SAN PASQUAL, Calif. -- On the snaky San Pasqual Valley Road, Calif. 78 as it wiggles through washboard hills in northern recesses of San Diego County, we're goosing the throttle and plying a plump steering wheel while exploring the parameters of tire adhesion in a wickedly edgy yet streamlined Elantra GT - the sporty 5-door compact hatchback by Hyundai of South Korea.
Although derived from Hyundai's 4-door Elantra Sedan, the Elantra GT is unique in terms of body style, cabin configuration and some impressive fuel economy figures -- it runs up to 33 miles per gallon (mpg) for highway cruising. Size-wise, the GT hatchback measures about nine inches less than the sedan with a wheelbase some two inches shorter and the rear suspension sport-tuned for a taut ride quality.
And for 2016 models the refreshed Elantra GT scores aggressive styling points on the exterior package plus new technology assets for the 5-seat passenger compartment as well as a lengthy list of standard premium features to make us forget those well-worn adjectives of "compact" and "economy" as applied to a wee car.
Hyundai's compact hatch seems sporty-cool in an aero-sleek package with ultra-fast windshield rake, curt and sporty overhangs front and rear, minimal gaps between tires and fenders, and the trailing ripple of a rooftop spoiler. The brash face has exaggerated eye-slit headlamp clusters streaking up front fenders and a gaping-mouth hexagonal grille dressed with new chrome and argent slats.
Side panels are chiseled with ripples and bulges for wheelwells housing optional 17-inch euroflange alloy wheels.
The abrupt rump looks busy with the integrated spoiler, multi-lamp taillight assemblies undulating on back corners and a body-colored bumper swooping over the exhaust pipe set on the right side of blackout lower fascia.
Elantra GT uses a rigid unibody structure with the wheelbase length stretching to 104.3 inches. The width of the body extends to 70.1 inches and the distance from the prow up front to the tail bumper tallies to 169.3 inches -- just over 14 feet.
For suspension the GT hatch employs independent MacPherson struts up front with gas-charged hydraulic twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar, while in the rear there's a torsion axle with coil springs, hydraulic monotube shocks and a V-beam stabilizer bar.
For active safety, there's a disc brake at each wheel, with electronic linkage to a 4-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), plus a vehicle stability management (VSM) device to manage the electronic stability control (ESC) system and motor-driven electric power steering (MDPS).
Elantra GT draws from Hyundai's 2.0-liter Nu 4-cylinder GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine with D-CVVT (dual continuously variable valve timing) equipment. The plant generates 173 hp at 6500 rpm with torque of 154 lb-ft at 4700 rpm, and it links to a standard 6-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed electronic automatic with lock-up torque converter, active eco system and Hyundai's Shiftronic gate-type manual shift controls.
The GT's 5-seat passenger compartment seems generous in scale for a compact-class car with 96.1 cubic feet of space. Headroom amounts to 40.1 inches up front and 37.9 inches in back, with front-seat legroom stretching to 42.0 inches.
Layout of the cabin shows a pair of bucket seats up front flanking a floor-mounted console containing a deep storage compartment plus sliding armrest, with a bench in back with two articulated seat positions but room for three in a pinch. Rear seats fold completely flat after first folding the lower seat cushion upward to forge a flat-floored rear cargo bay measuring to 51.0 cubic feet.
Hyundai's cabin architects added a slew of standard stow spots -- a sunglasses holder, dual cup holders front and back, door bottle holders, way-cool cooled glovebox, the front console storage bin, front seatback pockets and the rear cargo area with 12-volt power outlet.
Elantra GT stocks a load of standard equipment -- air conditioning, power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors, tilting/telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry device, trip computer, cruise control, heated front seats clad with premium cloth upholstery, driver's seat with 6-way adjustments including height, 2-speed intermittent front wipers, two 12-volt power points, a 6-speaker audio kit, Bluetooth connectivity and 16-inch steel wheels wrapped in 215/55HR16 tires.
Optional gear clusters in Style and Tech packages.
MSRPs for the 2016 Elantra GT begin at $18,800.