That’s the lead-in to several Elantra GT reviews. Lets be honest, GT is the automotive equivalent of quartz movement – a vague marque designed to generate desire. No one really knows or cares what it actually means.
While the GT handles better than any other front-wheel-drive car in Hyundai’s lineup, the car is plagued by a lack of torque, an overly-engineered rear-view camera and a loud panoramic roof.
InsideThe Elantra GT does a wonderful job of implementing KISS: Keep It (Infotainment) Simple, Stupid. As someone who has to live with MyFordTouch, I appreciate Hyundai’s well-conceived and responsive in-dash experience.
The GT’s tech isn’t groundbreaking. It offers what has commonly become standard Infotainment Can-Do (BT streaming, XM, Pandora, Navigation, etc.). The real pleasure of the system is the speed at which it responds and the logic behind the hard buttons and user interface. It’s fast, physical and was designed for human use.
For example: Say you are following a route using the navigation system. If you press the VOICE button the system will repeat the last direction. The MAP button shows you the current map. If you press DESTINATION you are provided route options. The kicker – these are HARD/TANGIBLE/REAL buttons. No need to scroll through an onscreen catalogue of sub-menus trying to push pinky-sized buttons.
Automotive reviewers mention and applaud Hyundai’s use of hard buttons, yet they overlook the fact that they are activity specific and not just ‘general’ buttons (i.e. menu, radio, navigation). It’s almost as if the engineers sat down with humans inside of a car to develop their infotainment system. Bravo, engineer. Bravo.
Voice activation still requires the use of pre-established command prompts. Automakers have yet to produce a voice command system that can compute natural in-car demands. “Navigate to Capitol Hill and find a Starbucks along the way” will likely result in a system response such as “You can say HELP at anytime…”
Unfortunately I didn’t use the Blue Link system in the GT, therefore I cannot comment on its performance.
Vacancies posted on Hyundai’s career website indicate the brand is working on efforts to better explain the value of Blue Link to consumers. I’m skeptical of any in-car concierge system and their long-term viability. There is value in the safety monitoring and reporting aspect of these systems, but smartphones continue to offer easier and faster ways to get information making a concierge somewhat redundant.
The GT’s infotainment system does have shortcomings. Most notably – the rear-camera (more on that later) and the cost, $5,100.
Yes. Info-Nav-Tainment on GT will cost you over five thousand dollars. To equip the GT with the smart screen you select TECH PACKAGE ($2,350), but to add TECH PACKAGE, you must also equip the vehicle with the STYLE PACKAGE ($2,750).
The ‘engineered for consumers, packaged for profitability’ trend is alive and well with this Hyundai. For 2013 you can now select a “value-minded package” for the Elantra GT, the Touch & Go Package (details below):
The inside of the GT is unexpectedly spacious. The dash doesn’t protrude into the occupant’s knees or sternum like competitors in its class do (see Ford Focus). The seats sit low giving the interior more height and a more open feel. The chairs are mildly bolstered and are wide. They are comfortable, heated and felt great during my 150-mile drive. The seats will appeal to all body sizes and meet most drivers’ needs.
During a few GT-like maneuvers my butt slid from one edge of the seat to the other. The driver’s seat could benefit from the addition of a non-slip material to keep drivers planted during more spirited driving.
Since we’re on the topic of maneuvering I need to comment on the steering wheel. Size-wise, the wheel is great. The rim’s girth is inviting. Once you’ve wrapped your hands around it – all preconcieved notion of pleasure goes out the window. The wheel is hard. Imagine wrapping a lead pipe in a thin layer of stingray skin, bending it until it forms a circle and then mounting it into a car. I enjoy a slight amount of squish when I squeeze my steering wheel. While Hyundai nailed the circumfarence and girth (not sure that is the proper word, but I’m going with it) – they failed to offer any padding or preferoation on the wheel.
Now that I’ve beat the wheel itself to death, lets talk about how well it works.
The GT offers three steering settings – Comfort, Tour and Sport. For this car, this is overkill. The car needs but two steering options – Comfort and
Sport Racecar! OK, maybe ‘Racecar is a bit much. The great part about this system is you do notice a significant change in the feedback/resistance of the steering wheel when switching between Comfort and Sport. Handling is really where the Elantra GT shines. The extra ‘weight’ in the steering wheel when set to Sport provides the driver very good feedback, while Comfort makes for effortless work during more mundane scenarios like parking, driving not on a racetrack, etc.
My test vehicle was equipped with the optional panoramic roof (part of the $2,750 STYLE PACKAGE). The roof makes the cabin feel even roomier. A word of warning, opening the panoramic roof in the GT is loud. Avoid operating the mechanical skylight if you have a sleeping baby in the car. It will wake him or her up (lesson learned). The glass roof sounds like its mechanics were lifted directly from a Cold War missile silo. Visually, both inside and outside, the roof is impressive. The natural light gives the interior a midsize sedan feel.
On the road
Once moving the Elantra GT handles astonishingly well. The difficultly is compelling the 2,784lb vehicle to those speeds (even legal ones) with the sluggish underpowered 1.8L engine. I had to adjust my driving behavior to accommodate for the lack of torque. That meant I spent a lot more time waiting to pull out into traffic and took extra precaution when merging onto the freeway.
Thankfully the car on loan to me was equipped with a six-speed manual. I say thankfully not because I detest automatics, but because the GT is that underpowered. Having a manual allowed me to push the car further in each gear. I found myself near redline every time I got behind the wheel.
To be fair Hyundai doesn’t call the GT fast or quick. They simply say it is efficient and engaging – both of which are true. The car handled fantastic and averaged 32mpg in mixed driving (high revving / highway). Yet the GT yearns for a more powerful engine – even at the expense of lower fuel economy. I know, typical car guy. “Give it MORE POWER!” he says.
Make it stop!
Under ‘Functionality and Flair’ of the Elantra GT’s webpage, Hyundai boasts of the GT’s “hidden rearview camera.” And it is true, your eyes will never know it’s there…but your ears will beg you to stop using it.
When you shift the Elantra GT into reverse the screen beeps, followed by a long, brash mechanical sound that can be heard over the radio and passengers. That sound is the rearview camera becoming un-hidden.
The GT’s “hidden” camera system is pointless and should be replaced with a fixed system. My grandfather’s adage “less is more” seems appropriate here.
Like I said earlier, the GT’s handling is more rewarding than its sportier-looking cousin, the Veloster. Give it an extra 100ftlb of ummph and a rear-view camera that doesn’t involve moving parts; this car will win over anyone in the market for an affordable fun compact hatch.
While the current Elantra GT doesn’t compete with performance hatches like the GTI or Focus ST, it’s only a few tweaks away from being a contender in the world of Front-Wheel-Drive performance hatchbacks (Elantra GT R-Spec?).
Mazda and VW should be worried. If Hyundai improves the GT during its mid-cycle refresh (i.e. take all my advice), the GT could end up shoulder-to-shoulder with the Japanese and German hatches in a publication’s Hot Hatch Shootout.