Following a 2017 revamp of the Elantra lineup, Hyundai has introduced a new Elantra GT Sport hatchback for the 2018 model year. A new Elantra SEL trim level takes the place of the previous SE with a Popular Equipment Package. Otherwise, little has changed for 2018.
Offered in sedan and GT hatchback body styles, Elantra is a serious competitor among compacts, with sharp design, a roomy cabin, and abundant features. Its last major redesign was for the 2014 model year.
Elantra offers three engine choices. Base engine for both body styles is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which develops 147 horsepower in the sedan and 162 hp in the GT hatchback. Torque output is 137 or 150 pound-feet, respectively. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, but most Elantras are fitted with a fuel-thrifty 6-speed automatic transmission.
Finally, the Eco sedan gets a 1.4-liter turbo four, coupled to the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Differences between the sedan and the GT hatchbacks are significant, as the two body styles are not really related. Not only does the hatch offer greater cabin space, with more premium-looking finishes, but the GT Sport’s suspension promises greater control.
Crash-test scores are incomplete. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the sedan only a four-star overall rating, with four stars for both frontal and side impacts. The 2017 hatchback got a five-star rating overall, but four stars in the frontal-impact test. No testing has been done on the 2018 GT hatchback.
For its crash-test program, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Electra sedan a Top Safety Pick+, based upon Good test scores. Unfortunately, that award applies only to the top Limited trim level, when fitted with advanced-safety options.
An optional suite of safety features includes blind-spot monitoring, active lane control, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
Elantra 2.0L SEL sedan ($18,850) gets an automatic transmission, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 16-inch alloy wheels, rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth. Blind-spot detection also is standard. Elantra 2.0L Value Edition sedan ($19,850) comes with an automatic transmission and features from the Limited, including a sunroof an heated front seats.
Elantra 2.0L Limited ($22,100) includes an automatic transmission, chrome trim, leather seating surfaces, BlueLink telematics, and 17-inch wheels. An 8.0-inch infotainment screen with navigation is optional.
Elantra 1.4T Eco sedan ($20,550) is similar to SEL, but with the 1.4-liter turbo engine, dual-clutch transmission, and smaller (15-inch) wheels to improve fuel economy.
Elantra 1.6T Sport comes with a more potent turbo engine and manual ($21,800) or automatic ($22,900) and is trimmed similar to Limited.
Elantra GT hatchback comes is similar in equipment to SEL sedan, with the 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed manual ($19,350) or automatic ($20,350) transmission; an 8.0-inch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and rearview camera are standard.
Elantra GT Sport hatch gets the 1.6-liter turbo engine with manual ($23,250) or 7-speed dual-clutch transmission ($24,350), along with a multi-link rear suspension and bigger brakes.
The GT gets a tightened-up version of Hyundai’s large trapezoidal grille, with a mesh pattern. Hatchback daytime running lights differ from the sedan’s LED units. Sedans have three taillights flanking an upturned decklid, while the GT rear end is more rounded.
Most controls and the touchscreen angle toward the driver. Front seats are generally good, but the sedan is more comfortable, with better bolstering on the seat cushions. Sport models feature deeper bucket seats, with fabric that maintains a stronger grip.
Back-seat riders get ample head and knee clearance, but seat cushions aren’t as comfortable. Sedan rear seats are on the low side, giving six-footers abundant headroom. Rear legroom is an inch tighter in a GT hatchback.
Sedans boast 14.4 cubic feet of cargo volume, appropriate for a compact. Cargo space in hatchbacks has grown to 24.9 cubic feet, expanding to 55.4 cubic feet with split seatbacks folded.
Upper models contain more sound-deadening material. Fit and finish tends to be better in GT models.
A well-composed ride is the rule, but handing falls around the middle of the pack. Fitted with light, yet precise, steering, the GT hatchback feels firmly planted on the pavement, if a tad heavy in corners and curves. Sport models get a multi-link independent rear suspension, providing greater body-motion control.
Brake behavior in a Sport sedan failed to elicit full confidence, because of a dull pedal feel and significant fading in hard stops.
Sport models are the most enjoyable to drive. Base-engine performance falls short of enthusiastic, but the turbo provides a peppier experience. Sport models should accelerate to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. Performance sags in the Eco edition.
Elantras are relatively fuel-efficient, if short of class-leading. Most Elantra sedans with the 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic are EPA-rated at 28/37 mpg City/Highway, or 32 mpg Combined. SE models, which contain fewer features, are a tad thriftier at 29/38/33 mpg. The Elantra Eco does even better: EPA-rated at 32/40 mpg City/Highway, or 35 mpg Combined. Sport sedans manage only 22/30/25 mpg.
Hatchbacks with automatic are EPA-rated at 24/32 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined. Manual-shift Sport hatchbacks get a 22/29/25 mpg rating.
The base Elantra is spartan but delivers good value. Upper trim levels aren’t quite as value-focused, but have nicer trim. GT hatchbacks promise greater utility and, in Sport form, driving delight. In addition to good infotainment systems, Elantras have an impressive warranty.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.