2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: Some people think Elantra translates to "nap time."

Price: $27,460 as tested. (Options noted below.)

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes that it's "handsome all over, capacious cargo storage, frugal highway fuel economy," but not the "feeble acceleration, limited fun factor, missing popular features."

Marketer's pitch: "The hatchback that has your back."

Reality: But spring for the GT version, and it's wake-up time.

What's new: Every time I get an Elantra, I prepare to be underwhelmed.

It's really just a mental block, though. I forget how much I liked the 2015 version of the GT I tested. Hyundai should just chuck this nameplate, because this car is so much more than the 2012 version that I can't get out of my head.

The redesign looks fresh, and follows the rest of Hyundai and Kia models on a steady evolution.

Up to speed: The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine creates 161 horsepower, more than the average Subaru, so despite Car and Driver's complaints, it has pretty healthy zip for a small car. The speedometer reads 60 in 8.0 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Sure, a GT Sport gets 201 horses, better handling, and chops 2 seconds off the 0-60, but premium comes out to around $2,000/second.

Shifty: The six-speed shiftable automatic transmission doesn't rob power from the engine, either. Shifting in Sport mode made the Elantra a peppy little unit, but it was no rocket.

Sport mode works fine as an automatic as well, although the car would stay in lower gears for longer than I'd like, especially on downhill. When not in a hurry, allowing the Elantra to take over shifting outside sport mode worked well and seemed to improve the economy.

A 6-speed manual is also available, and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic has been added to the roster as well.

On the road: The Elantra is a small, front-wheel drive car, so it zigs into turns just fine. But handling leaves just a little to be desired, with a bit of lean on hard corners and some jostling on rough roads.

Inside, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT offers comfortable seating in the front and intuitive controls. Rear-seat passengers aren’t going to feel so pampered.
Hyundai
Inside, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT offers comfortable seating in the front and intuitive controls. Rear-seat passengers aren’t going to feel so pampered.

Driver's Seat: The leather seating surfaces with power operation were super-comfortable over the long haul. Heating and cooling features were included — something rare in the budget boxes — but they weren't cheap. Because of packaging requirements, the sticker price rose by $6,100 for this one Mr. Driver's Seat-required feature.

Friends and stuff: The Elantra's small-carness shows through inside. Occupants in the front sit low, and so their legs need to stretch backward quite a bit. This leads to a whine from the rear-seat area, as even a ride to the train station was a bit much for Sturgis Kid 4.0 and his 6-foot-2-inch frame. (Oh, yeah, you poor millennial mass-transiting kid, that SEPTA train was all about the legroom.)

Naturally, rear legroom was a problem, and headroom as well, because the rear seat occupants sit up quite high.

Storage space is a healthy 55.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, so those of you opting for faddish tiny crossovers are actually getting less space than the Elantra GT. But your kids are probably happier. Happy kids? Or more stuff from Costco? Life is about tradeoffs.

Play some tunes: … and enjoy them. The sound from the Elantra GT's Infinity Premium Audio with 7 speakers is actually quite nice. Songs were clear, and the standard cutting off the first notes of songs in Hyundais and Kias seems to have been resolved.

Operation is simple, with dials for volume and tuning, and buttons for source. The tuning dial could work a little better for running from the high numbers to the low, but those are first-world problems indeed.

Night shift: Full LED headlights and taillights (part of the $4,300 Tech Package) provided a bright glow for drivers and seemed to point too low only when going downhill. Otherwise, they weren't a bother.

The interior lights were not as subtle as some of the fancier versions found in Hyundais and Kias, but they weren't too bright to drive by if needed.

Fuel economy: I averaged just over 30 mpg for the usual Mr. Driver's Seat mix of highway and city driving. Elantras will swallow any fuel happily.

Where it's built: Ulsan, South Korea.

How it's built: Consumer Reports envisions a 4 out of 5 for reliability.

In the end: This lesser GT model may be a bit snug and not a sports car, but that's still a lot of car for well under $30K.