The US car market is possibly the best in the world, but we’re always griping that we don’t get the high-quality family hatchbacks that are so common in Europe. Strangely enough, we do get the Euro-spec Elantra GT is, and yet nobody cares.
The Hyundai Elantra GT that we get here in America is a truly global vehicle. The one big difference is that it’s marketed as an ‘i30’ in the rest of the world, and it’s called an ‘Elantra GT’ here in Americaland.
This must be a bit confusing to American consumers, because the Elantra GT has some big differences compared to the Elantra sedan and the Elantra coupe, because the GT/i30 runs on a shorter wheelbase, with different suspension tuning, a new dashboard, and a very different feel.
The styling of the Elantra GT is clearly similar to the Elantra sedan and coupe, but there’s enough different about it that you can tell it’s a different kind of car. The American-market-only sedan and coupe are more stretched out, with longer wheelbases and longer overhangs. The Elantra GT has a short, stubby hood and a rear end that looks like it got cleaved off with a knife just behind the back wheels. The Elantra GT isn’t vastly better looking than its American cousins, but it is distinctive.
Judging by reviews in the American press , the Elantra GT maintains its desirable European traits with resolved handling, a nice interior, and quality controls.
It feels like a European car because it is European – if this TTAC review is to be believed, Hyundai actually imports the Elantra GT to the US from the Czech Republic (if not, it would come from either Egypt or South Korea whereas the Elantra sedan and coupes are US-made).
The trouble is that if you read European reviews of the Elantra GT, there the i30, they’re not exactly thrilled with the car. The overwhelming consensus is that it’s not bad to drive, but not particularly exciting, and while it matches the class-leading Golf or Focus, it doesn’t exactly beat them. The i30 doesn’t undercut them on cost, either, so you’re left with a European-built, European-priced car without any of the badge prestige of an actual European marque.
Here in the US, though, we’re a little short on quality imported hatchbacks (though we do get the Golf and Focus, we’re missing the Euro Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, not to mention every Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Skoda, Seat, and Opel hatchback altogether). That means that the Elantra GT suddenly gets better handling and a better feel compared to its rivals, just by virtue of being in the rather bare US market. We shouldn’t mind that the Hyundai is missing a little Euro prestige and buy them up, particularly since we aren’t as averse to Far Eastern car brands than the nationalistic Europeans are.
Still, nobody seems to be buying the Elantra GT. Hyundai lumps all Elantra sales together, so I haven’t been able to find proper GT sales numbers. Hyundai does show that in 2012, they sold about 180,000 US-spec Elantras versus 20,000 Euro-spec five doors, and I’d be surprised if that 1:9 sales ratio changed for 2013.
So why, if the stereotypical American car enthusiast swears up and down that carmakers would be better off with higher-quality European hatchbacks, does the Elantra GT not seem to sell very well? I would guess that it’s mostly down to the Elantra GT being more expensive, but I would also like to suggest that the stereotypical American car enthusiast is forever lost in a ‘grass is greener’ mindset and would do well to stop complaining and buy one of these handsome machines.