The 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT may be an economy car, but it knows how to make a good first impression. Our fully loaded example features heated and cooled front seat surfaces. Even the rear bench has heated outboard seats. The glove compartment has a small, openable vent that allows the cool, air-conditioned breeze to flow over drinks stored there. Look up and be greeted by the GT's massive (and optional) panoramic moonroof, which lets loads of light into the already spacious cabin. To an economy car driver, maybe looking to buy their first car, these small touches help to elevate the Elantra's perceived value.
Another gee-whiz standard feature is the Elantra GT's driver-selectable steering modes (DSS). The GT uses an electric-assist power-steering system that features three modes toggled with a button on the steering wheel. From the Comfort to Normal to Sport modes, the Elantra reduces its level of assistance, causing the steering wheel to feel heavier, more precise and sportier. The hatchback's level of handling and responsiveness don't actually change between these modes, but this simple catering to the driver's preferences helps make the Elantra GT feel more premium than it is.
At the center of the dashboard is Hyundai's optional Blue Link tech, the part of the Elantra's interior that makes the strongest first impression.
Part of an optional Tech package -- which also adds automatic headlamps, LED tail lights, and the aforementioned moonroof -- drops a 7-inch touchscreen into the center of the dashboard, which is powered by Hyundai's connected infotainment tech. The software is snappy -- extremely responsive to inputs -- and features crisply rendered graphics, text and maps.
Blue Link is a connected system that puts telematics features at the driver's fingertips via a Web portal or a Hyundai Blue Link app for iOS or Android. Users can remotely monitor their fuel economy and monthly vehicle health reports, search for destinations and beam them to the Elantra GT's dashboard, and remotely track the GT's location to monitor a teen driver or recover a stolen vehicle. Many of these features are also accessible via Apple Watch or Android Wear wearable devices.
The system features Siri Eyes Free voice-command connectivity when paired with an Apple iPhone and its own onboard voice-command software. I've only got two real complaints with the Blue Link tech. The first is that voice recognition can be very slow, taking quite a bit of time to process spoken addresses. Fortunately, the system will digest an entire address in one go, without breaks for number, street name, or state, so the driver can get back to the business of watching the road.
My other complaint is with the placement of the touchscreen. Hyundai's placement of the display often places it in direct sunlight, where it washes out and becomes nearly unreadable under the glare.
One thing about the Elantra GT continues to bother me: it's a bit of a copycat. Many of its coolest features seem to have been, ahem, borrowed wholesale from the GT's competition.
For example, the optional rear-view camera that comes with the Tech package flips out from beneath the Hyundai badge on the rear hatch when the Elantra is shifted into reverse. It's a cool feature, but also one that debuted on the Volkswagen Golf.
Placed side-by-side with the Ford Focus, the Elantra's interior looks nearly identical, from the shapes to the materials to the color palette. The exterior reminds me of an odd blend of the previous generation Mazda2 and Mazda3 hatchbacks. It's no secret that automakers borrow from each other all of the time -- go to any international auto show and you'll see dozens of engineers photographing and literally measuring up the competition -- but Hyundai's blatant level of copy-paste just annoys me.
But I'm an enthusiast; I'm not really Hyundai's target market with the Elantra GT. The layman economy buyer doesn't really care who borrowed or stole what feature from who -- more often than not, there's no loyalty to Volkswagen's engineers. More likely they care that those features end up in their driveway and getting the best value for the dollar. And it's tough to argue with Hyundai's repackaging of some of the best features and design into one affordable package.