Estérel, QC – The Canadian division of Hyundai chose La Belle Province for the media launch of its new 2018 Hyundai GT – a choice undoubtedly influenced by the great popularity in Quebec of compact hatchbacks. This market segment is in fact more crowded than ever before, particularly since the Honda Civic and Chevrolet Cruze hatchbacks joined the party. First launched back in 2001, the Hyundai Elantra GT should find many eager takers in the province and the country in general.
For 2018, the small Korean 5-door model has been revamped from end to end, this after a relatively successful year enjoyed by the sedan version of the Elantra. Hyundai has work to do before it can hope to lay claim to the best-selling car in Canada. If you ask us, we feel it likely that that title will soon belong to a compact SUV – that market segment continues to grow on a seemingly daily basis.
Of course, it’s a fool’s game trying to predict how Canadian consumers are going to react. For the moment, all we can say for sure that the new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is worth a close look. Here’s our review...
Undeniable European flavour
First, a stroll around the new GT, which reveals first off that the front fascia ties in better with the one featured on the Elantra sedan, while still remaining distinct. The designers at Hyundai call it a cascade-style grille, the curves on its bottom portion having been drawn to evoke moving water. As for the headlights, they’ve been aptly placed at the extremities of the side edges that stretch back to the rear of the car. In contrast with the previous model, this line is as straight as can be, while the lateral fenestration adopts a singular form towards the rear roof pillar.
Clearly there’s some European influence behind this design. In fact the representatives at Hyundai Canada are totally upfront about the fact that this car is a response to the demands and preferences of the Canadian market. The Americans have shown little interest for this variant designed above all for the European market. One other notable feature of the new GT is the presence of 18-inch alloy wheels, as opposed to the 17-inch wheels supporting the other Elantras.
That this car belongs to the Elantra lineup would normally mean it borrows components from the other models’ interiors. And yet, just like with the previous edition, the environment inside the Elantra GT is not the same as it is in the sedan. The hatchback gets a more linear dashboard, which integrates Hyundai’s first “floating” touchscreen. In these and most of the other elements, in term of both materials and assembly, quality is king.
The brain-trust at Hyundai decided to spread the wealth and include the 8-inch screen in all versions; on the other hand, only the top-of-the-line trim gets integrated navigation. For the others, the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems are quite acceptable substitutes. Also worth noting are the ergonomics aboard the 2018 Elantra GT, which benefit greatly from judiciously placed main controls.
Driving position also proves easy to find, and here we have proof that you don’t need to restrict yourself to high-end performance cars to benefit from a steering wheel that is pleasant to hold and handle. Purists may want to take note that the base model’s naturally aspirated engine also comes accompanied by a traditional hand brake, while the turbo version features a button instead.
The front-row seats offer good lateral support, and in fact seem tailor-made for twisting country roads. Behind them, the bench is harder on passengers’ backs and behinds, but not uncomfortably so. Move farther back still, and you get a trunk with a total loading space of 705 litres – superior to that offered by the Honda HR-V! While it doesn’t fold all the way down flat, the rear bench does allow for loading oversized items, plus the floor of the trunk can be lowered if needed.
Exploring the hidden roads of the Laurentians and Lanaudière
Designed for the most part in Germany, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is under pressure to deliver the goods in an increasingly demanding market segment. At the very least, the firmness of the chassis is an encouraging sign, as it held up nicely even when attaining speeds well beyond the speed limit. The suspension is itself also relatively firm for a model not really considered a performance car.
We started off behind the wheel of an Elantra GT Sport equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission box bolted to a 1.6L, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, which can generate 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. This set-up was easily up to the tasks asked of it, although I never really felt able to finesse the full advertised power out of it. As for the musicality of the mechanics, the Elantra Sport sedan we tried out last winter clearly had more lung power than the GT, if you catch our drift! We also felt that the steering was a little too much on the soft side to fully satisfy fans of sporty driving. The car is certainly no slouch when it comes to the way it handles itself on the road, quite the opposite, but a few more notches up the exhilaration scale would have been welcome.
In the Sport version, the rear suspension uses a dual-link configuration, while for the lower trims Hyundai has opted for rigid axles. On the beautiful but time-worn roads we were driving, this detail was quickly apparent; our GT Sport reacted a little more brusquely in certain situations. That said, this difference between the suspension systems will not even be noticeable to the vast majority of owners in daily driving. In any event, the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels help smooth out the ride.
Obviously, the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine is not as dynamic as the 1.6L turbo, but it still manages to deliver 162 hp, and its maximum 150 lb-ft of torque places it squarely in the middle of its category. We tried out a version equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which did its work with discreet competence. Hyundai continues to offer a manual gear box with this engine, while the optional dual-clutch 7-speed makes for a suitable alternative for consumers who don’t feel like dealing with three pedals.
The new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT emphatically announces its arrival on the market with a chassis that is rejuvenated, more self-assured and fun to drive. While it can’t really be placed alongside the Volkswagen GTI, Honda Civic Si or others that deliver superior performance, it acquits itself very well in comparison with most other compact hatchbacks. And Canadians will surely fall under the spell of its European styling and demeanour.
At the moment of writing this review, Hyundai Canada has not yet announced pricing, but we’re optimistic that the numbers will look very similar to those for the previous model.