by Jared Rosenholtz
Hyundai has gone from strength to strength globally and is at a point in its product development cycle where it is starting to take a serious jab at the hot hatchback market with its range of N-Line cars. The Elantra GT is a four-door hatchback with a bit of attitude, and starting at only $20,650, is ready to take the fight to Japanese competitors such as the Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf. In base form, the Elantra GT is more economy hatch than performance beast, but a beautifully put-together interior and good safety records make it an attractive option for those on the lookout for a good deal. The N-Line car offers some decent real-world performance, thanks to a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter engine and an upgraded suspension and braking system. It's not the fastest out there, nor the most engaging, but it's an excellent package at the price, and we love its sleeper status. So while it might not be the best at anything, the Elantra GT does it all really well, and if this is an indication of what's to come, the big guys better watch out.
Hyundai's sixth-generation Elantra has been around since 2016, and after receiving a complete redesign in 2018, it has remained more or less unchanged. A 2019 update saw Hyundai dropping the manual transmission and GT Sport moniker in favor of the new N-Line branding, which is still available with a six-speed manual transmission. 2020 cars remain unchanged.
Hyundai claims that the shape of the Elantra GT was brought to life around the Nurburgring, that famous racetrack deep in the forests of Germany where the world's leading automotive companies test their fastest machines. We'll take that statement with a pinch of salt. The 2020 Elantra GT is by no means an unattractive car, but it's far from what we'd call aggressively styled; its European styling does a fantastic job of making it look like another European hatchback, whereas competitors like the Honda Civic proudly flaunt quirky Japanese styling. Standard features on the base model include LED daytime running lights, heated power side mirrors, and 16-inch alloy wheels. N-Line cars get full LED lighting, 18-inch N-design alloy wheels, gloss black mirrors, and black window-line moldings. The N-Line body styling package adds some much-needed attitude to what can otherwise be described as the car version of a hand sanitizer wipe.
The compact hatchback class is as competitive as ever, and manufacturers are scrambling to get the most passenger and cargo space out of the limited dimensions on offer, while subcompact SUVs patiently wait, knife and fork in hand. The 2020 Elantra GT seems a bit stubby compared to some of its main rivals; with a total length of just 170.9 inches, the Elantra GT is over an inch shorter than the Toyota Corolla, and a significant seven inches shorter than the Honda Civic. It sits higher than both with a total height of 57.7 inches and is proportionally wide at 70.7 inches. The Elantra GT rides on a 104.3-inch wheelbase, slotting between the 103.9-inch Corolla and 106.3-inch Civic. Hyundai has managed to keep the weight to a minimum: the Elantra GT weighs in at 2,943 pounds in base trim, which is 117 pounds lighter than the Toyota Corolla, but 42 pounds heavier than the Honda Civic, and tops out at 3,155 lbs in the N-Line with the optional dual-clutch transmission.
Hyundai is starting to understand the ways of the hot hatchback - or warm hatchback in the case of the Elantra GT. Despite only offering six exterior paint colors, Hyundai has clearly put some thought into their palette choice, which offers crowd favorites such as Ceramic White and Black Noir Pearl, along with the obligatory Stellar Silver and Fluid Metal, a darker shade of silver. But the two boldest, and by default, our favorites have to be the Scarlet Red Pearl and Intense Blue, which are fast becoming a hot Hyundai staple. We might not be overly excited about the Elantra GT's bland Euro styling, but at least it can pull off any color with ease - just don't get it in white.
We live in a world where SUVs can accelerate to sixty faster than most supercars of the 90s, so judging a car's performance has become a very nuanced task, especially when it comes to the Elantra GT, which boasts a sporty name and mild hot-hatch mannerisms along with two engine options. This includes a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, and a turbocharged 1.6-liter, paired to one of three transmission options. In its base form, the Elantra GT offers the illusion of sportiness when parked in the garage, but as soon as you get behind the wheel the apparition disappears, and you're left with a ho-hum hatchback that drives well for an ordinary commuter but doesn't instill great confidence when pushing on. This is most likely due to the fact that it's propelled by an uninspiring engine and gearbox combo, and soft suspension setup. The N-Line car redeems the Elantra GT name by adding turbocharged power, improved suspension setup, and a choice of a manual or dual-clutch transmission, giving it some much-needed zest. Both cars perform well in day to day driving situations, but the N-Line's low down torque makes it much easier to live with and will get it to sixty in the mid-six-second range.
Hyundai offers the Elantra GT in lemon-and-herb or mild-chili flavor; the base model packs a 161 hp and 150 lb-ft punch via a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection. This engine isn't bad in itself, but is stunted by a six-speed automatic transmission that puts a cap on any idea of fun - although it does deliver a very relaxed driving experience if you're into looking good but going slow. The hottest engine on offer is to be found under the hood of the N-Line car; a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-pot producing 201 hp and a handy 195 lb-ft gives the Elantra enough go to match its show, and transforms it from pretender to actual contender. The turbocharged engine offers a wide torque curve, which makes it feel seriously nippy, and shifting through the standard six-speed manual is a pleasure, even when you're stuck in slow-moving traffic. The optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission offers a good compromise between the slushbox and manual, but we feel that the six-shooter offers a more engaging experience.
While the base model might not have the serious straight-line performance of its turbocharged sibling and rivals, it makes up for it by offering an impressively capable and compliant driving experience - and it's here where Hyundai's thinking starts to make sense. The Elantra GT soaks up bumps and road imperfections with glee, and we didn't notice a single squeak or rattle. Steering is light but precise, and the Elantra will let you know in advance that you're reaching the limit. The N-Line car, which benefits from multi-link independent rear suspension in place of the GT's torsion axle and coil spring setup, feels more hunkered down on the road and its 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires and upgraded brakes inspire confidence. There's no comparing the N-Line to a Civic Type R through the twisties, but Hyundai has managed to get the basics right: the Elantra GT is fun to throw around the corners.
Since the Elantra GT is available with two engines and three transmission options, we'll start with the heaviest drinker and end with the most frugal. The least economical Elantra GT you can buy is the most fun. Obviously. The 1.6-liter turbocharged N-Line fitted with the six-speed manual transmission will get 23/30/26 mpg city/highway/combined, which isn't bad considering the fact that it's a 200-hp performance hatchback. Coming in with the second-best figure is the base model, who's naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine and six-speed auto trans will see it gets 25/32/27 mpg. Top honors obviously go to the 1.6-liter turbo N-Line fitted with the optional seven-speed DCT transmission, which will manage a respectable 25/32/28 mpg. With a fuel capacity of 14 gallons, the Elantra GT gets an estimated maximum range of between 364 and 392 miles.
The Elantra GT sports the type of interior design and build quality that we've come to expect from Korean automakers Hyundai, and shows off their burgeoning flair for creating sporty interior spaces that combine tight tolerances and quality materials with a fun design language that doesn't take itself too seriously. The rounded trapezoid-style instrument cluster, infotainment display, and vents all contribute towards creating a futuristic look and feel that's hard not to like. Standard features include six-way power-adjustable seats, a rearview camera with dynamic parking guidelines, and air conditioning. N-Line cars get a good amount of extra standard goodies, including dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, a sporty N-Line steering wheel, as well as a sliding armrest, electronic parking brake, and covered cup holder. The N-Line can be optioned out with a number of more premium optional features such as ventilated front seats, a wireless phone charging pad, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and added lumbar support for the driver's seat.
As a four-door hatchback, the 2020 Elantra GT offers enough interior space to seat five adults, but with its obviously sporty demeanor, it comes as no surprise that the lion's share of legroom goes to the front seat passengers, while those in the back take a serious knock on the knees. Total legroom in the front is measured at a generous 42.2 inches, and there is 39.1 inches of headroom on offer; that's more than enough room for six-foot-tall adults. In the back, things get a bit tighter: legroom is measured at only 34.8 inches, but the headroom remains decent at 38.5 inches. The front seats strike a great balance between comfort and support, and look aggressive enough to let the driver and front-seat passenger know that they need to strap in tight. The optional lumbar power adjustment gives even more support for when the G-forces start to climb.
As you'd expect from a modern Hyundai, the interior materials are top-notch. Hyundai has gone out of its way to make the Elantra GT an entry-level warm hatch, and to make it feel just as premium as some of it's more expensive rivals, like the evergreen Golf GTI. Soft-touch plastics dominate above waist level, and all touchpoints have a quality feel about them, especially the leather steering wheel and gear knob found in the N-Line car. The Base Elantra GT's seats are upholstered in a choice of two materials and two colors: black or beige (seriously, Hyundai?) material is standard issue, but going for the optional style package gives you the option of going with black or beige leather. N-Line cars get something a bit more contemporary in the form of black leather with red stitching. Steer clear of any and all beige surfaces, and the interior of the Elantra GT is a contemporary-cool place to sit in.
Let's be honest; you're not going to buy an Elantra GT because you want to be competitive at track days - you're going to buy it because it offers reliable, safe, and practical fun. That being said, trunk space will play a big factor in the purchasing decision of anyone looking in this class and in this price range. The 2020 Hyundai Elantra GT nails this one out of the park: with the rear seats in the upright position, you get an expansive 24.9 cubic feet of space, which is miles more than you'd get in a Volkswagen Golf, but will be outdone by the Honda Civic's 25.7 ft³. Fold the rear seats down and that space more than doubles to 55.1 cubic feet, offering the most cargo-volume amongst its competitors, which is no mean feat when you consider the fact that this very measurement is the reason sales are made or lost in the hatchback market. To make things even better, the Elantra GT offers tons of places to store smaller items, including generously sized door pockets, a large center console storage bin, and even a small covered storage nook in front of the gear knob.
The features list on the 2020 Elantra GT is a tale of two cars; the base model GT and the turbocharged N-Line. The GT doesn't try to fool anyone into thinking that it wants to compete in the premium market, and neither does the N-Line for that matter, but Hyundai always manages to build cars that make owners feel as if they got away with a serious bargain. In base form, Hyundai offers standard exterior features such as well as auto on/off headlights, power side windows, and a rearview parking camera. On the inside, you'll find six-way power-adjustable front seats covered in premium cloth or optional leather, as well as dual illuminated sun visors (why don't all cars come with these?). N-Line cars get full LED lighting, front and back, while inside, the N-Line offers a more premium look and feel thanks to a set of racy black leather heated seats with red accent stitching, a leather shift knob and steering wheel, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry and push-button start as well as an electronic parking brake. Hyundai's Smart Sense safety package adds driver assistance features such as driver attention assistance, forward collision avoidance and lane keep assist.
Both the GT and N-Line are equipped with an eight-inch infotainment display, which is responsive and user-friendly, but the gloss-black surround cheapens the overall look of the setup. Both trim levels come with SiriusXM satellite radio as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Bluetooth streaming, a USB, an auxiliary input jack. Optional infotainment extras include navigation, a premium seven-speaker Infinity sound system with built-in subwoofer, Clari-Fi music restoration technology, a wireless phone charging pad as well as a host of Blue Link connectivity services. It might not be the most refined or advanced infotainment system in its class, but it offers all the modern features you'd expect from a car aimed at the youthful car-buying consumer.
Reliability-wise, there's nothing to worry about: the Elantra GT has been recalled twice in 2020, once for a loose right rear wheel nut and again for an issue with the lower control arm ball joint which could come undone. Other than that, the Elantra GT seems to be a sturdy car and boasts a reliability rating of 77 out of 100 from J.D. Power. Hyundai backs the Elantra GT with a class-leading five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which includes a seven-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, a ten-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty as well as a five-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance plan.
The Elantra GT is offered with basic safety features, while active driver assistance features such as blind-spot and rear cross-traffic assistance are reserved for the options list. The IIHS awarded the Elantra GT with a Top Safety Pick award in 2019, but the NHTSA gave it a score of only four out of five stars, citing a possibly life-threatening defect in the Elantra GT's side barrier protection design.
In base form, the 2020 Elantra GT doesn't inspire with a long list of standard safety features; instead, you get the basics, with advanced active assistance systems only available as optional extras. The 2020 Elantra GT gets a set of ABS brakes, stability control, some seatbelts, and seven airbags as standard. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional extras on the base model. The N-Line car includes the same standard safety features as found on the base model, but offers a more extensive list of optional safety features which include forward collision avoidance, smart cruise control, lane keep assist, and driver attention assistance as part of the Hyundai Smart Sense suite.
The 2020 Hyundai Elantra GT was never destined to be a future classic or to make waves in the world of hot hatchbacks; instead, it offers a good balance of everything that makes a modern economy car successful. The exterior is inoffensive but just good enough not to be boring, especially in N-Line guise, where it displays glimmers of sportiness. Inside, you get a typically refined and well put together interior, which impressed us with its quality and value for money. The driving experience is great for a daily runabout, and even in base form feels like it drives like something with a much higher asking price. But, when it comes to hitting the twisty stuff, the N-Line with its upgraded suspension and brake system is the one to go for. The base model is far from being a performance hatch, and should rather be viewed as a sensible hatch with illusions of sportiness. The N-Line car bites harder than its bark, which is rather refreshing; you get punchy turbo power, a decent chassis and sporty looks all bundled into one. If you're after something affordable and fun, but don't want to stretch for Volkswagen Golf prices, then the Elantra GT range is well worth a look.
Hyundai has been careful in calculating the asking price for the 2020 Elantra GT, which competes with the likes of the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Golf. The base model Elantra GT, powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, starts off with an MSRP of $20,650, excluding a destination fee of $930. This is around $3,000 less than Mazda asks for its Mazda 3 hatchback, while Volkswagen's 1.4T TSI Manual goes for $23,195. If you're looking for a more entertaining experience, the high-performance N-Line model will set you back $23,500, which puts it in line with the much less powerful Volkswagen, as well as the Honda Civic Sport CVT at $23,550. Fully loaded, the Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line will cost you a hair over $30,000.
The 2020 Elantra GT range is split into two trim offerings; the base model GT and the performance-minded N-Line.
In base trim, the Elantra GT is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 161 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard exterior features include 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color door handles, LED daytime running lights as well as auto headlight control. Inside you'll find standard cloth seats, including a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning, an eight-inch infotainment display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, as well as Bluetooth streaming.
The sportier N-Line model is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, which it sends to the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. N-Line Cars benefit from an improved suspension setup, upgraded brakes, a more aggressively styled exterior, as well as the addition of certain features such as heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry with push-button start, and more.
Hyundai has kept the options list short for the 2020 Elantra GT range. Base model cars can be selected with the $2,900 Style Package which adds a wide range of interior and exterior upgrades, including a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist, a 4.2-inch driver display, dual-zone climate control as well as heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and much more.
Stepping up to the N-Line model gives you the option of going with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission for an extra $1,100 which also opens up the $3,850 Technology Package which adds navigation, Blue Link connected car services, ventilated seats, driver's seat lumbar support adjustment, a premium Infinity sound system as well as a wireless charging pad, forward collision avoidance, and lane-keep assist.
There are clear distinctions between the standard GT and the N-Line version, the main being the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine found under the hood of the N-Line car. So, your first decision will be to choose between the pedestrian base model or the warm hatchback that is the N-Line. We think that there are better hatchbacks out there if you're simply looking for a runabout; that's why we'll focus on the N-Line, which offers a more attractive proposition. In its simplest form, the N-Line with its six-speed manual transmission and upgraded suspension and brakes offers a good mix of fun and practicality and never pretends to be on par with the likes of the Civic Type R or Golf GTI. The interior features leather upholstery. You now get dual-zone automatic climate control, and the entire package feels more premium than the base model. All of this costs only $23,500, which is a bargain when you compare it to what Honda and Volkswagen have to offer.
The Mazda 3 has been setting the bar for refinement and build quality in the hatchback market for over a decade, and the recently launched fourth-generation car is better than ever. Powering the Mazda 3 hatchback is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, which places it between the Elantra GT and N-Line in terms of performance. The Mazda 3 will return 24/32/27 mpg city/highway/combined. The strikingly good looks of the Mazda 3 are complemented by an equally impressive interior that offers class-leading design and build quality. Out on the road, the Mazda 3 drives with confidence, and although it lacks the punch of the more powerful Elantra GT N-Line, it handles as well as, if not better, and is even more comfortable to drive on a day to day basis. Impressive levels of standard features and a balanced overall driving experience make the Mazda 3, starting at $23,700, one of our favorites in this class - but if its performance you're after, the Elantra GT N-Line is better.
This comparison is aimed at the N-Line version of the Elantra GT range, which offers a more driver-focused experience thanks to its turbocharged engine and upgraded suspension and brake systems. There's no need to introduce the famed VW Golf GTI. It is loved around the world for its peerless balance of performance and everyday practicality, and it's only getting better. The GTI is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot, which kicks out 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to thrill the driver without getting into too much trouble. Out on the road, the GTI will consume 24/32/27 mpg city/highway/combined. Whereas the Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line offers warm performance, the GTI gives you the full hot hatch experience by way of a honed chassis, beautifully balanced suspension setup, and steering feel that connects the driver to the road in a way that makes the N-Line feel disconnected and dull. The N-Line might not be that much slower, but the GTI, starting at $27,595, feels faster in almost every situation, and does so while offering a more refined experience overall. The N-Line is a bargain for those looking for turbo thrills, but the GTI feels more polished in every sense.