by Roger Biermann
If a Hyundai Elantra sedan doesn’t tickle your fancy and compact hatchbacks are more your thing, then don’t confuse the Elantra GT as merely a ‘hatched’ version of the same humdrum sedan you may have overlooked. Based on the European I30 it rides on a shorter wheelbase and features different suspension. It forms the basis for a hot Golf GTI fighter overseas too, so there must be merit under the metalwork, and for 2019 Hyundai has revised the Elantra GT line-up to feature a new lukewarm model called the Elantra GT N-Line to replace the old GT Sport. The compact hatchback market is now going to be a lot more exciting against the usual suspects of the VW Golf, Ford Focus et al. With two engines, a 161 horsepower 2.0-liter and a 201 hp turbo 1.6-liter, and priced from $20,450 to $24,400 the Korean firm is intent on making you compact hatch decision a little trickier.
2019 sees minor adjustments made to the Elantra GT from a styling and engine perspective, with the key difference to the line-up being that Hyundai has replaced the Elantra GT Sport with a new Elantra GT N Line. Power remains the same, but the N Line gets revised exterior styling cues derived from the European N model, with a lower front spoiler, an N Line version of the cascading grille, N Line 18-inch wheels, a unique rear bumper, and heavily revised suspension, steering, and brakes. Inside, the N Line is further differentiated with a new steering wheel, N Line leather sport seats, gearshift, a sportier instrument cluster, and red stitching throughout the interior. There may still be additional changes to the base GT, as at the time of writing final changes had not yet been released. The manual gearbox has also been dropped from the base Elantra GT.
Despite sharing the Elantra name, the Elantra sedan and GT are styled entirely differently. Headlights on the GT are drawn back three-projector design headlamps with standard LED daytime running lights. Full LED headlights are standard on the GT N Line. On the N Line, a new lower front spoiler improves aerodynamic efficiency and puts the GT lower to the ground, while the grille is also adapted for the N Line derivative to increase airflow and give sportier aesthetics. 16-inch alloy wheels are the default wheel choice on the base GT, while the GT N Line gets 18-inch N Line exclusive wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires. The N Line gets N Line badging at the rear and a revised lower bumper with more aggressive aerodynamic profiling.
The Elantra GT’s 104.3-inch wheelbase is two inches shorter than the sedan that shares the Elantra nameplate, while an overall length of 170.9-inches is substantially shorter too. The GT measures at 70.7-inches in width and 57.7-inches in height, while both trims share track widths of 61.1/61.5-inches front and rear respectively. The base GT is the lightest of the lot with a curb weight of 2,943 lbs, with that figure swelling to 3,155 lbs in N Line guise with the DCT gearbox equipped.
2019 sees the Elantra GT retain a six-hue color palette, with just a single change to the available colors. Last year’s Electric Blue Metallic is removed from the list, with Intense blue taking up the spot in the range. Remaining colors include Ceramic White, Symphony Air Silver, Summit Gray, Scarlet Red Pearl, and Black Noir Pearl, none of which are trim specific or carry any extra cost to add.
While the United States won’t be receiving a bona fide Elantra GT N that Europe gets - in lieu of us receiving the Veloster N - the hottest available Elantra GT is the N Line, equipped with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder developing 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. As is the standard for this segment, the drive is sent to the front wheels, while the choice is up to the buyer as to whether they utilize a manual or automatic gearbox. The seven-speed dual-clutch auto is the quicker of the two in a straight line, enabling a 6.5-second 0-60 mph run and a 15-second quarter mile. That’s about par with Honda’s Civic Si Coupe, but it lags behind bona fide hot hatches like the VW Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, who all pack more power and trick differentials to make better use of the power.
A base 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine generates 161 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, and is mated as standard to a six-speed automatic gearbox with a torque converter. The N Line gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder developing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft, paired to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch Shiftronic automatic optionally available.
The standard 2.0 is a rather gutless engine, but the extra horsepower over the Elantra sedan is much appreciated. It would be better off with the manual gearbox that was available in 2018, but is still not an ideal engine due to the lack of torque that turbocharged competitors offer.
The turbocharged 1.6-liter engine in the Elantra GT N Line is the engine to have, as the turbo boosts power and torque figures to be usable in the real world without having to work the motor thoroughly, rewarding you with performance when you do. Performance is peppy and overtaking is easy, with hot-hatch chasing acceleration times. The standard six-speed manual gearbox is fun to row about, and comes with high performance summer tires in an effort to entice buyers into buying the ‘purist’ version of the N Line. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is marginally quicker and more efficient, and shifts rapidly between the gears, but takes away a certain amount of the fun-factor the N Line derivative is imbued with due to the enhanced suspension setup.
Unlike the Elantra sedan, the Hyundai Elantra GT isn’t overly comfort biased and is enjoyable to drive. The ride is on the firmer side of things, but the suspension does a good job of keeping out every bump and bruise for a ride that’s firm but not harsh. There’s a good balance between keeping things controlled and in contact with the road and compliance over large bumps, with the suspension controlling body motions in a way that rewards those who enjoy driving and like to explore the limits of the chassis. Low rolling resistance tires on the base 2.0 Elantra GT don’t offer huge amounts of grip, but there’s enough to exploit, largely due to the good suspension tune.
Even in base trim, where the rear suspension is a torsion axle with coil springs, sharp bumps fail to unsettle the rear. The step up to the N Line is where sporting credentials become a little stronger though as the suspension is upgraded to a multi-link independent rear setup. While last year’s GT Sport offered improved performance from this ugade alone, for 2019 the change to N Line also brings with it increased levels of stiffness and a revised suspension tune. The springs have been made 14.3% stiffer up front and 21.9% stiffer at the rear, while the shocks have been tuned differently as well. While this makes the N Line less forgiving and comfort biased than the standard GT, it does give it real hot-hatch credentials. Furthermore, the N Line gets Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires on the manual-equipped model, offering higher levels of mechanical grip and giving it a performance advantage over the dual-clutch automatic-equipped derivative.
The steering is highly impressive, despite being an electronically power-assisted system. The system responds well to inputs with direct responses and sharp turn-in, and decent weighting that feels secure at speed. It lacks in feedback, a regular criticism of electronically power-assisted systems, but something that puts it about on par with most competitors in this regard. On all other metrics, the steering is impressive. The N Line also receives an update to the steering tune, set to make it more responsive and hopefully offer better feedback.
The brakes on the base GT are decent, providing sufficient stopping power with great pedal modulation and a natural feel. Larger front and rear brake rotors on the Elantra GT N Line give it improved stopping power, with better resistance to fade under duress.
Overall, the Hyundai Elantra GT is an enjoyable compact hatchback to drive, with the N Line stepping things up to take Hyundai into true hot hatch territory. It’s not up to the same standard as the Veloster N, a full-fat performance model, but it’s more enticing to drive spiritedly than the VW Golf or Toyota Corolla hatch might be.
Gas mileage is decent on the Elantra GT, but not exceptional in this segment. The base 2.0 is estimated to achieve figures of 25/32/27 mpg city/highway/combined, with the default six-speed automatic, which is below turbocharged rivals like the Volkswagen Golf which achieves 29/37/32 mpg on the same cycles. The manual-equipped N Line consumes an estimated 22/29/25 miles per gallon, with the dual-clutch equipped variant upping those estimates to 26/32/28 mpg. From a dual-clutch equipped variant, with a fairly low displacement turbocharged engine, those figures are somewhat disappointing. Both models are equipped with a 14-gallon gas tank, with a maximum theoretical range in the region of 392 miles in mixed driving conditions.
With an entry point to the Elantra GT range of more than $20,000 you’d expect a premium, well put together interior. The Elantra GT doesn’t disappoint with high-quality materials and a simple, easy to use layout. Standard cloth seats are comfortable and offer a range of standard manual adjustments paired with a height and reach adjustable steering wheel. Leather is optionally available on the GT and standard on the N Line, with heated seats available on both derivatives. The rear of the cabin offers limited legroom and headroom is also more cramped than expected. Two sets of LATCH anchors are standard in the rear, but fitting rear-facing child seats is dependent on the height of the front passenger.
The Hyundai Elantra GT offers seating for five occupants, though the rear is suitable for at most two adults below six-feet tall. The front seats offer a good range of adjustment and are comfortable if a little firm. The rear seats are more cramped, with legroom not suited to taller passengers and headroom more cramped than it should be. The cramped rear quarters also mean rear-facing child seats might not fit behind taller front passengers. From the driver’s perch, forward visibility is good, as is rearward visibility through a large rear windscreen. The side mirrors do obstruct vision during cornering but only minimally.
The base Elantra GT gets cloth upholstery as standard, with leather an optional extra. Just two color choices are available, black and beige, which are dependent on the exterior colors of Ceramic White, Scarlet Red, and Black Noir. The beige option also equips beige dash accents and door panels. On the GT N Line, black leather is the only color and material choice available, with red contrast stitching on the seats, gear shift lever, and N Sport steering wheel and red accents found around the air vents and on the steering wheel itself. The leather upholstery and extra support from the N Line seats make them the best interior choice.
The Hyundai Elantra GT’s hatchback body configuration lends itself to supreme cargo space with 24.9 cubic feet available behind the rear seats of the Elantra GT. The load area is deep, and features a double-floor - which is eradicated with the Infinity sound system equipped - for extra loading ability, but could make loading of heavy items a difficult affair. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, but don’t fold flat, reducing the practicality of a claimed 55.1 cubic feet of available storage space. Both figures are higher than the Chevrolet Cruze (22.7/47.2) and Volkswagen Golf (22.8/52.7).
Inside the cabin there are numerous storage areas, including ample space in the door pockets for water bottles, as well as anti-tip design front cupholders. The front storage bin is large enough to accommodate modern smartphones, with charging points available too, while the storage beneath the front center armrest is small, yet practical for smaller items you don’t want loose around the cabin.
With just two trims, Hyundai has split the specification levels relatively well on the Elantra GT, equipping the availability of heated front seats, power front seat operation, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, and a sliding armrest to both trims, even if only optional on the base model. It includes a standard rearview camera, air conditioning, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, while the N Line gets all the aforementioned, plus available front seat ventilation, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Blue Link connected car services. The bulk of the driver aids are available optionally on the N Line, including forward collision assist, smart cruise control, lane keep assist, high beam assist, and driver attention alert, while optional on the base trim is blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist.
As standard, the Elantra GT features an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system boasting AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/HD Radio functionality and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The system also features USB ports and auxiliary inputs, and the screen acts as a display for the reverse camera. Available options include an uprated system with onboard navigation, a premium Infinity seven-speaker stereo system with Clari-fi Music Restoration technology, and QI wireless charging for supported devices. Blue Link Connected Car Systems are also optionally available and part of the Technology package for the N Line model.
With a J.D. Power and Associates predicted reliability score of four out of five for 2018, the Hyundai Elantra GT offers better reliability than the industry average of three. But, the compact segment features numerous options achieving similar results, placing the Elantra GT about par for the segment. The standard 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty is a big highlight for the Elantra GT and gives buyers peace of mind. There has only been one recall for this generation Elantra GT, pertaining to the sunroof that may not auto-reverse when encountering resistance and as a result may cause injury. This recall was issued for the 2018 year model.
The NHTSA scores the 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT four out of five stars, only due to a four-star score for rear passengers in the side-impact test. Meanwhile, the IIHS awarded the Elantra GT as a 2019 Top Safety Pick due to the extensive available safety features.
While standard safety features are numerous, such as ABS, EBD, brake assist, and seven airbags (dual front, front side, driver knee, and side curtain), it’s the available safety systems on the Technology Package for the N Line that put the Elantra in such a good state of safety. With the package equipped, the Elantra GT N Line boasts Hyundai Smart Sense, comprising Smart Cruise Control with start/stop capability, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, High Beam Assist, Lane Keep Assist, and Driver Attention Warning as one all-inclusive package.
In stark contrast to the Elantra sedan, the Elantra GT Line is a firm-riding hatchback with sporty pretense. The base model is well equipped, but the naturally aspirated motor and automatic gearbox combination is dull and lacks proper performance potential. The new-for-2019 N Line not only ups performance with a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo motor, but gives buyers a standard manual gearbox, hotter performance, and performance summer tires to keep things sticky. The stiffer chassis and revised suspension and steering take influence from the European i30 N hot-hatch, and the available technology, both standard and optional make it a really enticing proposition. It’s a great performance derivative at a discount price versus full-on hot hatches like the Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, and two years into the new model it’s looking better than ever.
Pricing for the 2019 Elantra GT kicks off at $20,450, making it more expensive than the previous year model by $1,100. But the manual gearbox is no longer available so the Elantra GT is just $100 more expensive than last year’s automatic option. Replacing the GT Sport for 2019, the Hyundai Elantra GT N Line comes with a base MSRP of $23,300 with a six-speed manual transmission. Equipping the available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox increases the MSRP to $24,400. All models are subject to an $885 freight charge.
As before, two trims are available for the 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT: base and N Line.
The base Elantra GT is powered by a 161 horsepower 2.0-liter engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission as its only gearbox option. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, six-way driver seat adjustment, rearview camera with dynamic parking guidelines, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, AM/FM/HD Radio/SiriusXM satellite radio capability, and air conditioning. Optional extras include dual-zone climate control with automatic temperature control, a leather steering wheel, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and a sliding front armrest.
The Elantra GT N Line comes equipped with the more powerful, 201-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. The N Line adds sportier exterior styling cues, including 18-inch alloy wheels, an N Line grille and bumpers, and blacked-out side mirrors, while the interior gets a flat-bottomed, perforated leather N steering wheel, N Line leather sport seats, a sporty instrument cluster, and contrast red stitching throughout. Standard features include full LED headlights with automatic headlight control, heated side mirrors, and automatic dual-zone climate control. The manual version also gets high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport 4 high-performance summer tires. Standard safety features are the same as the base GT.
Two options packages are available for the Elantra GT, starting with the Style Package for the base model. For $2,900 it equips a panoramic sunroof, blind spot warning, leather seating surfaces, a proximity key, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, power driver’s seat adjustment, heated front seats, a sliding armrest, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector.
The already well-equipped Elantra GT N Line has a Technology package available which includes an upgraded eight-inch infotainment system with navigation and HERE HD Traffic, a panoramic sunroof, Blue Link Connected Car System, ventilated seats, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, Infinity Premium Audio with seven speakers including subwoofer, a wireless charging pad, Smart Cruise Control with start/stop capability, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, High Beam Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Blue Link and HomeLink. The Technology package is priced from $3,850.
While standard specification on both trims is good, and with optional packages this can be extended to an all-encompassing package, those that buy the base Elantra GT will forever rue their decision to not opt for the turbocharged GT N Line. Not only does it boast more power, greater gas mileage figures, and higher levels of standard specification, but it also gets bespoke suspension tuning and bigger brakes, giving it hotter performance, while the available manual gearbox is immense fun and equips high-performance summer tires. Most of the equipment can be equipped to the base model, but only the best driver assistance features can be equipped to the N Line, making it the better choice, even if it does carry a hefty price tag.
While the Elantra GT may have benchmarked German competition, the Mazda 3 is a crucial segment rival. Both offer an endearing drive, but the Mazda 3 feels lighter and more agile on its feet, while the Elantra GT rides a little harsher and heavier. Both boast quality interiors, but the Mazda’s looks more premium, even if the Elantra’s infotainment system is superior. Both are well-priced and well-kitted, but the Elantra GT is a hotter performer, particularly in N Line guise, while the Mazda 3 is more efficient. The Mazda is a more premium offering, but the Elantra GT will appeal to enthusiasts a little more.
Both the Elantra GT and Hyundai Veloster share a large portion of their underpinnings, which is why the Veloster is able to match the GT N Line’s performance clout with its own Veloster Sport derivative. But where they differ is in practicality, with the Elantra seating five to the Veloster’s four, and with the Elantra offering four doors and a larger cargo bay. Both make use of the same technology and safety features, and both are equally joyous to drive. However, the Veloster has a full N derivative which breaches into hot-hatch territory, and that may well be what persuades buyers towards the quirky semi-coupe hatchback.