making it look like a crossover that rides closer to the ground, actually improves its appearance. This is augmented in no small part by a new “cascading” grille treatment with gently rearward tapering roofline and long front hood.
Cargo volume is what the GT (Hyundai speak for hatchback) compact car is all about, with 705 litres of space behind the 60/40 split/fold rear seat and 1,560 litres folded. Towing is not recommended.
The GT comes in two flavours – the base GT and the GT Sport, both front-engined and front-drive.
The GT features Hyundai’s 2.0-litre “Nu” inline, four-cylinder now with direct injection producing 162 hp and 150 lb/ft of torque — up 15 hp over the standard Atkinson Cycle Nu engine in the Elantra sedan. Transmission choices are a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic.
The other choice is the upgraded Sport version with Hyundai’s hot 1.6-litre turbo direct injection four-cylinder putting out 201 hp and 195 lb ft with standard six-speed manual or optional dual clutch transmission.
Fuel economy numbers for the GT pair are not yet available. But, for comparison, the 1.6-litre turbo in the Elantra Sport
sedan is rated at 10.7/7.8/9.4L/100 km city/highway/combined for the manual and 8.8/7.0/8.1L/100 km with the dual clutch.
Pricing was also not announced, but we were told to expect it in the low $20k to low $30K range.
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Hyundai knows Canadians want content, so included with the standard heated steering wheel/front seats, the base GT will also contain a ton of stuff such as Blind Spot detection with Rear Cross-Traffic alert,
projector headlights with
LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
Side mirror turn indicator, eight-inch display AM/FM/SiriusXM augmented with dynamic guideline
s, backup camera and Android Auto and Apple Car-Play.
But the knockout feature seen for the first time on the GT and rolling out across Hyundai is BlueLink available on the Sport in which the car is actually a communication device.
Using a smartphone, you can start it remotely and set the temperature to cool and/or heat including the steering wheel and set the idle time too, if you wish.
You can locate it by cellphone if you forgot where you are parked and be guided to it, lock or unlock remotely, get drivetrain diagnostics and service notifications.
To demonstrate BlueLink, Hyundai had a Sport on a raft floating in the middle of lake in front of the hotel where the media launch was held.
From the shore, a Hyundai official unlocked the doors (visible by the yellow outside mirrors flashing) and turned the car on and off.
BlueLink will be offered as a full service feature free for five years from purchase.
I did not sample any of the manuals, but I have to say the 2.0-litre really impressed, feeling both solid thanks to the 53 per cent use of high-strength steel and the excellently communicative steering feedback from the front MacPherson strut suspension.
But where it shone was up, around down and through the winding two-lane blacktop roads peppered with small delivery trucks.
Normally, trying to see around and pass would be a white-knuckle event in situations like this, but the GT was plenty spunky when I needed it to be.
Hyundai automatics offer three (Eco, Normal, Sport) drivetrain response modes and I made the most of Sport when passing.
Another thing my co-driver and I both noticed was how quiet the 2.0-litre was even when getting out and walking around it at idle during a driver seat change.
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The Sport with its fancy interior with red trim accent pieces and red seatbelts was even quicker and the handling was improved thanks to the multi-link rear suspension as opposed to the simple torsion twist beam in the 2.0-litre.
There is much to commend this vehicle to those who like the idea of getting around in what looks like a crossover but who are looking for included content that doesn’t drive the price into the stratosphere.
It’s an intriguing combination that is worth a look when it arrives in Hyundai Canada showrooms.
2018 Hyundai Elantra GT
Compact, five-door hatchback
2.0-litre direct injection four-cylinder (162 hp, 150 lb ft) with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; 1.6-litre, DOHC twin-turbo direct injection inline four-cylinder (201 hp, 195 lb/ft) with six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission
705 litres behind 60/40 split/fold rear seat, 1,560 litres folded