EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 4, 2012

New Hyundai Elantra GT tries harder

Motor Mouth Jeffrey Zygmont
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To become an old adage, a clever saying must be so valuable and true that people repeat it over and over and over again. Like that common ol’ saw, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Anyone who has succeeded at anything will tell you that they didn’t hit it their first time, or even their second or third. But they kept on plugging. They never gave up.

That same principle of perseverance and determination can be just as valuable in business conduct, especially for businesses that sell consumer goods. After all, we consumers can be tough to figure, so a company can’t count on winning our favor its first try, or even its second or third. It may have to try, try again before it finds what we’re really after.

That explains why we now have the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT. The sporty, youthful, compact hatchback arrived in mid summer. With four doors, front drive, and all the haul-around usefulness of the open-back, slant-hatch body design, the Elantra GT is a tempting buy at a list price that starts a tad under $20,000. Hyundai packs a lot of attractive equipment into the car, such as a hands-free Bluetooth phone system, steering wheel audio controls, tire-pressure monitor, heated outside mirrors, high-output, six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, and more.

The GT joins as a third member of the Hyundai Elantra family that includes the two-door Elantra Coupe and the four-door Elantra Sedan. All three variants are sleekly streamlined, compact cars in the class of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. The Elantra Sedan and Coupe tilt more toward economy than the new GT, with list prices that start around $3,000 less than Elantra GT.

The Elantra GT replaces a four-year-old model called Elantra Touring. The Touring was a Hyundai attempt that didn’t at first succeed, explained Austin Adams, a sales manager at Salem Ford Hyundai in Salem, N.H.

“The Elantra Touring was hot everywhere else on earth, except here because it had a station-wagon look to it. Station wagons aren’t popular in America anymore,” said Adams.

The Touring was introduced late in 2008 as an ‘09 model. It was based on an Elantra rendition first designed for Europe. I liked the car for its practicality and its sensible style. It earned a respectable share of attention from auto raters. The consumer-advice website About.com, and the automobile data center KBB.com named the Touring a top family vehicle in 2010. The publication U.S. News ranked it best car for the money in 2011. Locally, the model sold well at Salem Ford Hyundai, said Adams.

But not so in the rest of the U.S. Too many Americans think station wagons are dowdy, the same as they stigmatize minivans, Adams explained.

The Elantra GT corrects dowdiness with a kinetic, expressive shape and engaging road manners, thanks to an athletically tuned suspension and selectable steering settings that you can set for sporty performance.

For all its vigor and dash, the GT is also the most refined Elantra. The model I test drove last week included about $5,000 worth of add-ons, boosting the sticker price to $25,365. For that sum, the car included larger, dressy alloy wheels, turn lights on the side mirrors, leather upholstery, aluminum pedals, power driver seat, rear-view camera, function-filled navigation, and an expansive, panoramic sunroof that opens the car to the sky. I sensed unmistakably that I was driving a premium auto. I also felt stylish inside the slick small car.

At Salem Ford Hyundai, the new Elantra version is attracting buyers primarily age 35 and up, Adams reported. They’re drawn by the value, reflected in the amount of equipment included in the car, as well as its practicality and attractive fuel economy, he said. The 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine in Elantra GT returns a fuel-economy rating of 28 miles per gallon in city driving, and 39 mpg on the highway, when matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, an option that adds $1,000 to the price of the base model with manual transmission.

“The GT gives the Elantra broader appeal,” Adams stated. “It’s bringing in buyers who might not have considered the model before.”

As a result, Elantra’s popularity is seeing a healthy surge. Nationally the Elantra is the second-best seller for Hyundai behind the mid-size Sonata sedan. So far this year its sales pace has grown at a robust rate. At Salem Ford Hyundai, “they’re selling as fast as they come in,” Adams said. “At any given time, I don’t think we have more than four of them on the lot.”

Elantra is an up-and-coming model group with a promising future. The Elantra Sedan was redesigned and introduced as a next-generation auto late in 2011. It was honored as the 2012 North American Car of the Year, selected by a panel of automotive media members. The two-door, coupe version joined the lineup shortly before the summer introduction of the GT. The coupe aims to attract young bloods who don’t yet face the family demands that make a four-door more appealing.

Now the GT renews Hyundai’s efforts to expand Elantra’s appeal, picking up after the Touring didn’t take off. That’s the kind of perseverance and determine that underlie success. As the old saying tells us, “if at first you don’t succeed, . . ..”

Jeffrey Zygmont has written about automobiles since 1982. Based in Salem, N.H., he writes books and articles about innovation, technology and culture. He can be contacted through the website jeffreyzygmont.com

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive compact hatchback Price range: $19,170 to $20,170 (plus options) Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance Engine: 1.8-liter I4 Power: 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm; 131 lb.-ft. torque at 4,700 rpm Base transmission: 6-speed manual Fuel economy: 27 mpg city; 39 mpg highway Wheelbase: 104 inches Length: 169 inches Width: 70 inches Height: 58 inches Weight: 2,745 pounds Fuel capacity: 14.0 gallons Turning circle: 34.8 ft.