Strengths and weaknesses:
- Unique features
- Cargo space
- Rear seat folding process
"In a country that loves its hatchbacks, the Elantra GT has a lot going for it as pushes its way into the five-door mix."
MONTREAL - The new Hyundai Elantra line-up - now featuring not one but three bodystyles - is poised to seriously contend for the title of best-selling passenger vehicle in Canada for 2012.
The vehicle it’s challenging is the Honda Civic, which currently holds a 14-year reign as the country’s biggest seller in the passenger car market. With the compact car segment being so important here - nearly a quarter of all vehicles sold in Canada in 2011 belonged to that class - it’s no surprise that virtually every automaker is coming out with a solid compact offering.
The redesigned Elantra sedan has received all sorts of accolades in recent months, so with all the subtlety of an Italian soccer fan whose team just won a game at Euro 2012, Hyundai is throwing both a coupe and a five-door hatchback into the mix.
Both models stick close to the formula that made the Elantra sedan so successful, and for the most part, that’s not a bad thing.
The coupe is expected to sell the least of the three Elantras, and it doesn’t have as many competitors. In a country that loves its hatchbacks, the Elantra GT has a lot going for it as pushes its way into the five-door mix.
Replacing the much more practical-minded and homely Elantra Touring, the GT is essentially the latest-generation i30 sold in other countries around the world.
It’s worth noting that the Elantra Touring has nearly identical power numbers as the Elantra GT, and is more spacious than the GT in nearly every category. Problem is, wagons simply aren’t as popular as hatchbacks, and the Elantra Touring is a wagon.
The Elantra GT isn’t a pushover in the cargo carrying department, as it has more cargo volume than every direct competitor save for the Ford Focus. Opening the Elantra GT’s rear hatch shows a generously-sized, carpeted space to hold all sorts of items.
Rear seats do split 60/40 and fold flat, but in order to get to that point, the seat bottoms have to be flipped forward, and the headrests also need to be removed. Flat-folding rear seats are awesome, but so are seats that can be folded quickly and with one hand.
Continuing Hyundai’s theme of simplicity throughout its line-up, the Elantra GT is offered in only three trims, each one described as being “all-in”, meaning there is no optional equipment, save for a Technology Package that can be added to the top of the line SE model.
Same goes for engines, as the GT uses the same 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder powerplant used in the Elantra sedan. It’s about on-par with most competitors, and while it’s a quiet engine, it does little to stir up excitement. Drivers can choose from one of two six-speed transmissions - manual or automatic.
There’s a lot of downshifting required while driving the manual Elantra GT as I climb up numerous roads. I can’t help but notice that even with the engine revving above 4,000 rpm, I can barely hear it, or any other road noise for that matter. This is a very quiet vehicle.
And just like the Elantra sedan, the GT and Coupe are just solid-feeling, with some of the best interiors in the class by a wide margin. The GT adds to the upscale feel with some really neat features.
For instance, every GT but the lowest trim gets a panoramic sunroof that adds to the sporty demeanour. The sunshade is split into two pieces and opens from the centre, with each section moving toward the front and back of the vehicle simultaneously. The sunshades on other panoramic sunroofs seem to take forever to open and close, and Hyundai seems to have fixed this issue.
The highest-priced SE trim gets a backup camera that’s hidden behind the Hyundai badge located on the hatch door. When you place the vehicle in reverse, the badge flips open, giving you a view of what’s behind the vehicle. This is a fantastic way to keep stuff from gunking up the camera, especially in the winter.
The Elantra GT does feel very closely connected to its sedan counterpart, but it’s tough to blame Hyundai for going the “familiar” route considering the success of the four-door. All signs point to this 5-door putting just as much a scare into its competitors as the 4-door model has, and still is.