Hyundai has been taking on nearly every segment in the industry, from the luxury segment with its Genesis brand, to the mainstream SUV segment with a plethora of options. There is one segment that it has yet to make a big impact in – the hot hatch. The Volkswagen GTI still rules the segment, but Hyundai’s latest attempt with the Elantra GT may be its biggest effort yet to dethrone the iconic GTI.
For the latest Elantra GT, Hyundai rebadged Europe’s i30 to offer North American buyers an alternative to the popular GTI. With sportier sheetmetal, a 201-hp turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder and the versatile five-door hatchback layout, on paper the Elantra GT Sport has what it takes to put up a fight against the German favorite. But in the real world, can the Elantra GT Sport really compete against, not only the GTI, but even the Honda Civic Hatchback?
On the outside, the latest Elantra GT has a more grownup look than the last generation. It’s clean, sculpted exterior does away with the swoops and curves on the last Elantra GT. The Elantra GT now looks more serious, like the GTI, but does without the aggressive, somewhat polarizing look that Honda is going for with the Civic Hatchback. It’s look is more subdued, but at the front the cascading grille gives the Elantra GT an aggressive face that hints what’s under the hood.
With 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque, the Elantra GT Sport’s 1.6L engine packs more power than the Civic Hatchback Sport, but comes up a bit short compared to the updated 2018 Volkswagen GTI. The four-cylinder can be mated to either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The Elantra GT Sport is rated at 22/29 mpg with the manual and 26/32 with the dual clutch automatic. If you choose the standard Elantra GT, you’ll get a naturally-aspirated 2.0L with 160 horsepower and 151 lb-ft.
The Elantra GT Sport not only gets the better engine, but you get bigger brakes and a better multilink rear suspension in place of the torsion-beam on the base model. The Elantra GT Sport also gets a different steering setup, springs and dampers. But with all the upgrades over the standard Elantra GT, the Elantra GT Sport doesn’t attack the curves as well as the GTI. The steering doesn’t provide as much feedback as the GTI and Civic hatchback, plus its suspension allows for a bit more body roll than what’s expected in a hot hatch.
Inside the Elantra GT Sport is packed with features and has plenty of room for your friends and gear – one of the reasons why a hot hatch is one of the best all around cars, if you’re on a budget. The Elantra GT Sport comes standard with leather seats, heated front seats, an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and dual zone automatic climate control.
There is the optional Tech Package that adds a panoramic sunroof, navigation system, ventilated seats, lane keep assist, smart cruise control, an Infinity audio system and forward collision warning. The only bad thing is that the $3,850 Tech Package is only available with the seven-speed dual clutch transmission. At least you can get the top spec GTI with a manual.
While the 2018 Elantra GT Sport is a nice upgrade over its predecessor, it still comes up a bit short compared to the GTI and Civic Hatchback. It’s suspension is still a bit too soft and its steering is a bit too light. The 1.6L four-cylinder does have a good amount of power from a stop, but it’s not as enjoyable as the GTI’s 2.0L engine.
While the Elantra GT Sport may not pack as much “sport” as the GTI, it does have one thing that the GTI can’t compete with, a lower starting price. The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport starts at $23,250, while the VW GTI starts over $3k more at $26,415.