One is a perfectly normal hatchback with nice materials and modern technology that will get you from Point A to B with ease. The other is knocking on the door of being a hot hatch, offering a rewarding drive and cutting-edge technology in its segment.
The standard Elantra GT offers a pleasant driving experience, with a comfy ride, plenty of space for four tall-ish adults, and all of the available features one could possibly want. To keep the base MSRP below the $20,000 mark, it’s clear that Hyundai saved money in a few places such as a more basic torsion beam rear suspension, a less sophisticated, naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, and less standard features when compared to the Elantra GT Sport. However, in normal driving, we rarely missed the extra 40 horsepower and despite the less expensive suspension, the standard Elantra GT still rides smoothly and tracks arrow-straight, even on bumpy, pot-holed pavement. Heck, there’s even a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen for all of your music needs, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto!
For those wishing to add creature comforts, the Elantra GT offers no shortage of optional equipment, ranging from an $1,800 Style Package that includes things like Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist, heated front seats, dual automatic climate control, keyless entry and start, and a few other niceties like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 4.2-inch digital screen in the instrument cluster. At that point, you’ve got a comfortable, spacious, and fuel-efficient commuter car with pretty much everything you’d need for a hair over $22,000. Expect to pay an additional $1,000 if you want the 6-speed automatic transmission instead of the standard 6-speed manual.
However, if you’re looking for a little more style and flair, it’s worth considering the $4,300 Tech Package. It’s a bit spendy, but it includes things like navigation, a huge panoramic sunroof, a more powerful, 7-speaker Infinity audio system with a subwoofer, heated and ventilated leather seats, wireless smartphone charging, and 3 years of Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system. All told, you’d be hard-pressed to want much more from a car for $27,000. After spending a few days driving a loaded Elantra GT, I was left impressed by the clarity of the Infinity stereo and loved the open, airy feeling of the cabin with the absolutely massive panoramic sunroof that stretches almost the entire length of the roof.
That being said, everyone always wants more, right? That’s where the Elantra GT Sport comes in. Downsizing the engine to a 1.6-liter augmented with a turbocharger, the Sport puts out 201-hp, up from 161 in the Elantra GT. Torque also increases to 195 lb-ft from 150 in the GT. As mentioned before, in normal driving, you don’t really notice the extra power but find some open road and the turbocharged engine responds robustly to every action from your right foot. The small turbocharger doesn’t take too long to spool either, giving you a nearly instantaneous rush of power.
With the optional $1,100 dual-clutch transmission, you also get small paddle shifters mounted to the backside of the steering wheel for when you feel like taking control and shifting for yourself. For those who want maximum enjoyment from their Elantra GT or Sport, I’d recommend the light and quick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission for those who want a little more involvement from their car. The light clutch makes shifting a breeze, even in traffic. The revised multilink rear suspension and larger, 18-inch wheels also contribute significantly to making the Elantra GT Sport feel more nimble and agile, especially when carving between multiple corners. The only downside here is the additional road noise that gets introduced into the cabin from the tires.
As with the Elantra GT, there is a Tech Package available for the Sport as well. However, since the Sport comes with more standard features, the package price in the Sport drops to $3,850 while including a few more features like adaptive cruise control, Forward Collision Detection and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, as well as Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention Alert. Although I luckily didn’t get to test out most of the additional safety features in the Elantra GT Sport, I was impressed with the Lane Keep Assist feature. While it wasn’t always necessary, it was eerily effective, helping to keep me centered in my lane whenever I was distracted.
Both versions of the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT offer a lot of positive attributes and Hyundai has positioned themselves favorably against other compact hatchbacks like the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and VW Golf, offering more technology and luxury features, as well as a classic design inside and out that should age well. While a well-optioned GT would make a great daily driver, it’s hard to resist the sporty and playful nature of the GT Sport. While I loved the extra tech and safety features of the GT Sport, the purist in me says I would probably enjoy a base GT Sport with a manual transmission the most. However, it’s up to you to decide which Elantra GT fits your lifestyle the best.