ROAD TEST: Let the sunshine in

Hyundai Elantra GT a bright light

February 14, 2013
by Emily Atkins

TORONTO—A panoramic sunroof does not banish the winter blahs, but it sure can make you feel happier about driving around in dreary weather.

The sunroof, while stunning, is only one of the many features that contributed to the 2013 Elantra GT winning the best new small car over $21,000 in the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Car of the Year awards. Hyundai has a real winner with the vehicle, and it’s one that fleet buyers will likely find popular with their drivers.

At a Glance
Specs as Tested: Elantra GT GLS Automatic

Body Style: 5-passenger, 5-door hatchback

Engine: 4-cylinder 1.8L

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy: City 7.6L/100km; Highway 5.3L/100km; Combined 6.6L/100km

Price: Elantra GT GLS Automatic Transmission $22,549

The car is very attractive. First impressions are of a sleek, sculpted shape with an aggressive stance. Both the front and rear views create the impression of speed and agility. The car looks sporty and stylish.

Climbing into the driver’s seat, that impression is reinforced with a well-designed cockpit and comfortable seating. The eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat has lumbar support, along with a good-looking fabric enhanced by detail stitching. The car’s somewhat deep dash is offset by its elegance, however, from an ergonomic standpoint, even with long arms this reviewer found it difficult to find a good place to locate a freestanding GPS unit that was both visible and reachable.

Storage options up front are good. The deep bin between the seats is welcome, as is a small cubby below the controls console. The odd cutouts facing into the driver’s and passenger’s footwells were large enough that electronics or other items could slide out during cornering, leaving the driver with a potentially dangerous Blackberry underfoot condition.

All round visibility in the Elantra GT is excellent. The car is easy to reverse, although removing the rear centre headrest makes it easier to see out the back window. The blindspot is negligible and the power mirrors make it easy to avoid needing shoulder checks.

The cockpit is well designed and comfortable.

Cargo capacity is impressive in the category. The cargo hold has 651 litres, and with the rear seats folded down the capacity increases to 1,444 litres. Hyundai engineers have once more introduced clever additions, with compartments under the rear cargo deck for smaller items. The cargo cover is a nice feature, and sturdy enough to place heavy items on. On the downside of that strength, however, the cover itself is awkward and heavy when it needs to be removed to accommodate large cargo, or when the rear seats are laid flat.

Rear passengers are well accommodated, with ample legroom and comfortable seating, including a fold-down armrest with cupholders. That greenhouse roof also makes the rear seats feel bigger than they are, giving those passengers a more open view and relaxing ride.

The car is quiet and refined on the road.

Driving the Elantra GT is a pleasure. It is remarkably quiet and refined on the road. The transmission is smooth, with seamless shifting in the automatic version tested. It handles well, offers decent acceleration, even at highway speeds and has an interesting steering adjustment feature on the wheel. The driver can select from three different modes that modify the assistance level of the motor-driven power steering in order to affect the way the car’s steering feels and responds. There’s a 20 percent difference in assistance between the two extremes of ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’ modes.

On the informal city speedbump test the Elantra was a tad loose, with more residual motion than many cars in its class. That may translate to a more comfortable ride over the long haul, but did feel a little floaty for city driving. A slightly stiffer suspension would be welcome.

The car comes with a complement of safety features including all-round disc brakes, stability control with traction control, keyless entry and alarm, and a full suite of airbags.