By Michael Hines

One of the surprise debuts of this year’s Chicago Auto Show was the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT. The fact that the hatchback debuted at the show wasn’t a shocker. A refreshed Elantra GT first showed its face in public at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. No, the most shocking thing about the 2018 Elantra GT was, well, everything. Gone was a car perhaps best known by those who frequent rental lots. In its place was something sleeker, more modern, and designed with drivers in mind. The all-new Elantra GT hits dealer lots this summer, and these are the five things you need to know about the new hatchback.

1. It Has ‘European Styling’

The new Elantra GT is based off a car Hyundai sells in Europe (and elsewhere): the i30. In our opinion the new model looks a bit like the Audi A1. That’s a good thing since the old Elantra GT had about as much style as the four-door Toyota Yaris. Whereas the old model had a hunched and scrunched look the 2018 is lower, wider, and longer. Functionally this means more space for people and cargo. There’s 96.5 cubic feet of space for passengers, and with the rear seats folded cargo room goes from 25 cubic feet to 55.1 cubic feet. Hyundai points out that this is more space than what is offered by the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda 3, Ford Focus, and Volkswagen Golf.

hyundai_elantra_gt_sport_3

2. It’s Stiffer, Stronger, and Lighter

No one has ever accused the Elantra GT of being a driver’s car. That could all change with the 2018 model, though. Advanced high-strength steel comprises 53 percent of the car’s body. Torsional rigidity is also up 22%. Compared to the outgoing model the new Elantra GT weighs 61 pounds less. Of course all these figures need to be taken with a grain of salt. This is still an economical commuter car first and foremost. Still, it’s nice to see Hyundai focusing on factors that increase drivability, aside from new engine and transmission options. Speaking of…

2018 Elantra GT

3. There’s 201 horsepower on tap

That’s only if you opt for the Sport trim, though. Powering the Elantra GT Sport is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 201 HP and 195 pound-feet of torque. Transmission options for the Sport include a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch. The odd news is that the base Elantra GT is actually less powerful than the outgoing model. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes just 162 horsepower. The outgoing model offers 173 horses standard. A six-speed manual is standard and unlike the Sport trim there’s no optional dual-clutch on offer, just a six-speed automatic. The fact that Hyundai downrated the power for the base model is peculiar. It could be a tactic to get people to spring for the Elantra GT Sport. That would look suspect if the more powerful model ends up costing a pretty penny more.

Hyundai Elantra GT

4. The interior has been upgraded big time

While the new Elantra GT will still be priced for those on a budget, it’s clear Hyundai’s designers wanted to make it look classier. Overall the interior is sleeker and more modern. The center stack has been redesigned to be much less busy. The tech has also been upgraded. An 8-inch infotainment touchscreen is now standard. The old hatch had an available (as in pay more for it) 7-inch touchscreen. That screen was built into the center stack whereas the new screen stands alone atop the HVAC controls. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also standard. Optional features include a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated seats, and a leather interior. There’s also Blue Link, which features remote start with climate control and Amazon Alexa integration.

2018 Hyundai Elantra Touchscreen

5. How does it stack up against the competition?

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT will have to compete with the all-new Chevrolet Cruze hatch which looks great and offers a diesel-manual combo promising 52 MPG highway.

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Chevrolet Cruze

There’s also the refreshed Volkswagen Golf. All Golfs now get a 6.5-inch touchscreen standard as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The new GTI trim should easily be able to run away from the Elantra Sport with 220 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger. Honda also has to be on Hyundai’s radar now that the Civic Hatchback is back stateside. Honda’s Sport trim is down on power—it gets 180 horses from a 1.5-liter turbo-four—but does start at just $21,300. Much of the 2018 Elantra GT’s success will depend a lot on how it’s priced. The outgoing model has a starting MSRP of $18,800. If Hyundai can keep pricing around $20,000 for the base model and under $24,000 for the Sport trim, thus avoiding the much hotter GTI and Focus ST, then the new hatch could make some serious noise in the segment.

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Honda Civic Hatchback