Driving

the peterborough examiner Thursday, June 29, 2017

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Elantra GT sees advancements

Driving.ca

First Drive: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

Derek Mcnaughton Driving.ca ESTEREL, Quebec ? Compact utility vehicles and SUVs might be taking over the world, leaving behind the once dominant compact car, but in certain corners of the country hatchbacks remain as popular as hot poutine in Quebec. Designed and tuned for the European market, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT almost didn?t make it to Canada because the United States wasn?t all that interested in the model until Canadian executives convinced them otherwise. Thankfully, someone had the good sense to know a hatch offers way more utility than a sedan, and hatches are way more fun to drive. Although it looks similar in front to the smart, new Elantra Sedan, the GT isn?t just a hatchback version with a fifth door slapped on the back. The GT gets a unique engine, a different wheelbase for a sportier ride, and an interior that?s more advanced than the sedan, complete with standard eight-inch colour touch screen. Now in its fourth generation, the GT?s design gives it a clear identity. With short overhangs in front and rear, an integrated rear spoiler and wraparound rear glass with dual exhaust on Sport models, the GT is now as sophisticated as its direct competitors, the Honda Civic, VW Golf, Mazda3 and Ford Focus. Looks mean nothing, of course, if the chassis, transmission and engine aren?t up to the job, but Hyundai has nothing to worry about here. Available in GL, GLS, Sport and Sport Ultimate, the GT comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder GDI engine in the GL and GLS that produces 162 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. That?s slightly more than the base engine in the sedan. As with the sedan, stepping up to Sport models brings a turbocharged 1.6-L engine, outputting 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Oh, yeah. Both engines are willing partners in the GT, the 2.0 L feeling only a smidgen underwhelming when passing and climbing hills. Thankfully, all models except the Sport Ultimate come with a sixspeed manual that can wring the most from each engine. The manual might not shift with the authority of a Mazda MX-5, but the clutch is easy to modulate and the shifter slides easily into all six slots. While the optional six-speed automatic doesn?t come with paddle shifters on base models, the automatic isn?t disagreeable because it has a proper manumatic mode. Unfortunately, Sport models have gone to an electronic parking brake instead of a hand brake, and the Sport Ultimate only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters. We didn?t sample this dualclutch, but it?s odd the highest-end model with all the safety equipment and navigation only comes with the one automated gearbox. In many ways, it doesn?t matter because Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the lineup, as are heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Stepping up to the Sport, however, appears to bring the highest value ? and certainly the most fun ? with comfortable leather sport seats with good lateral support, some red accents in the interior, as well as full LED lighting and LED taillamps, too. The thing we?d miss most by choosing a Sport over the Ultimate is the Infinity sevenspeaker sound system with amp. The real benefit of the Sport, of course, is its 1.6-L turbo, which exhibits none of the shyness felt with the 2.0 L. Drop the clutch in the Sport and the tires on 18-inch wheels will squeal to redline in first gear. Punch the throttle exiting a corner and torque steer will rear up through the steering wheel. Unwind this delightfully smooth little engine through whatever winding roads are available, and the balance of chassis, engine power and transmission turns ordinary drives into the stuff that makes anyone who enjoys driving want to go out and do it again and again. Steering is gently weighted, if not overly generous with feedback, but it manages to negotiate tight turns with pleasing accuracy, like an experienced dance partner who knows exactly when and where to step. The front-engine, front-wheel-drive architecture can make the rear feel a little light when hitting an apex too fast, and the tires could use a bit more grip in the Sport, but the GT delivers way more punches than it receives. The brakes felt strong and sure (the Sport gets bigger rear rotors). More interior noise was detected in the Sport compared with the GLS, though most of it seemed to come from the tires. That interior felt a little dark with a black headliner, but a twotone liner in lower trims brightens things considerably, as does the full, panoramic sunroof on GLS models and up. The 2018 Elantra GT also debuts Hyundai?s ?BlueLink Telematics,? linking your car to an app on your phone and allowing you to start the car remotely, set the climate, and lock or unlock the vehicle. It will also ensure it?s locked if you forget, as well as find your car and send an alert if you are in a collision, similar to GM?s OnStar. Hyundai will not charge for the service in the first five years. Equally satisfying is the ample cargo space in the GT. At 705 L with the seats up, that?s more than the Golf and Focus but less than the Civic. With the seats down, there?s enough space to match an Audi Q5. All this explains a lot about the long-running narrative of hatchbacks like the GT. While everyone is rushing to CUVs for the space they provide ? and giving up driving dynamics in the process ? the hatchback soldiers on for those who know what kind of utility they provide while still being a hoot to drive. The 2018 Elantra GT does just this, and does it extraordinarily well, packing in a lot of standard equipment on models between $20,000 and $30,000. Which is a lot like getting gravy and cheese with your fries.

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