In the not-too-distant past, when friends and relatives asked for a recommendation on affordable but reliable cars, the answer, almost without fail, was “just go buy a Honda Civic.” Today, that answer (for us, anyway) has turned into “just go buy a Hyundai Elantra.” It offers up solid construction, great fuel economy, an unbeatable warranty if something does go wrong, and styling (both inside and out) that’s fresh, not just warmed-over from a few years back.
If the Elantra had a weakness, it was the lack of diversity across the model range. Only the sedan had been restyled (in “fluidic sculpture” form) in recent years, with the compact Elantra Touring wagon soldiering on from the previous generation. If you wanted a coupe or a hatchback instead of a sedan, you were out of luck, which reduced the appeal of Hyundai’s compact offering to a rather specific demographic.
Not any more, as Hyundai has recently introduced both an Elantra Coupe and an all-new Elantra hatchback, called the Elantra GT. Both new variants have distinct personalities, and as we all learned from Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way.
First, the Elantra Coupe is more than just an Elantra Sedan with two doors lopped off. The styling is a bit more evolved than the sedan, allowing the Coupe to stand on its own, design wise. Compared to the current Honda Civic Coupe, the two-door Elantra offers up a longer wheelbase and a wider track, which contributes to both handling and interior volume. It’s bigger than a Kia Forte Koup inside, too, and actually qualifies as a midsize car by EPA classification.
Using the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine found on other Elantra models, the Elantra Coupe serves up fuel economy rated at 40 mpg highway / 29 mpg city (with the six-speed manual gearbox) or 39 mpg highway and 28 mpg city (with the automatic). With a modest 145 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Elantra Coupe is best described as “somewhat sporty,” with the car’s real focus being on economy and value.
Don’t expect the Elantra Coupe to be a boring ride, however. The car is light, tipping the scales at around 2,800 pounds, which makes it feel livelier than the numbers would indicate and sportier than the Elantra sedan. Opt for the range-topping SE model, and you’ll get a sport-tuned suspension that adds to the entertainment value. With the six-speed manual transmission, the car provides more bang-for-the-buck entertainment than you’d expect in the Elantra Coupe’s price bracket.
There’s quite a bit of standard and available content, too, including Bluetooth phone integration and audio streaming; navigation; rearview camera; leather seating surfaces; dual-zone climate control with ionization; heated front seats and a power sunroof. Considering that the Elantra Coupe range starts at $18,220 and tops out at $21,520, we’d call that a lot of value for the money.
The real star of the Elantra lineup, in our opinion anyway, is the new Elantra GT. As with the outgoing Elantra Touring model, the Elantra GT is a “world car,” designed to sell in markets around the globe. It comes with slightly updated fluidic sculpture styling, which gives the car a more contemporary look than most hatchback competitors. We’d say that the car’s looks alone will draw buyers, and it only gets better when you climb behind the wheel.
The Elantra GT makes due with the same 1.8-liter Nu engine found throughout the Elantra lineup, but it manages to feel more engaging in the GT. The car’s weight isn’t significantly different from the Coupe, and both share the same gear ratios, yet the GT somehow feels stronger and sportier. Perhaps its the car’s Sachs dampers, or the adjustable ratio steering, but the new Elantra GT clearly punches above its weight in bang-for-the-buck entertainment value. We wouldn’t expect it to beat a Fiat 500 Abarth in an autocross, but it will still put a smile on your face and is a more practical daily driver.
Even fuel economy remains impressive, with the GT delivering 39 mpg highway and 28 mpg city, regardless of transmission choice. Buy it for fuel economy, and you get the added benefit of its entertainment value. Buy it for its fun factor, and you get the benefit of the car’s fuel economy; for compact hatch shoppers, it’s a win-win scenario.
Inside, the Elantra GT steps up its game with available features like a cooled glove box, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control with ionization. Pricing starts at $19,170 for the base model with a manual transmission, and tops out at $25,270 for an Elantra GT with the automatic transmission, Style package and Tech package. Given the level of content included, we’d call that a serious bargain.