2016 Hyundai Elantra GT Tech
The new grille design transforms the look of the GT, tying it more succinctly to the rest of the Hyundai lineup that now offers a similarly styled hexagonal façade. At first glance it looks like an all-new design with four evenly spaced horizontal slats replacing the outgoing model’s curved upper and lower ribs and bisecting bumper cap, but other than this not much has really changed. The bumper cap is still there, albeit now hidden by two of those horizontal slats, while the overall grille surround is identically shaped and sized with only the edging, previously black, now done out in body-color. The standard projector headlamps, optional shark’s tooth fogs, and even the lower valance appear identical from last year to this year, and while the new grille insert looks different I’m undecided as to which looks better. I liked the old one a lot and I also like this one, and with change being needed I think they did a pretty good job maintaining a sporty character while infusing more current Hyundai DNA.
Optioned out GTs still feature turn signals integrated within their mirror housings, not to mention a gloss black rooftop that comes courtesy of a large panoramic sunroof, a bit more noticeable next to my tester’s Scarlet Red Pearl painted panels than it would be with Windy Sea Blue or Black Noir Pearl, while what initially appeared to be identical taillight lenses are now actually incorporating the curving lines of LED elements in the GT’s top trim package.
Serious Hyundai fans will note this particular GT’s twinned five-spoke 17-inch alloys are new too, and available as part of a $1,975 Style package that also adds those fog lamps and turn signals in the side mirror housings just noted, plus a sport-tuned suspension, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, a 10-way powered driver’s seat including powered lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, Blue Link telematics, hidden cargo area storage compartment, and more. Hyundai also added a $3,950 Tech package to my tester that first requires the Style package and includes the aforementioned LED taillights and panoramic sunroof while adding auto on/off headlights, simulated leather door inserts, perforated leather upholstery with ventilated inserts up front, dual-zone auto HVAC, and a large seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and a rearview camera. My tester even had an auto-dimming rearview mirror with embroidered carpeted floor mats and a Homelink universal garage door opener that come from the accessories catalog for $125 and $295 respectively.
You may not realize it, but Hyundai fully respected its performance fans with the GT’s standard and optional features packages. More often than not, manufacturers include automatic transmissions as standard when moving up in features, but Hyundai made it so you can get all the convenience, comfort, tech and performance goodies with the six-speed manual that’s not only more fun for enthusiasts to drive, but costs them $1,000 less too. That car lists for $18,800 before adding options, freight and dealer fees, but as it was Hyundai loaned me a fully optioned model with its six-speed automatic, priced out at $19,800 before options.
Fortunately the Elantra GT’s 16-valve, DOHC, 2.0-liter four-cylinder moves the car along quickly with the autobox. Thanks to dual continuously variable valve timing and direct-injection the engine makes a strong 173 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque, while manual shift mode does a good job of maximizing performance and giving greater control to the driver. This said I was a bit surprised not to find paddle shifters attached to my top-line tester’s steering wheel spokes, a feature that would certainly motivate performance enthusiasts that might have to share their car with others to kick out an extra G-note for the upgrade, and it’s not as if Hyundai doesn’t have a set or two in its vast global parts bin that it could retrofit to the Elantra GT.
The automatic’s gearshift lever is a nice bit of kit though, with a beautifully finished leather grip enhanced by aluminum-look trim and a glossy black cap, not to mention an upscale looking stitched leather skirt and a gloss black and brushed metallic surround, the entire design looking upscale while the shifter itself felt like a quality piece of equipment, nice to the touch and enjoyable to row through the cogs. It held its chosen gear through the corners unless the engine revs went too high, at which point it shifts automatically to avoid unnecessary abuse, giving a level of control that might not be as rewarding as a manual but is nevertheless a good compromise for those of us who need to commute in the real world, while the Elantra GT’s MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension performed quite well through the corners, an experience that was no doubt enhanced by those aforementioned 17-inch rims and more so the 215/45R17 all-season rubber wrapped around them, not to mention a 104.3-inch wheelbase that’s shorter than the sedan’s by 2.0 inches. Despite the shorter wheelbase it feels just as solid and planted at highway speeds, although I must admit the Elantra GT is most at home in the city where it provides great point and shoot performance along with excellent ride quality.
Enhancing the drive experience is the Elantra GT’s standard Driver Selectable Steering Mode (DSSM) with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings, which as the name suggests either makes steering feel and response less direct or more so, the former useful on the highway where less input is needed and the latter helping make it feel sportier through the corners. In reality I had absolutely no need for Comfort mode as my driving style leans to a more Teutonic setup most of the time (read: firmer), but the Sport setup helped give the GT a little more edge and that’s always appreciated in a sporty model.
As long as you’re not pushing it for all its worth the Elantra GT provides decent fuel economy at a claimed EPA rating of 24 mpg city, 33 highway and 27 combined with either the manual automatic. You can probably use some hypermiling techniques like short shifting via the manual or the automatic’s manual mode to eke out even better results, but most people should be ok shifting the manual normally and leaving the automatic to its own devices while they’ll also appreciate the GT’s requirement for cheaper regular unleaded.
Let’s not forget that the Elantra sedan and this GT have remained a top-selling duo because they satisfy the needs of their extremely loyal fans by delivering the attractive styling noted earlier and strong performance just mentioned, plus roomy interiors, impressive menus of standard and optional features, a longer than average basic warranty, and overall good value.
The warranty is covered in a single sentence so I’ll get it out of the way now: ten years or 100,000 miles of mostly bumper-to-bumper coverage and five year or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage; the “mostly” referring to items that receive their own separate warranties like batteries and tires. Speaking of the latter, the base Elantra GT gets a set of 205/55R16 all-seasons on steel wheels, this model a good choice for those who want to dress their car up with aftermarket rims, while the standard features list also includes projector headlamps, a rooftop spoiler, power locks and windows, powered heatable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise, premium cloth upholstery, driver’s seat height adjustment, heatable front seats, sliding center armrest, air conditioning, a six-speaker 172-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3/HD/satellite audio system with aux, USB and iPod connectivity, a trip computer, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and emergency brake assist, plus traction control, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, active front headrests, front seatbelt pretensioners and all the usual airbags including a blocker for the driver’s knees.
All of these features are incorporated into an extremely welcoming cabin with a gorgeous stitched leatherette shroud shading the primary instruments, a premium-quality soft-touch synthetic dash top as well as the same pliable plastic used for the door uppers front and back, plus nice padded leatherette door inserts and armrests, while the leather covered seats get contrast stitching and perforated inserts for a sporty look, good breathability and excellent overall comfort. Attractive glossy black and brushed aluminum-like trim brighten an interior that’s already airy and spacious thanks to that panoramic sunroof I noted earlier and larger than the average compact’s dimensions, while some of this segment’s nicer looking primary gauges, that are also large and highly legible no matter the outside light due to good backlighting and effective shielding, are joined by a useful if not slightly remedial multifunction display.
The infotainment system is particularly good, however, with bright, clear graphics and rich colors, plus a depth of utile functionality from the aforementioned navigation system, which worked flawlessly, to getting the best sound out of the audio system, setting up your Bluetooth connected phone or modulating vehicle settings. The rearview camera provided superb rearward visibility too, with a nice large, clear picture that made backing much safer. It’s all controllable via two rows of buttons that run down the sides of the display as well as within the touchscreen itself, while an interface just below services go-to audio controls as well as the auto HVAC system, complete with a large LCD display that gives a good readout of front driver and passenger temperatures, fan speed and the direction of ventilation. Two-way seat heater buttons are also included, and all of the switchgear on this panel as well as throughout the rest of the cabin is very well made from high-quality plastics that fit together nicely with good damping.
I mentioned that the Elantra GT is larger inside than most competitors and that’s true up front, for rear seat passengers, and under the hatch where 23.0 cubic feet of cargo space resides behind the rear seats and up to 51.0 cubic feet is available when the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks are laid flat. As mentioned there’s an optional storage tray under the cargo floor and while useful for small valuables or tools, it’s a shallow compartment with very limited applications.
Of course, it’s hard to complain when Hyundai keeps the price so low, especially while talking about a car that delivers on so many levels. On top of its great styling, strong performance and impressive features, last year’s very similar GT boasted an IIHS Best Pick award while the NHTSA gave this 2016 model a best possible 5-star safety rating. What’s more, J.D. Power and Associates has the Elantra tied for second with the Toyota Corolla in its latest 2015 Initial Quality Study (IQS), while the Hyundai brand ranked fourth best out of 33 total auto brands available in North America.
There was already a lot to like about the Elantra GT before its update, but now with a new grille design and some new features it’s even more appealing.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press