Test Drive: 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT car test drives hyundai
Photo: Hyundai Auto Canada
click image to enlarge

by Greg Wilson

New for 2002, the Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback has twice as much cargo room as the Elantra sedan, but is available only as a top-of-the-line, well-equipped model starting at $18,495. The Elantra GT is noteworthy for its comfortable ride; quiet, roomy cabin; large, versatile cargo area; and well-equipped interior.



New Elantra GT hatchback is practical, but comes in top trim level only

It’s time to re-think your definition of ‘hatchback’. Cars like the 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT, Mazda Protege5, and VW Golf GTi are not your usual stripped-down, entry-level price leaders – they’re fully-equipped, sporty hatchbacks with premium price-tags.

The 2002 Elantra GT, priced at $18,495, is about $3000 more than the base Elantra GL sedan and about a $1000 more than the Elantra VE sedan. The GT’s higher price reflects a higher level of standard equipment including such standard features as air conditioning, power windows, AM/FM/CD stereo, alloy wheels, fog lamps, and keyless entry.

The Elantra GT, Protege5, and GTi are not alone in the premium hatchback segment. It won’t be long before Ford, Pontiac, Toyota, and Honda introduce their new premium hatchbacks: the Ford Focus ZX5, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Matrix, and Honda Civic SiR.


GT based on redesigned Elantra sedan

Test Drive: 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT car test drives hyundai
Photo: Grant Yoxon, www.Autos.ca
click image to enlarge

It was only a year ago that Hyundai completely redesigned the compact Elantra four-door sedan. The new Elantra GT hatchback model shares the sedan’s platform, suspension, engine, and transmissions, and has the same wheelbase, length, width and height.

From its nose to the rear door, the Elantra GT is virtually identical to the Elantra sedan but at the rear, the Elantra GT has a large hatch door which provides a larger trunk opening and a bigger standard cargo area. With 801 litres of space behind the rear seats, the Elantra GT has more than twice as much cargo room as the Elantra sedan’s 365 litre trunk. And with standard 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, the Elantra GT is capable of carrying tall or bulky objects such as furniture, TV’s, sports equipment, luggage, or other big items.

The standard 60/40 split rear seats allow two rear passengers to sit on one side while a long load, such as skis, can be carried on the other side.

Apart from its hatchback bodystyle, there are some differences between the Elantra sedan and the GT hatchback. For example, the GT has four wheel disc brakes instead of front disc/rear drum brakes, 6″ X 15″ alloy wheels instead of 5.5″ X 15 inch steel wheels, a different grille, black side mouldings, standard front fog lamps, and a rear wiper/washer.

Inside, the GT has a unique purple illuminated instrument cluster, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, trip computer, two tweeters, remote keyless entry and anti-theft alarm. In addition, the GT is available with some options that are not available on the Elantra sedan. These include leather seats, anti-lock brakes and traction control, and a power sunroof with sunshade.

There is one feature which the sedan offers that the hatchback doesn’t – pull-out rear cupholders.


Sporty 140 horsepower engine

Test Drive: 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT car test drives hyundai
Photo: Hyundai Auto Canada
click image to enlarge

Elantra sedans and hatchbacks share the same engine: a 2.0 litre four cylinder engine with twin overhead cams and four valves per cylinder which develops 140 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 133 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. This is comparable with other cars in its class, and a respectable figure for a car that weighs just 1265 kg (2789 lb.).

Acceleration is brisk if not exciting, and the rate of acceleration picks up in the higher rev ranges. With the manual transmission, 0 to 100 km/h goes by in under 10 seconds, slightly slower than the Elantra sedan – the hatchback model weighs 48 kg (106 lb.) more.

During acceleration, the engine emits an industrial-like growling sound, but settles down to a quiet hum at highway speeds. At a steady 100 km/h, I recorded an engine speed of just 2,300 rpm.

Fuel consumption, while not the best in its class, is reasonable: 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg) in the city and 6.5 l/100 km (43 mpg) on the highway.

The Elantra is more fun to drive with the manual transmission because the driver can choose shift points for optimal acceleration. The standard manual five-speed transmission provides easy, comfortable shifts – much better than the transmission in the previous generation Elantra. I also tried the automatic transmission which now includes ‘intelligent’ electronic control, and adjusts shift points to suit driving conditions – for example, by not shifting up when going down a slight grade. It’s very well suited to the engine.

The driver has good visibility to the front and sides – I liked the long rear side windows and the extra third side window which really help with shoulder-checking for a lane-change. However, I thought the rear deck was a bit high.

Test Drive: 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT car test drives hyundai
Photo: Hyundai Auto Canada
click image to enlarge

With a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts/rear independent multi-links/coil springs), front and rear anti-roll bars, and gas-filled shock absorbers, the Elantra exhibits excellent control on bumpy surfaces and switchback curves, and has a surprisingly smooth ride. The standard power assisted steering offers good feedback and ‘on-centre’ feel but I found the effort a little heavy at slow speeds.

Four wheel disc brakes are standard, and my test car had the optional anti-lock brakes and traction control system. For safety, I would recommend these options however they are bundled together in an option package which includes leather seats and sunroof – you have to buy the whole package.

Perhaps the best feature of the Elantra GT is its unexpected refinement. I say ‘unexpected’ because I expected the Elantra ‘GT’ to be more visceral, more aggressive, sportier, and less refined than the sedan. In fact, the Elantra GT is quiet on the highway, the ride is comfortable and smooth, and there’s a surprising lack of engine and road noise. In my opinion, the Elantra is more refined than the Protege5 and the Kia Spectra hatchback.

Depending on how you look at it, this can be a good or a bad thing. If you want a sporty driver’s hatchback that provides more sensory feedback, you may not like the Elantra GT. But if you want a comfortable, practical hatchback with a sporty edge, then you’ll probably like it.


Interior

The Elantra GT’s interior has sporty grey and black gauges and a soft-grip leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, but other than that, it’s not much different from the Elantra sedan. Some metal or wood trim would help spice it up a bit.

Test Drive: 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT car test drives hyundai
Photo: Hyundai Auto Canada
click image to enlarge

The cabin is roomy enough for four full-size adults – headroom and legroom are quite generous for a compact car. My test car had large, comfortable leather-covered front seats – the driver’s seat has a height-adjustable and tilt-adjustable seat cushion and lumbar support, and a tilt steering wheel, so it’s easy to find a good, comfortable driving position. The rear seat cushions, however, were a bit firm.

The quality of the interior materials is very good, and the design is not cluttered or busy. Useful features include a dual-level storage bin between the front seats, two open cupholders in the console and two bottle holders in the front door pockets. For storage, there’s an open bin in the centre console for CD’s, and a larger bin in the lower console.

Like many Asian cars, the headlight switch is a swivel-knob on the left stalk, and the wipers/intermittent wipers are on the right stalk. The power window buttons on the driver’s door are slanted towards the driver for easy use, but I noticed that the rear windows wind down only about 75% of the way. A separate stalk for cruise control is easy to operate with your fingers.

At the top of the centre stack is a button for turning traction control off – in deep snow, for example, turning traction control off will induce wheelspin which is sometimes more beneficial than no traction. There’s also a button for the rear wiper and washer, a very handy item for clearing the rear window of dew, frost or snow in the morning.

The standard Clarion AM/FM/CD stereo has a large luminscent digital readout, but the array of small, hard-to-read buttons are not user-friendly. The heater has three large dials for easy use: fan speed, temperature and ventilation controls.

Standard safety features include second-generation driver and passenger front airbags with a front passenger presence detection system which turns off the passenger airbag if a small child is sitting in the front passenger seat; five three-point seatbelts; front pretensioners with force limiters; four head restraints; child door locks, and child seat anchors and tethers. Side airbags are not available.

The rear hatch door is easy to lift up, and as I mentioned, the cargo area is about twice as big as the one in the Elantra sedan. A standard privacy cover keeps the contents of the cargo area out of site. The rear hatch locks and unlocks with the remote keyless entry fob.


Price and features

Test Drive: 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT car test drives hyundai
Photo: Grant Yoxon, www.Autos.ca
click image to enlarge

For $18,495, the Elantra GT includes the 140 horsepower 2.0 litre engine, 5-speed manual transmission, 195/60R-15 inch tires, fog lamps, AM/FM/CD player with four speakers, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, power (heated) mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering column, variable intermittent wipers, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, remote keyless entry, digital clock, rear wiper/washer and defroster, height-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Options are few. A 4-speed automatic transmission is $1,000 extra. A $2,000 option package includes leather seats, power sunroof, anti-lock brakes and traction control. Freight is $375. Fully-equipped, you’re looking at about $22,000 plus taxes.


Technical Data:

2002 Hyundai Elantra GT
Base price $18,495
Price as tested $21,495
Freight $350
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact hatchback
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.0 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 140 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 133 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (4-speed automatic)
Tires P195/60R-15 all-season radials
Curb weight 1265 kg (2789 lb.)
Wheelbase 2610 mm (102.8 in.)
Length 4495 mm (180.0 in.)
Width 1720 mm (67.7 in.)
Height 1425 mm (56.1 in.)
Cargo capacity 801 litres (28.3 cu. ft.) seats up
Fuel consumption City: 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg)
  6.5 l/100 km (43 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).