Once upon a time, one of the most popular body styles for compact cars was the very practical 5-door hatchback. But then American drivers discovered pickup trucks and SUVs, and the 5-door hatchback nearly faded into oblivion. But Hyundai thinks that the right small car with 4-doors and a hatch can still appeal to American drivers. And that car is the 2002 Elantra GT. So, let’s see if the hatchback can make a comeback!
Trying to determine the stylistic hot buttons and buying trends of our car-crazed culture is an occupation best left to the marketing gurus. But with many Americans, practicality is never out of style, and the 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT is a car that keeps that in mind.
And that practical approach shines through the Elantra GT’s funky and somewhat Saab- like profile. And that’s reinforced at the rear by the Elantra GT’s large hatch that lifts easily to open up the spartan 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Space that becomes almost cavernous by folding the rear 60/40 split seatbacks. We found it as convenient as any SUV.
The Elantra GT shares its platform with the Elantra GLS four door sedan. The new, longer wheelbase, up 2.3 inches over the previous generation and now 102.7 inches long, pays practical dividends on several fronts. For one thing, there’s ride and handling.
Hyundai engineers have equipped the Elantra GT with a Euro-tuned suspension. Now that means MacPherson struts, gas shocks, offset coil springs, and a 24 millimeter anti-roll bar up front, and a multi-link set up in the rear that also uses gas shocks, offset coil springs, and a 15 millimeter roll bar. Connecting it all to the pavement are 15 inch alloy wheels wrapped in 60 series Michelin rubber. The total package gives the Elantra GT a ride that is second to none in the subcompact class. Not only in terms of compliance and ride quality, but in quietness too! The Elantra GT’s suspension is soft enough to soak up a large section of roadway imperfections. Yet it is by no means mushy. The Elantra GT delivers a secure ride, and it takes some pretty extreme road conditions to throw the GT off balance.
A trip through our low speed slalom pushed the extremes of the Elantra GT’s suspension in a different way. The GT exhibits plenty of understeer on turn in, but that quickly transitions to oversteer when the correction is made to point the car in the other direction. Still, it is a very controlled transition, and one that our testers even called fun. There’s no rule that we’re aware of that says practicality must be boring!
The other dividend resulting from the Elantra GT’s longer wheelbase is found on the inside where the payoff is more room! Six-footers will have no problem sliding into the standard leather trimmed, 6-way manually adjustable front buckets that were very supportive and are just to the north side of firm in nature. Side impact airbags are also standard.
Also wonderful is the extra room in the Elantra GT’s rear quarters. It’s still a bit tight for three across, but head and leg room are generous. In fact, generous pretty much describes the entire interior accommodations of the Elantra GT. A power moon roof is one of just three available options.
Also optional is ABS brakes with electronic traction control. Our tester didn’t come with the ABS option, and while we would certainly recommend you spring for it, we must say that we were surprised by the standard system’s performance. Because the four-wheel discs brought us down from 60 in a nice average of 124 feet. Our drivers like the Elantra GT’s pedal feel and although there was some locking in the rear, stability remained on par with some ABS-equipped cars. This was the best stopping Hyundai we’ve yet driven.
Also above par for the subcompact class is the 140 horses found under the Elantra GT’s hood. That’s the output of the 2.0 liter, DOHC, 16-valve in-line four. Torque is rated at 133 pound-feet. That moves the Elantra GT to 60 in 8 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 16.3 seconds at 86 MPH. Now most of the 2.0 liter’s power is found in the mid-range, so off-line launch is rather soft. But get it to 3500 rpm and power is plentiful. The clutch in our 5-speed manual felt a little on the light side to us, and didn’t offer much feedback, and some thought the shifter was on the rubbery side. But still, there were no complaints about missed gears. A 4-speed automatic is available for those who want to go shiftless.
Shift or shiftless, either way the price of possession for this much car is more than practical by just about anyone’s standards. Base price for the 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT is just $14,494. Our tester, which came with floor mats but no major options, rang up at $14,672. Factor in Hyundai’s heavy duty warranty which includes limited bumper-to-bumper coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles, and 10 years, 100,000 miles of limited powertrain coverage, plus 5 years of free 24-hour roadside assistance, and the Elantra GT looks even better.
Hyundai’s latest marketing slogan is, “Seeing is Believing,“and it fits. Because after two weeks living with the Elantra GT and its hatchback practicality, its above average ride quality and sporting road manners, and its all around pleasing personality, you can put us down with the believers! Indeed, if other 5-doors measured up to the 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT, there would be no need for a hatchback comeback.
Engine: 2.0 Liter, Dohc, 16-valve In-line 4-Cylinder
Torque: 133 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.3 Seconds @ 86 MPH
60-0 MPH: 124 Feet [w/o Abs]
EPA Mileage: 24 MPG City 33 MPG Highway