Test Drive: 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT Limited

A new age has come upon the affordable five-door marketplace. In response to the bellyaching masses upset at getting the unfavorable end of the stick when it came to affordable small cars, automakers have launched a new breed of highly-cultured rides.

There’s never been a better time to be shopping in this segment.

Today, as a departure from the four-wheeled appliances that passed for affordable cars not so very long ago, the latest five-door offerings from Mazda, Subaru, Ford, Volkswagen and others all call out vigorously for the hard-earned dollars of Canadian shoppers with global leveraging of design and engineering capabilities. The resulting products are more persuasive than ever, and there’s never been a better time to be shopping in this segment.

One of those globally leveraged compacts is the Hyundai Elantra GT. Model-year 2016 sees the German-designed Korean five-door gussied up with a slew of updates to styling, feature content, technology and connectivity, building on a strong offering of high flexibility, upscale driving dynamics, and premium feature content with even more value.

On the technology front, the standout feature is Elantra’s new infotainment interface, which combines navigation, entertainment, communications and other functionalities into a single touchscreen system that works better than the previous generation setup, as well as most other systems in this segment.

Revised menu layouts, a souped-up graphics processor and new programming sees the latest top-line interface amounting to one of the best your writer’s ever laid his grubby fingertips on where responsiveness, slick looks, and intuitive operation are concerned. Pairing a Bluetooth phone takes a single, eight-second attempt that’s free of swearing and frustration, and the helpful pop-up messages, as well as the placement of common function buttons on the various screens, all proved welcome. Navigation zooms intelligently and automatically as you approach a turn on an unfamiliar road, and the keyboard input is slick and fast-acting, too. Plus, the graphics are vivid, and the system responds to all touch gestures instantly, and without lag or choking.

The responsiveness adds ease of use for new users, and is right there with you once you become a touchscreen pro, tapping and flicking through various menus like a champ.

Space and versatility are generous too, with Elantra’s five-door variant offering up adequate room in front and back for full-grown adults or an average-sized family of five. Two properly-sized adults can sit behind one another, rear headroom was more than adequate for your 5’11” writer even with the panoramic roof above, and rear-seat entry and exit are a cinch. I noted no issues with space on board, relative to the Elantra GT’s size and intentions.

In back, the cargo hold is deep, wide, and accessed via a high-lift hatch for easy loading and unloading with minimal risk of accidental cranial impact events. Rear seats fold down with ease, and seat bottoms can be flipped out of the way for more space on the rear floor, or to enable the folding of the seatbacks for a totally flat cargo load floor. There’s room galore for a two-person camping trip with plenty of gear, and a canine or two, in back. The rear cargo load height falls at thigh-level for easy loading, and my clumsy full-grown golden retriever pup had minimal issue jumping in or out. Add in the shallow but useful under-floor organizer bins to keep your items in order and out of sight, and you’ve got an efficient five-door mini-wagon that could do double-duty as a small crossover.

Feature content is a big part of the Elantra GT’s appeal. The loaded-grade Limited tester offered up a slew of comfort and convenience features that contribute to a laid back drive, including automatic lights and climate control, keyless access with push-button start, powered and heated leather seats and full steering-wheel mounted controls. Add in the slick navigation system, no fewer than three recharging points within reach of front-seat passengers and one more in the cargo hold, and above-average at-hand storage facilities, and you’ve got a car that makes staying organized and recharged on the go easy.

With the extra room, and exclusive European-inspired tuning to the suspension and steering, Elantra GT is pitched as a high-utility five-door that’ll find appeal with shoppers after an extra touch of sportiness. Hyundai figured on making the Elantra GT, which was designed in Germany, the sportiest-handling Elantra variant on offer, nodding to its European roots and answering the call of shoppers after a model that hits harder than its price suggests when it comes to driving dynamics. Beefier stabilizer bars, a stiffened twist-beam, and premium shock absorbers dial up the tautness and agility, setting the stage for added response and feel.

Further, the Driver Selectable Steering Mode (DSSM) system provides button-tap access to Normal, Comfort and Sport steering modes. Engage the DSSM SPORT mode, and enjoy steering that’s heavier, and nicely balanced against the firmed-up suspension. Weighty steering and stiffened-up suspension work towards a confident and playful character, should you find occasion to browse a winding road at a good clip. Conversely, Comfort steering mode works nicely for a relaxed highway drive, where drivers can expect to feel the steering chill out at their fingertips for a more laid-back feel.

The ride can be a mixed bag. As it tends to go, a stiffer suspension makes the car feel lively, and in the case of the Elantra GT, that comes without compromise to highway cruising composure and comfort levels on smooth surfaces. Rough roads can cause ride quality to degrade, however, with the suspension becoming noisy, abrupt and harsh in situations where the standard Elantra Sedan maintains a feeling of durability and composure.

Shoppers prioritizing handling response over ride quality, travelling mostly on highways, or living in locales with well-maintained roads will take little issue with the suspension setup. Other shoppers are advised to head to the roughest road available on a test drive to ensure they’re cool with the trade-off.

Elantra GT’s standard 2.0L four-cylinder direct-injection engine whips up 173 horsepower, driving the front wheels via a six-speed automatic in the case of the tester. The direct injection system delivers high-pressure fuel straight to the cylinders, while continually variable valve timing works to optimize engine breathing in real time. The result is power delivery that hits harder than the engine’s displacement suggests, and overall performance that’s adequate, perhaps slightly more, with decent off-the line snap, and plenty of sauce in reserve at higher revs.

The engine doesn’t lead the way for refinement or quietness, though the growl at full throttle has a hard-working quality to it, and the engine works seamlessly with the six-speed automatic at most times, once the transmission gets in sync with your driving style. Manual mode shifting is available, though performance enthusiasts will find it a mere novelty, as the shifts take a moment to engage after being requested via the lever, occur with no urgency, and aren’t rev-matched. Note that a manual transmission is available in low to mid-grade trim levels.

Other notes? Wind and road noise levels are about average for the segment, and at or slightly beyond the highway speed limit, Elantra GT should prove quieter than a Mazda3 Sport or Subaru Impreza.

Mileage impressed on my watch. The tester had some 6,000 km of break-in ahead of my drive, and turned in a measured-by-hand average of 7.5 L/100 km. The trip computer reported 7.2. A driver-selectable Active Eco mode can be engaged, recalibrating the throttle and transmission to make it easier to achieve fuel efficient driving, though the numbed-down throttle proved a little too syrupy for my tastes, so I typically left it off, and mileage impressed nonetheless.

Be sure to cross-shop the Elantra GT against its closest competitors. A Subaru Impreza 5-door offers the only AWD in the segment, and ride and handling characteristics that work better on nasty road surfaces, though performance is slouchier. The Mazda3 sets the bar in this segment for powertrain refinement and interior design, though highway noise levels are notably higher, and the rear seats aren’t as spacious. A Ford Focus 5-door, with its European-inspired underpinnings and recent updates for 2016, makes a compelling argument for your five-door bucks, too.

End of the day, the Elantra GT will appeal highly on space, flexibility, and feature content for the price tag, and especially to a shopper after an efficient five-door that’s on the sporty side where ride and handling are concerned. This one’s a solid all-around value with many strengths and few weaknesses.

Warranty:
5 years/100,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Fiat 500L
Ford Focus
Mazda3 Sport
Nissan Versa Note
Scion iM
Subaru Impreza
Volkswagen Golf

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT Limited
2016 Hyundai Elantra GT Limited
Base Price $27,099
Optional Equipment None
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,595
Price as Tested $28,794
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.2
8 Exterior Styling
6 Performance
8 Interior
6 Comfort
8 Fuel Economy