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More doors, more space and more luxury features
With the introduction of the Elantra GT, Hyundai joins a growing list of manufacturers launching five-door sport hatchbacks.
Mazda is already in the market with its Protegé5, while the Ford Focus ZX5, Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix are on their way. These well-equipped compacts are designed to appeal to a younger audience that wants a sporty car with lots of utility, but without the considerable expense of a sport-utility vehicle.
We had the opportunity to see and drive the new Elantra GT at a press preview held in Toronto last month.
The Elantra GT is based on Hyundai’s Elantra sedan, which was completely redesigned for 2001. The GT is the same length, width, height and wheelbase as the sedan and uses the same 140-horsepower, 2.0 litre DOHC engine and five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional.
While additional carrying capacity – 801 litres of cargo space behind the front seats – is one reason buyers might consider the GT, another is the level of equipment and features that only the GT offers. Standard equipment on the GT includes everything available on the well-equipped Elantra VE
sedan, such as cruise control, power windows and doors, air conditioning, power heated outside mirrors and deluxe cloth seat trim. To this the GT adds a purple illuminated instrument cluster by VDO, trip computer, six-speaker AM/FM/CD player, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob and remote keyless entry with alarm.
Mechanical enhancements include Michelin P195/60R-15 tires on alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes and a firmer “European” suspension.
If this isn’t enough, buyers can opt for a premium package that includes leather seats – rarely seen in this class of vehicle – power sunroof and antilock brakes with traction control.
With Hyundai’s reputation as a company that offers more car for less money, it should be no surprise that the Elantra GT will likely be the value leader in the new five-door compact segment as well. The Elantra GT will retail for $18,495, or $20,495 if you choose leather, sunroof and ABS.
Attractive alloy wheels, black body side mouldings and a bold black grille insert give the Elantra GT a more sporty appearance than its four-door family sedan sibling. A light clutch and smooth shifting five-speed manual transmission encourage spirited driving. And the firmed-up suspension helps the GT get around the corners better than the softer sedan.
It’s a quiet running car as well, almost too quiet. No burbling exhaust note. No raucous engine noises penetrating the well-insulated passenger compartment. And while the 140-h.p. four-cylinder pulls well, there’s no sense of effort. This is not an engine that is eager to rev, but
it does provide deceptively good acceleration.
Our test drive car was a fully equipped GT with the premium package. It is unusual to find leather seats in this price range, but it did not feel out of place at all. It’s comfortable, feels rich and smells nice, and complements the heavily padded dash, leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather shift knob.
However, the instrument cluster is difficult to see (and the tiny trip computer digits impossible to see) because of light reflecting off the glass cover. And the aftermarket style radio with its minuscule buttons detracts from a well-appointed interior.
The market for GT-style sporty hatchbacks is expanding and Hyundai – usually late catching a popular wave (the Santa Fe SUV for example) – has been quick to capitalize. But adding a fifth door and sporty trim to a very formal, even rich looking four door sedan like the Elantra doesn’t significantly alter its conservative personality.
What Hyundai has done with the Elantra GT is give compact buyers the option of getting more for their limited money – more doors, more space and more luxury features.
The Hyundai Elantra GT went on sale in Canada August 1, 2001.