After my weeklong test drive of Hyundai's brand-new 2013 Elantra GT hatchback, my school-age kids were complaining about the backseat legroom and wishing I had a "different kind of job."
Whenever my family of four was in the compact Elantra GT for long stretches of time or lots of errand running, it felt smaller and smaller as time passed. While I liked the passenger room, my 8- and 10-year-old kids weren't sold on it. I had to keep moving the front passenger seat forward whenever my husband wasn't in it to make sure my son had enough legroom in the rear seat.
I was comfortable in the driver's seat. It was bolstered just enough to hold me in place without feeling constrained. The interior looks good with lots of upscale touches such as contrast stitching in the leather seats. The center stack's faux metal trim is convincing; it's paired with piano-black plastic accents, which could lead to a plastic overdose. It didn't bother me during my test drive, though.
The center stack's buttons and knobs were clearly labeled and fairly easy to use. However, the plentiful steering-wheel controls took some getting used to. I had to look down to figure out which button I needed to push. I was happy to have Bluetooth phone connectivity with voice recognition in the Elantra GT, and even happier I found the system pretty simple to operate. I also liked the instrument cluster's cat-eye bezels, which made them look sophisticated.
My test car's 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine was paired with the optional six-speed automatic. During my weeklong test drive, I kept wishing it had the standard six-speed manual because I wanted just a little more responsiveness from the engine. The automatic transmission has a manual shift mode, which helped in this case. The plus side of the automatic transmission is the Elantra GT gets an EPA-estimated 27/37 mpg city/highway.
During my test drive, I kept thinking that the Elantra GT would be a great car for a teen or first-time driver. It's fast but not too fast, and it handled higher-speed turns easily.
The backseat has two cupholders in the fold-down armrest and a bottleholder in each door. It also has my favorite — netted seatback pockets in both seatbacks — it's great for collecting kids' books or other assorted items. The optional panoramic moonroof really makes the backseat feel open.
When it came to the Latch system, the Elantra GT failed. The two sets of lower Latch anchors are easy to see in the seat bight, but the cushions are so stiff that I had a hard time using them. I was concerned that my rear-facing infant-safety seat's hooklike Latch connectors would rip the leather seats. That's never been a concern with other test cars.
The Elantra GT's cargo area passed the hockey-bag test, and it fit my daughter's lacrosse stick too.
I enjoyed the Elantra GT and was dazzled by all the features wrapped up in a $23,015 vehicle. Now if I could just get those kids to stop growing.