One of its two major new-product intros in Chicago, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is the sleeker, sportier and far more contemporary replacement for the current Elantra Touring wagon. Like the Elantra sedan that was completely redesigned for 2011, this new front-drive/five-door hatchback is based on Hyundai's compact global "C-class" architecture but shares more in common with the new Hyundai i30, a European-market model that made its debut last fall in Frankfurt.

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Offering its own distinctive take on the firm's "Fluidic Sculpture" styling language, the 2013 Elantra GT's bodywork incorporates all of the automaker's visual family values into an even more practical form. Despite being about nine inches shorter than its sedan sibling and having two-inches less wheelbase (104.3 inches), the Elantra GT offers more total passenger space and cargo space -- and also betters those vital stats of prime rivals like the Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf. Folding the GT's standard 60/40 rear bench more than doubles its toting capabilities, from 23 to 51 cubic feet.

The new Elantra GT features an extensive roster of standards including a full array of power assists, air conditioning, multifunction steering wheel controls, cruise control, keyless remote entry, a 172-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, Hyundai's Blue Link in-car connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and USB/AUX/iPod inputs. The GT also nets a full complement of safety elements, headed by VSM (Vehicle Stability Management), Electronic Stability Control and anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution/Brake Assist as well as front/side/side-curtain and a driver's knee airbag. Features like leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof and navigation system are available as part of the Elantra GT's Style and/or Tech Packages.

Motivation for the new Elantra GT comes from Hyundai's 1.8-liter "Nu" four-cylinder engine that features efficiency enhancing Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT). Shared with the sedan, it makes 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque in Federal form, with the numbers rolling back 145/130 on California-spec Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) variants. The engine can be backed by a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic with Shiftronic manual control. While the step-up cog changer also includes ActiveECO circuitry that can help boost fuel economy by up to seven percent, all Elantra GTs will carry impressive 28/39-mpg city/highway EPA ratings.

The new Elantra GT's underlying structure consists of 57 percent high-strength or ultra-high-strength steel, a factor that increases body stiffness by 37 percent compared to the outgoing Touring and also contributes to a significant reduction in mass that results in it being the lightest five-door hatch in the segment. While the sharing the same basic suspension design as the Elantra sedan, Hyundai engineers tweaked the tuning to make sure the GT lived up to what its name implies. Key changes include higher rear spring rates and a stiffer twist-beam axle as well as special Sachs shock absorbers and Hyundai's all-new Driver Selectable Steering Mode that offers a choice of Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. Those with more overt enthusiast leanings can opt for the Style Package that one-ups the GT's standard H-rated 205/55 tires on 16-inch alloy wheels with 215/45HR17 alternatives and also nets more tautly-tuned chassis bits.

The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT arrives in showrooms this summer. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.


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