The 2018 Elantra GT is effectively the European version of the Elantra, brought to the US and only lightly modified to fit the market. The GT Sport adds the goodness of turbocharging to the generally underpowered GT base model. We spent a week with this fun hatchback and were pretty impressed.

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is the hatchback version of the Elantra sedan. At least on paper. In reality, it's a wholly different vehicle as it's the European-market Elantra i30 brought to the US. This means it has a different interior, different handling characteristics, and some changes to its exterior when compared to the sedan. Intact are the things Hyundai is known for, such as ergonomic drive controls, good technology options, and smart fuel economy.

The base model 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 161 horsepower (120 kW) to the front wheels. Six-speed manual or automatic transmission are available. This engine is underpowered for the hatchback and returns lackluster fuel economy as well. We drove the 2018 Elantra GT Sport model, which upgrades several things to make the car far better.

The Sport comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that outputs a more useful 201 horsepower (150 kW) to the same six-speed manual transmission option, as we drove it. An upgrade to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available. The Sport package also upgrades the rear suspension with sport tuning to add a more robust drive quality and adds larger brakes for better stopping power and cornering control.

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT comes standard with keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone climate control, LED headlamps, and sport-themed gauges that are easier to read. Several options such as a panoramic sunroof, ventilated seating, navigation, and so on are available for the GT Sport.

Our greatest beef with the 2018 Elantra GT is in its styling. The exterior is smart, but a bit everyday when compared to other hatchbacks in the segment. The Elantra GT looks, in fact, a lot like the Ford Focus wagon or the Honda Civic hatch. Some of this comes from its Euro-styling, which the others mentioned share. We'd like to see something more unique like the Mazda3 or Subaru Impreza hatches. Especially at the front end.

Where it shines, though, is in the interior. The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport has a beautifully-done interior for the price point. Much of this comes from its European roots, which bring a dynamism you won't see in the standard Elantra. Controls are well-placed, but legroom is extended, the dashboard is lifted for more knee space, and the whole front portion of the Elantra GT just feels more airy and organized.

Seating in the 2018 Elantra GT Sport is comfortable and well made, though the thigh bolsters can be a bit thick for those of us made for long winters. The rear seating is excellent thanks to the more square roofline and door openings, making getting in and out of the back row far easier. The seats are good for three across, though the size of the Elantra GT means those three will have to be kids as it's a tight squeeze to put more than two adults in the back.

Cargo space is good, maxing out at 55.1 cubic feet (1,560 liters) with the rear seats folded. The rear hatch opens tall to allow easier access to the cargo space and the optional cargo cover removes fairly easily when bulkier items are being loaded.

The Elantra GT comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. We like Hyundai's menu system with its large virtual buttons and simple interface controls. Navigation is good as well, but a plugged-in phone casting via Auto/CarPlay is far better. Redundant hard buttons for major menu items such as radio and nav are to either side of the screen, making jumping around easier.

Another shining point is its drive quality. The GT isn't a race car, despite its name, but it's definitely engaging. It feels solid when driven, responds quickly, and the multilink rear suspension in the Sport model adds a lot to the ride quality. The little engine is fast to respond and the manual transmission offers smooth shifting and a little more fun factor to the car.

For the price being paid, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT is a good hatchback at a mere US$16,850 but the Sport model is far superior and worth the extra four thousand (base price $20,750).

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