What is it: Hyundai recently gave its Elantra compact sedan cleaner lines and updated powertrains, but now there's a compact hatchback in the form of the Elantra GT, available in two flavors with up to 201 hp. We're big fans of hatchback convenience, and the Elantra's styling lends itself well to this sporty budget 5-door.
Key Competitors: Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda Mazda3
Base Price: $21,235 As-Tested Price: $21,360
Highlights: Clever ergonomics and good packaging make the Elantra GT an entertaining and very useful small car for what's now a pittance. No, it's not fast — you won't be racing any Civic Type R's with the Elantra — but it is a well-put-together, nicely equipped compact at an affordable price.
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Our Opinion: I love seeing the hatchback's recent return after years of having subcompact sedans forced onto our market. The Elantra GT is a perfect example of a good small car made better thanks to the extended roofline and easy-to-access load space of a hatch. In GT guise, even with an automatic transmission, the Elantra is entertaining to drive in slow-car-fast mode (throttle pinned, tires shrieking); back out a bit and it's also perfectly liveable in normal daily driving with good throttle and brake response and enough power to dice it up in traffic.
My only real gripes about this car can be overcome by checking the Style Package box on the option sheet, and adding $1,800 to the price. Said package gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel to replace the janky stock urethane wheel (and it's pronounced casting lines) AND it adds heated front seats, essential here in Detroit. Buyers in SoCal may not care about the latter, but they'll appreciate this package's blind-spot detection and side-mirror turn-signal indicators. It turns the Elantra into a fully equipped compact hatch for a still-reasonable $23K.
—Andrew Stoy, digital editor
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $21,235
As Tested Price: $21,360
Powertrain: 2.0-liter DOHC I4, six-speed automatic, FWD
Output: 161 hp @ 6,100 rpm; 150 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Curb Weight: 2,943 lb
Fuel Economy: 24/32/27 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: Carpeted floor mats ($125)
Pros: Surprisingly fun to drive for the money
Cons: Needs the $1,800 Style Package to be properly equipped