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Redesigned 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Speeds to the Border of GTI Territory

Turbocharged engine, independent rear suspension, hundreds of Nurburgring development laps hold promise

Volkswagen is the undisputed king of Pocket Rocket Mountain, and it has been for decades. If you’ve driven a Golf GTI or Golf R, especially lately, you understand why. Still, that doesn’t prevent competing automakers from trying to decode VW’s recipe and improve upon the result (at best), or mimic it (at worst).

With the debut of the redesigned 2018 Elantra GT, it’s Hyundai’s turn at bat. This time around, the company fortifies the new Elantra GT Sport model with a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine making 201 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, a choice between a 6-speed manual and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, and hundreds of laps of Germany’s Nurburgring Nordschleife to fine-tune the ride and handling.

Does this new Elantra GT Sport have what it takes? A drive will determine that. For now, all we’ve got is details.

Hyundai will build the 2018 Elantra GT in two flavors: standard GT and racy GT Sport. We’re talking about the GT Sport, the more powerful version that is going to be more fun to drive.

Exterior styling is expressive, bold enough to capture attention, but not over the top like the origami-inspired Honda Civic hatch. The whole car seems to lean forward over the front wheels, giving it an eager and aggressive stance that successfully masks the front-driver’s excessive front overhang.

Hyundai Elantra GT Sport cargo space
The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport holds as much cargo as a small crossover SUV.

Around back, the Elantra GT Sport resembles the Tucson crossover SUV, and in a good way. The hatch opens to reveal nearly 25 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the rear seat, and 55.1 cu.-ft with the rear seat folded down. Hyundai claims this is more than any other car in the segment.

The interior is large, too. Based on total interior volume, Hyundai expects the EPA to classify the Elantra GT as a full-size vehicle. That means you can use this as a family car, no problem. And while crash testing won’t be performed until after the Elantra GT Sport goes on sale, a 22-percent increase in structural rigidity, thanks to a vehicle architecture composed mainly of high-strength steel, sure is promising on the crash-protection front.

A long list of driver assistance and collision avoidance technologies intends to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. And if one does, and the Elantra GT’s Blue Link subscription is active, an automatic collision notification system can help speed rescuers to the scene. If you’ve got teenaged drivers in the household, Blue Link also provides speed, curfew, and boundary alerts to parents who wish to monitor driver behavior.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Blue Link Amazon Alexa
Hyundai introduces a new version of its Blue Link infotainment system, complete with Amazon Alexa integration.

Hyundai installs a new version of its infotainment system, too, featuring a large 8-inch touchscreen display flanked by real buttons and actual stereo volume and tuning knobs. It looks a bit strange, sitting on the dashboard above the air vents, but it’s easy to see, likely easy to use, and includes the full range of Blue Link services along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Oh, and check this out: Amazon Alexa is now integrated with Blue Link. That’s right. Instead of whipping out your smartphone and using the Blue Link app to remotely start your Elantra GT Sport on a cold winter day, just equip your house with an Echo or Dot and say: “Alexa, tell Blue Link to start my car at 75 degrees.” Then, supply the Blue Link PIN code, and the car will be all toasty warm inside, with the mirrors and rear window defrosted, too, when you’re ready to head for work.

Getting back to the point of the new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport, the company says that its engineers lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife hundreds of times in order to get the car’s ride, handling, and durability nailed down. In addition to more horsepower, more torque, and sporting transmission choices, the Elantra GT Sport trades the base car’s torsion beam rear suspension for an independent multi-link setup. Hyundai also upgrades the brakes, and the GT Sport sits on +1 wheels and tires.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Gray
The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport might not quite match the segment leaders in terms of performance, but this is nevertheless a compelling hot hatch.

Speedy Daddy Says…

Bars are set high in the sport compact segment. Whether we’re talking about the raucous Ford Focus ST and RS, the legendary Subaru WRX and WRX STI, or the sublime and sophisticated Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, any newcomer must meet lofty performance standards.

Given the specifications, I doubt the Elantra GT Sport belongs in the same company. But that doesn’t mean it is an inferior car. Style, real-world practicality, technological sophistication, and the undeniable allure of long roadside assistance and powertrain warranty coverage are important considerations, too.

And if driving enjoyment is injected into that equation, I’m all for it.

Photos provided by Hyundai for media use only.

By Christian Wardlaw

A driving enthusiast and father of four, I've got 25 years of experience working in automotive journalism. Currently, I contribute content to CarGurus, J.D. Power Cars and Kelley Blue Book. When I'm not working, I'm doing something fun with my family, preferably in Hawaii.

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