If a hatchback is on your radar, the Hyundai Elantra GT with its "Fluidic Sculpture" design language might prove to be just the right thirst-quencher.
In a world gone mad for small, fuel-efficient cars - not surprising given today's pump prices - Hyundai's compact lineup attempts to cover the bases. Looking for a traditional four-door model? Then try the Elantra sedan on for size. Or perhaps you're desirous of something a tad sportier? Well there's the new-for-2013 Coupe for your consideration.
If your search involves acquiring a vehicle with purposeful practicality, the new Elantra GT might fill the bill just as easily as you can fill its flexible-stowage area.
The GT fills the void left by the departing Elantra Touring model, but not in the most direct way. Although neatly styled, the Touring was first and foremost a wagon, while the more rounded GT is definitely hatchback-oriented. Yes, the lines between hatch and wagon tend to get a bit fuzzy, but with about a seven-inch deficit in overall length and 20 percent less total cargo space (with the rear seats folded), the GT qualifies for membership as a hatchback.
An added bonus is the GT's slippery-shaped design that rivals the Coupe's, although all three Elantras are handsome rigs in their own way. The GT's Hyundai Veloster-style open-mouth grille/air intake resembles the Coupe's, with both body styles eschewing the sedan's more conservative schnoz.
What is common to all three is a snazzy interior layout that showcases an attractively textured dashboard featuring large twin gauge pods for the speedometer and tachometer. A meaty sports-style steering wheel attached to a tilt/telescoping steering wheel is included, while aluminum pedals are optional. In back, a 60:40 split rear bench folds relatively flat. By Hyundai's slide rule, the GT has more cargo and passenger room than several of its peers, including the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Mazda3 hatches.
The GT as well as the rest of the Elantra trio, operates with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. The peppy little mill is rated at 28 mpg in the city and 39 highway, regardless of whether it's connected to a six-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic. In combined city and highway driving, Hyundai claims the GT possesses a 448-mile maximum range, which is as much a function of gas tank size as it is fuel economy. It also doesn't hurt that, at a relatively light 2,784 pounds, the GT is between 150-200 pounds lighter than its primary rivals.
For serious drivers, the GT's firm suspension set-up with stiffer springs, shocks and stabilizer bars is definitely appreciated. A "Driver Selectable Steering Mode" can be set to Comfort (added power steering boost for around-town driving and parking), Sport (for a weightier feel on twisty highways) and Normal (that combines some of both). Opt for the extra-cost Style Package you'll get sportier suspension tuning and lower-profile 17-inch tires (16-inchers are standard).
The GT starts at $19,200, with destination costs and a whole bunch of standard stuff included in that sum. Among the highlights are air conditioning (including a chilled glove compartment), heated seats and outside mirrors, sliding armrest and Bluetooth short-range wireless connectivity with voice recognition.
Then there are a couple of option packages that bundle a panoramic sunroof, leather seats and other trinkets into one group while putting dual-zone climate control, a navigation system and a rearview camera in another.
Selecting a handy-dandy hatchback and sprinkling it with some performance-like attitude seems like a tempting way to go about your business. That especially applies to the Elantra GT, which also thumbs its nose at gas pumps while toting life's treasures, human and otherwise. And don't forget a shot of Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture to help wash it all down.
What you should know: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact hatchback
Engine (hp): 1.8-liter DOHC I4 (138)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: With the addition of the GT hatchback to the fleet, the Elantra now offers a trio of models, matching the Kia Forte for range size.and creating one more enticement for compact car buyers to consider the Hyundai brand.
Points: Good looking model displays Hyundai's design prowess; Standard four-cylinder engine a zippy performer, helped by GT's lightweight construction; Stylish interior a cut above some other competitors; Fuel consumption is about average for this class; Excellent passenger, cargo space; GT won't dominate segment, but should post strong sales.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver's knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 28/39
Base price (incl. destination) $19,200
Base price: $20,500
A solid performer from an automaker that practically invented hatches.
Ford Focus hatchback
Base price: $19,000
Roomy, good-looking model offers powerful I4 and impressive handling.
Kia Forte 5-Door
Base price: $19,000
Hyundai-owned brand does hatchbacks its way; offers two engine choices.