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Stylish hatchback is all about practicality

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The GT was developed for Europe and shares many parts with the Elantra sedan.

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POSTED October 17, 2012 7:18 p.m.

I had to temper the enthusiasm of friends when they asked about the Hyundai Elantra GT I was testing. “Ooooh, GT, sounds nice!” was their frequent response. “Yes, but ...” was mine.

The automotive term GT sets an impression of fast and sporty. And while the Elantra GT was developed for Europe, its focus is practicality and easily arranged space.

It’s not a GT of speedy driving excitement, but it does stick to the road better than the new Hyundai Veloster Turbo. And Hyundai considers the GT a five-door Veloster.

There is one GT trim level with just two option packages. Pricing starts at $20,170, including the freight charge from Korea. The test car was $25,365 with options and most of those extras would have been luxury-class delectables not too many years ago.

One unique reflection of its European influence is a steering wheel with selectable modes: normal, sport or comfort. I preferred comfort over the stiffer sport.

The standard equipment is thorough: remote locking, fog lights, air conditioning, hands-free phone connection with voice recognition, BlueLink for smartphone app features, power windows, power mirrors and seven air bags.

The 145 horsepower, 1.8-liter four cylinder gets 28 miles per gallon around town and 38 on the highway with the six-speed Shiftronic transmission or 27/39 mpg with the six-speed manual. (In states without California’s clean-air standards, the horsepower is 148, but the fuel economy is the same.)

There is good scoot off the line, but the engine can sound noisy when pushed for hard acceleration. The six-speed Shiftronic seems programmed for fuel economy and there is an Eco mode which further blunts performance. Hyundai says Eco can improve mpg by 7 percent. There is no Sport mode, which would have put just enough edge to the performance. But there’s always room for a Turbo GT model down the line.

Braking is quite capable from four-wheel discs, 11-inch vented rotors front, 10-inch solid rear.

The front-wheel-drive Elantra GT has seats for five and a 60/40 folding back seat. The driver has a raised seating height and good sightlines over the hood. Over-the-shoulder views are a little complex, but the rearview camera removes the stress of backing. There is appealing cabin design and integration of vents, controls, power plugs and Aux-iPod-USB port. The visors have extenders and covered, lighted mirrors. A stitched leather dash hood above the gauges is unexpected but nice. Perforated leather (part of the style package) is smart for air circulation. There is a center armrest with sliding top to fit a range of driver sizes.

The optional panorama roof is cool, particularly from the back seat, but it gets blustery above 45 mph when open. The sunshade can be powered back without opening the glass, which is a nice detail ... for a car in this price range.

The back seat area seems roomy with raised seating, three head restraints and a fold-down armrest with cup holders. The seatback angle is comfortable and there is good foot room. All passenger doors have an overhead grab handle, the back seat grabs also have coat hooks.

The cargo area is spacious with 23 cubic feet of space or 51 with the seats folded, which do not fold flat. There’s also some subfloor storage and below that a space-saver spare.

There is a lot happening in a small space in the Elantra GT and with the right options it has personal reward at a mainstream price.

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