Thursday, June 18, 2015

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT – Test Drive and Review

There are several reasons—in polar opposition to the AMG—a buyer would be looking at hatchbacks: value, fuel economy, hauling capacity, sporty driving, and up-to-the-21st century interior features that enlighten and brighten the commute.

I report to you that this sweet little Hyundai hatchback’s got attractive styling, ample engine power, a connected interior and room for stuff. However, other vehicles in this competitive category, such as the Mazda 3, VW Golf and the Ford Focus, now make this once-forgotten segment highly competitive.

Not much has dramatically changed for the 2016 Elantra GT. The front-end has a bolder design, 17-inch wheels are available, you can option a ventilated driver and passenger’s seat, along with tech features like next-generation nav with HD Radio and Apple Siri integration, remote start with climate control and destination search powered by Google.

This compact hatchback comes in one trim level with only a couple of option packages.  The standard features are impressive and include different steering modes, air conditioning with cabin filter, a 90-day trial of Sirius XM, Bluetooth, remote keyless entry with power locks, tilt and telescopic steering, power windows, heated front seats, 60/40 split fold down rear seats and more.  Just let’s say the vehicle is loaded for the money.

We took a steep climb up Bear Mountain, located about 50 miles north of New York City, and the Elantra’s effortless cornering on one particularly twisty road overlooking the Hudson Valley actually inspired some fun-to-drive enjoyment. This Hyundai is lighter than its competitors, and that helps to allow the suspension to work optimally.

The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder is one of the most powerful in the hatchback segment, producing 173-horsepower and 154 lb.-ft. of torque.  The fuel economy is less impressive, however, and returns 24-mpg during city driving and 33-mpg on the highway.

The GT comes standard with a manual transmission. Our tester, fitted with asix-speed automatic transmission, was smooth and nicely matched to the engine’s power and the steering behavior.

The cabin is airy, too. We were strangely captivated by the slight creases that frame the housing for the speedometer and tach gauges that, to our eyes, made the instrument panel look a bit like a cross-eyed frog. Aside from this endearing and amphibian-like touch, the cabin has a feeling of quality.

Our GT A/T came with both the Tech Package and the Style Package, which added a hefty $6,000 to the base price of $19,800.  The Style package ($1,975) includes features like 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, keyless entry and ignition, a power driver seat, and leather on the steering wheel and shift knob.

Also included isBlue Link, Hyundai's subscription-based telematics system that incorporates features like remote unlocking via a smartphone app, SOS emergency assistance, automatic crash notification and monthly vehicle health reports. Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system, which also provides services such as theft recovery, recall advisor and geo-fencing (allowing parents to set limits for teenage drivers), is optional.

The Tech package ($3,950) adds more goodies, like a panoramic sunroof, leather seating, LED taillights, rear-view camera, automatic headlights, dual temperature controls, navigation, and an upgraded Hyundai Blue Link which integrates Google destination search and Android (and eventually, Apple) smart watch compatibility..

The Elantra's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is showing its age, and while it is one of the most powerful in the segment, it is not as smooth or refined as some of its turbocharged competitors.

The cargo capacity with seats in place is 23 cubic feet; maximum cargo capacity is 51 cubic feet with the second row folded. That edges out entries like the Mazda 3, VW Golf and Ford Focus.  We found the seats to be well bolstered and comfortable.

Standard safety equipment includes ABS, front and rear head airbags, dual front side-mounted airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, driver knee airbag, remote anti-theft alarm system. It’s worth noting that the Elantra gets a five star overall safety rating from NHTSA. Then again, the Elantra lacks blind spot detection, one of the more significant recent additions to active safety –and something we hope Hyundai adds soon.

So where does that Mercedes-Benz fit into our experience with an economy-focused Hyundai hatchback? It just so happened that during our time with the Elantra, we had the chance to jump into a wide range of cars that covered a vast spectrum of automotive budgets. 

The drop-top Benz proved to be a stunner in terms of power and poise –which should have spelled trouble for anything else we drove. Except that even in this esteemed company, the more humble Hyundai could hold its head up high.

Hatchback shoppers would still be wise to look at some of the other entries we’ve listed in this review –not to mention other powertrain choices, ranging from diesel power to full electrics.  But as the hatchback market heats up, the refreshed Elantra GT remains a strong value-conscious and style-heavy contender.

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