This year, Hyundai relaunched its Elantra GT -- the replacement for the slightly larger Elantra Touring. Winning the award for Best New Small Car over $21,000 from AJAC, the Elantra GT is designed using Hyundai’s Fluidic Design style, giving it the appearance of motion, even while sitting still.

The starting price of the Elantra GT is $19,149 and can go up to $26,349, excluding freight and taxes.

I was given the range-topping SE TECH Auto model to evaluate. Powered by a 148HP, 1.8L 4-cylinder engine paired up with a 6-speed automatic, the Elantra GT is a city car with highway ambitions. 

Safety-wise, the Elantra GT comes equipped with seven airbags, ABS, and traction control, just to name a few safety features. 

Hyundai says the Elantra GT can do 7.6L/100km in the city, 5.3L/100km on the highway and 6.6L/100km combined. I’m sure it can achieve those numbers, but with snow tires equipped on my tester - I was able to get 8.2L/100km in the city.

On a 480-km highway trip from Kingston, I was able to get 8L/100km.

During my regular commute – a 382 kilometer combined trip – I was able to only get 9.1L/100km. That was with both the cabin heater and seat heater switched on - and keeping up with stop-and-go Highway 401 traffic.

Over the years, Hyundai has improved its vehicle quality inside and out. And the Elantra GT is no exception.

The demo vehicle came equipped with leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, dual zone temperature control, auto-dimming mirror, panoramic sunroof, reverse camera, Sirius XM Radio, and a touch screen navigation system to name a few features.

Basically, it came with everything you’d find in a pricey competing model, but configured more affordably in the Hyundai.

With the exception to the logo on the steering wheel, it was tough to find anything that reminded me that I was in a Hyundai.

The car’s cabin was well-appointed. The heated front seats were very comfortable, and even during my long highway test drive I wasn’t exhausted from the drive – as some compact cars can make you.  

The controls were within easy reach of the driver or the passenger – though I did find that the audio controls on the dash were a bit of a stretch when driving. Thankfully, this specific model was configured with audio controls on the steering wheel, so I didn’t have to deal with the dash-mounted buttons.

And speaking of audio system, the stereo in this car is very good and the touch screen is amazing.

I’ve used touch screen systems in cars before, and most of the time the buttons on the screen are too small to do anything. But not this one.

The buttons are not only in easy reach, but are also large enough that you don’t need to use your pinky finger to choose your destination or your radio station.

The navigation system is a very easy to use and up-to-date. From programming your destination to adjusting the volume of the navigation voice, you did not need to have a computer science degree to understand how to get things done.

And the seven-inch touch screen doubles as your screen for the hidden reverse camera that is only available on this trim level. The camera is great during all types of light.

In the dark, I was able to see what was behind me quite clearly, and the camera wasn’t blinded by the sun during the day.

As an added touch, the camera is actually hidden behind the Hyundai logo on the hatch – so it will never get covered in road grime in the winter – unlike the exposed cameras competitors.

However, the motor that turns the logo around is loud and distracting whenever it’s called upon to reveal or hide the camera. It’s something you get used to very quickly and eventually it becomes just background noise.

The Elantra GT SE Tech Auto’s panoramic sunroof was one of the first things that passengers noticed when they got into the car.

And if you didn’t want the sun to be beating down on your passengers -- or yourself for that matter -- you just hit a button by the mirror and activated the sunshade. It closed off the entire sunroof, making the ceiling it look like any normal compact hatchback.

Figuring out the controls for the sunroof was a bit of a trick. There were two buttons that controlled the shade by itself, and also the sunroof button that controlled both the sunroof and the shade. So sometimes, when I meant to open up the sunroof, I’d end up closing the sunshade. This process did reveal, however, that the shade could be stopped halfway, so that you could still have the sun shining in the middle of the car, but not beating down on the driver’s head.

The seating capacity is rated for five passengers, but it could only hold four comfortably. You could do five, but only for a very short distance.

The rear seats aren’t as comfortable as the front, and sitting in the back, the headroom isn’t as high as it is in the front, so you might not be comfortable if you are over six feet. That being said, when I did have four other adults in the car, the little engine didn’t even feel like it was struggling.  

Packing this car is like any other hatchback. You can load in several hockey bags in the back, with the seats up, and still have room for a potted plant. The rear seats fold flat like in any other car, and you’re able to go to the build-your-own furniture store without having to rent a truck to pick up the larger items.

Pretty standard.

Except its not. The Elantra GT has a little secret. Where all other compact cars you can fold only the backs of the seats down, the Elantra GT’s rear seat bottom can also be moved to be flush against the backs of the front seat, and with the simple removal of the rear-seat headrests, you soon end up with a completely flat cargo area – an almost truck-like capacity. Not even the Elantra Touring – the station wagon Elantra - had that ability

Through the city, the highway or the suburbs, the Elantra GT handles well. The steering is very quick to respond to your inputs and the car goes where you want it to go. 

One of the features that no other car that I’ve driven has is what Hyundai calls “Flex Steering.” This feature allows you to adjust the resistance of the steering wheel, by simply pushing a button on the steering wheel. So if you wanted it to be really quick, you could set it to Comfort Mode, if you wanted it to be a little tougher, you’d set it to Sport Mode, and if you wanted to be like a normal car, you’d set it to Normal Mode.

Normally I drove the car in Normal Mode, but on my trip out to Kingston and back, I set the car to Sport Mode, which – though – didn’t adjust anything in the suspension, made it easier to drive the car on the highway, allowing it to be more planted and offered less resistance to the ruts on the 401. But you should remember to turn it back to Normal Mode the moment you get back onto the highway, because the moment you turn the wheel, at a green light, you will find yourself having to turn a little harder than you normally would, almost giving you the impression of driving a car without power steering.

The acceleration, though not as peppy as I liked, was good for the car. It responded when I needed the speed, and kept it going as I passed slower-moving vehicles. And the de-acceleration is very good too. As long as you kept a good, safe distance between you and the car ahead of you, you can keep that distance just by simply releasing off the gas, and letting the engine slow the car down – so though you’re not driving a standard, you almost are. And even with the car equipped with its winter tires, the road noise was practically non-existent, which is very surprising for a compact car – it was almost luxury car-quiet.

Hyundai has done a great job on this car. The standard features they have included put it into the top of its market, but the price keeps it in the middle.

The Elantra GT is designed and intended for those who want the top-of-the-line competitor, but can’t afford the top-of-the-line price.


Fast Facts:

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Type: Compact Hatchback
Price Range: $19,149 - $26,349
Engine: 1.8-litre, 4 cylinder engine
Horsepower: 148 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual/6 Speed Automatic
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Competitors: Mazda Mazda3 Sport, Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, Ford Focus Hatchback, Toyota Matrix, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback, Kia Forte5, Subaru Impreza Hatchback, Suzuki SX4