"At this price, it's hard to find fault with the Elantra GT."
Good: a spectacular deal, nicely loaded
Bad: lacks power

 


 

At $14,376 with leather seats, power windows and remote keyless entry -- not to mention a great warranty -- the Elantra GT is, above all, a spectacular deal. Combine that with the fact that it's a pretty nice car, and what's not to like? All of our minor criticisms, noted below, should be taken with this question in mind: What the hell do you want for 14 grand?

The Elantra GT is the five-door hatchback version of Hyundai's Elantra sedan. It's an in-between size; a little bigger than a Toyota Corolla, and a little smaller than a Camry. It fits in Hyundai's line up between the truly bargain-basement Accent and more cushy Sonata. Five-door vehicles like the Sonata GT (that's four doors plus a hatchback) are incredibly practical. You get rear doors to the passenger compartment so you're not contorting yourself to get the groceries or kids out. Plus you've got a hatchback with fold down rear seats, creating a cargo area the size of a station wagon's. This is a little car that does everything you need a car to do. It's a decent handling small car, with modest-yet-adequate power, a good ride, sufficient room inside, and, did we mention, a lot of amenities for 14 grand.

The GT has a cars.com target price of $14,376, including tax and destination charges, which is astoundingly low. At that price, do you have to pay extra for air in the tires or wiper blades? No. The GT is actually pretty nicely equipped, with air conditioning, side impact air bags, power windows and locks -- even leather seats. Yes, leather seats! And no, it's not squirrel leather. We checked. If you want antilock brakes, they're available only as part of a $1,175 package that includes a sunroof.


Driving Experience

There's only one engine available in the Elantra, a four-cylinder, two-liter engine that produces 140 horsepower. We would have liked a little more power when starting up from a stop but, in general, the output is adequate for cruising around town or at 70 mph on the highway. There's not much power in reserve under the hood -- if you're on a two-lane highway, you might want to think twice about trying to pass that Freightliner. But remember, you only paid 14 grand! And, you're sitting on leather seats!

For another 800 dollars, the optional four-speed automatic might give better start-up performance than the five-speed manual in the car we drove. We haven't driven one with an automatic yet; we'll report back when we do.

You wouldn't expect a luxurious ride in a car like this ... and you'd be right. But the ride is reasonably comfortable, and the Elantra soaks up bumps pretty well. Handling was very good, with nice, a firm steering feel. Out on the highway, the ride was smooth, stable and surprisingly quiet for an economy car.


Interior

For a small car, the Elantra has decent room inside. Shoulder, leg, and elbow room are fine, and there's enough headroom to accommodate even Tommy's hair styles. The interior is as big or bigger than the Toyota Corolla's in every dimension, and nearly as big as the Honda Accord's. The front seats turned in a good score on the tuchus-o-meter, too.

The GT is, as we mentioned, a five-door, meaning that each passenger gets a door, with a hatch in the back for loading up your garden gnome collection for a trip to the Antiques Road Show. If you have more stuff to carry, you can flip down the back seat to create a cargo area. For carrying people and cargo, the five-door body style is the ideal situation, in our humble opinion.

Hyundai has sprinkled the interior with little storage places, too. There's a small bin between the front seats, a medium-sized glove compartment, and hard bins on the front doors.

As we said, this is a well-equipped car. Besides the leather seats, side air bags and air conditioning, standard equipment includes power windows and mirrors, an AM-FM-CD player, a rear wiper, height-adjustable shoulder belts, a tachometer, a trip odometer, a tilt steering wheel, keyless entry and a remote hatch release. Not a big deal... until you remember that target price of less than $14,400.


Ergonomics

Most of the controls are pretty straightforward -- the climate controls are three round dials, and the window switches are on the arm rest, where they belong. Cruise control, which is standard on the CT, is mounted on a stalk off the steering column.

 


Styling

The Elantra GT has some of the same appeal of a Saab 9-3, in that it's different looking, but cool in it's distinctiveness. It doesn't look like every Tom, Dick and Camry. But all of our testers found the look pleasing.


Reliability

What do you care? Hyundai is putting its money behind the reliability of the Elantra with ten years or 100,000 miles on the power train, five years or 60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, and five years roadside assistance. If it doesn't hold up, they lose their shirts, you don't.

Of course, it's still inconvenient to break down. But there's reason to believe that reliability will be decent. Hyundai has come a long way since the days of the Excel, which mechanically was pretty good, but suffered from very poor body integrity. It began shedding vital body parts even before it could be driven off the dealer's lot. The Elantra GT feels very solid by comparison.


Maintenance

There's lots of room under the hood of the Elantra GT. As such, it will be easy (read: affordable) to service.


Overall comments

Five-door hatchbacks like the Elantra GT make a lot of sense, which may be why you're finally starting to see more of them on the showroom floor. In addition to the aforementioned Saab 9-3, Mazda is selling its Protege5, Kia has the five-door hatchback Rio, and Ford, Toyota and Pontiac are all getting into the act with the Focus ZX5, Matrix and Vibe, respectively. But excluding the Rio, which is really much smaller than the Elantra, not one of these vehicles is within $2,000 of the Hyundai's base price -- and that's before you begin adding options to bring them to the Hyundai's level of equipment.

We wish for a little more power from a standing start, but that's a quibble in a $14,000 car. We have to admit that at this price, it's hard to find fault with the Elantra GT.


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