Vehicle Overview
Hyundai’s most popular model slots between the subcompact Accent and the midsize Sonata in size and price. The Elantra GT five-door hatchback joined the regular four-door GLS sedan in 2002. A four-door GT sedan with a conventional trunk joined the hatchback in Hyundai’s sporty GT series for the 2003 model year.

Revisions to the sheet metal and interior, which include a new hood, grille, bumpers, headlights and taillights, mark the 2004 models. A new instrument cluster is installed, and the 2.0-liter engine adds continuously variable valve timing.

The European-themed GT models promise the comfort and handling characteristics of a Euro-sedan. They get a tauter suspension with higher-rate springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and larger-diameter stabilizer bars. All-disc brakes, fog lamps and 15-inch alloy wheels are installed.

Exterior
Strong character lines highlight the Elantra, which features styling that’s more chiseled and European looking than on previous models. The Elantra rides a 102.7-inch wheelbase, measures 178.1 inches long overall, stands 56.1 inches tall and stretches 67.7 inches wide. GT models have a body-colored rear lip spoiler.

Interior
The Elantra seats five people. A three-place, 60/40-split, folding rear seat expands the sedan’s trunk space, which totals 12.9 cubic feet. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a cassette player, a tilt steering column, a rear defogger, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Remote keyless entry with an alarm is newly standard for 2004.

A unique instrument panel in the GT models holds purple-lit VDO gauges. The GTs feature leather seating surfaces and a new Kenwood CD/MP3 audio system.

Under the Hood
A 2.0-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine that gains continuously variable valve timing for 2004 powers both Elantra models. In states with Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) requirements, the engine develops 132 horsepower, but it’s rated at 138 hp in other areas. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard, and a four-speed-automatic transmission is optional.

Safety
Side-impact airbags are standard, and antilock brakes are optional.

Driving Impressions
Even though the Elantra isn’t overly enticing at first, it tends to grow on an open-minded driver and turns into an appealing little automobile. Performance with the manual shift is surprisingly frisky, and the Elantra accelerates with spirit. The gearbox and clutch are well matched to the engine, which permits gentle engagement for easy takeoffs. But putting it into Reverse can be a chore at times. Except for a slight growl during acceleration, the Elantra is quiet on the road.

The Elantra manages to whip through corners and turn with ease. Some body lean is evident in curves, but not enough to be troubling. The ride is pleasantly easygoing for a small car because its suspension copes adeptly with rough spots.

The seats are especially attractive and firmly cushioned and have very good back support. Backseat legroom is amazing, and even the center rear position isn’t too bad.

Handling is noticeably, but not dramatically, tauter on the shapely GT, and ride comfort suffers only modestly. This car is fun to drive because of the easy-to-use manual gearshift and well-behaved clutch. The GT’s gauges are large, but their distinctive hue isn’t the easiest to read at a glance during nighttime driving.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com;
Posted on 11/5/03