2016 Hyundai Elantra GT review: Is the touring really grand?

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT

The letters “G” and “T” are among the most abused in the automotive moniker mien, specifically when they’re joined to form “GT.” That, of course, stands for “grand touring,” which evokes images of European motorcars of the ‘Thirties with long hoods, short cabins. Or maybe a sleek Euro coupe from the Sixties, with a V-12, fitted luggage and room for two people infinitely richer than you or I. Or even a Ford Mustang with a five-liter V-8.

But the 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT? Terminologically speaking, it’s an overreach. The Hyundai Elantra GT is a five-door hatchback version of the Elantra four-door sedan, and as much as we like that vehicle as a compact sedan, giving it a fifth door doesn’t elevate it to grand touring.

There are actually significant differences between the Elantra sedan and the Elantra GT—we’re tempted to say five-door or hatch but we’ll bow to its given name—and it starts up front. The Elantra sedan strives to be suave and debonair with a discrete and delicate grille treatment. But refreshed for 2016, the Elantra removes the U-shaped elements from the trapezoidal grille opening and replaces them with bright horizontal bars, giving the GT an aggressively sporty look it didn’t have before and distinguishing it from the Elantra sedan

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT interior

The 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT interior looks remarkably upscale for its price. (click to enlarge) .

The Elantra GT is also more compact than the sedan, almost a foot shorter, at 169.3 versus 179.1 inches in length. The wheelbase of the GT is only 104.3 inches compared to 106.3 inches for the sedan, significant as that sort of thing goes. It costs the GT a couple of inches of rear leg room for its ability to fit into tighter spaces and carry more cargo more easily.

Speaking of cargo capacity, it’s a major rationale for buying a hatchback, and for the Elantra GT vs. Elantra sedan, the GT wins hands down. Not only does it best the sedan with its back seat raised, 23.0 cubic feet against 14.8 cubic feet, put the back seat down and there’s room for 51.0 cubic feet for your outdoor sports stuff, supplies for your next kegger, and/or a month or two of laundry for Mom’s clothes washer.

The only shortcoming to the Elantra GT’s copious cargo capacity is that the load floor formed by the folded back seats isn’t flat, or anything close to flat. Boxes won’t fit together well. Maybe that’s why they invented laundry bags.

The 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT also differs from the Elantra sedan in that it comes in a single trim level. It’s available with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission regardless of other equipment, and the other equipment comes in two rather comprehensive bundles. One is the Style Package which includes 17-inch wheels, fog lights, power driver’s seat, proximity key with pushbutton start, Hyundai Blue Link telematics and Blue Link Connected Care, in addition to other features, for $1,975.

The other is the Tech Package. It includes a panoramic sunroof, leather seating, LED taillights, navigation system with HD radio and a seven-inch screen, rearview camera, dual automatic climate control and more, for a rather step $3,950.

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT cargo area seatback folded

The rear seatbacks of the 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT fold to yield 50 cubic feet of cargo capacity…but the lack of a flat floor could make loading difficult. (click to enlarge)

That’s in addition to a base price of $19,800, and for that, what one gets is hardly bare bones. Standard equipment for the Hyundai GT includes driver selectable steering mode (varies the power assist for the power steering), power heated outside mirrors, keyless remote locking, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise and audio, heated front seats and more. That’s the Hyundai tradition of a lot for, if not a little, not a lot.

That compares, of course, to the base Hyundai sedan, the SE, with a starting price of S17, 250. It doesn’t have all the neat stuff in the Hyundai GT, of course, but you can’t get a hatchback Hyundai Elantra for a lower price without the stuff either.

The 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT, for example, comes only with the 2.0-liter 173-horse four cylinder engine that’s optional with the sedan. The GT isn’t as a result blindingly fast—there goes some of the grand from the touring—despite the circa-3,000 lb curb weight, and adding a couple of passengers affects the light weight/modest power Elantra more than it would a heavier, more powerful car.

The automatic dulls somewhat the sporty feel of the Elantra GT. It’s a conventional automatic with conventional shift times and a conventional lack of manual shift control. Fortunately there’s the manual transmission for those who care. We do, but we were stuck with the automatic. There aren’t as many of us compared to those who prefer an automatic.

2016 Hyundai Elantra GT

The 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT with the optional alloy wheels from the Style Package. (click to enlarge)

Alas, the engine isn’t particularly melodic, and while it’s acceptably quiet at light throttle, revving out for maximum acceleration makes it sound strained. And maxxing out the acceleration account is something that will be done often, because keeping up with traffic means spending more time with the gas pedal on the floor.

But it’s a sophisticated engine, with direct injection that allows a higher than normal 11.5:1 compression ratio for increased power and efficiency. The engine also has dual continuously variable valve timing with a variable intake system for better engine breathing, and it is unusual in having “dished” pistons which Hyundai claims improves combustion efficiency. The engine is rated at 173 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 154 lb.-ft. of torque at a 4700 rpm, but tuned to provide useful torque at a low 1500 rpm. The torque peak spreads over a 4000 rpm to 5500 rpm, where many engines are running out of breath. Much of the time, however, it still works hard for its living.

Fuel economy, on the other hand, is excellent. EPA testing procedures put the Elantra GT at 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. We recorded 30.5 mpg overall in our hilly testing venue that typically kills mileage numbers, and we saw over 35 mpg on a highway run. Looks like Hyundai got a raw deal on the official fuel numbers. This is a GT, then, that has more grand at the gas station that on the road.