BIZ-AUTO-ELANTRA-REVIEW-2-MCT

2020 Hyundai Elantra. (David Dewhurst/Hyundai/TNS)

2020 Hyundai Elantra GT N Line: A little bit of budget-conscious fun?

Price: $24,630. $155 for floor mats.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes that it’s “handsome all over, capacious cargo storage, frugal highway fuel economy,” but not that the “base engine has feeble acceleration, limited fun factor, popular features require priciest model.”

Marketer’s pitch: “The sporty, spontaneous hatchback.”

Reality: Definitely fun, and maybe even more budget conscious than we realize.

What’s new: Last redesigned for the 2019 model year, the Elantra gets few changes for 2020.

The sporty N Line tested might be ripe for bargain hunters, as Hyundai says a new N Line is being developed for 2021. Whether it will land by then, though, seems uncertain, if that’s all they have to say about it in August.

Up to speed: Though Car and Driver makes a negative reference to the Elantra’s power level in the low-end price range, the upscale N Line doesn’t have any of those issues. The 1.6-liter turbo GDI in the N-Line version creates a whopping 201 horsepower, a great deal for a little baby like the Elantra.

Though I couldn’t find 0-60 times for the N Line, Car and Driver found an earlier version got there in 6.6 seconds, which is awesome for an Elantra.

Shifty: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if you’re going to buy a little car, learn how to drive a stick. The 6-speed manual transmission raised the Elantra GT several levels higher on the fun spectrum than it would otherwise have landed. Little shiftable cars just want to zip from a stop, zig around turns, and zag to a stop. There are few joys this pure.

Of course, this means getting used to the upshift indicator light telling you it’s time to shift during most of your driving time, because working the engine lightly is no fun at all, but that light is easy enough to ignore.

The clutch is not too hard on the left leg, either, though I didn’t even put 100 miles on the odometer during this test week. And I certainly never found stop-and-go traffic.

On the curves: The little Elantra GT has been pretty fun in most of the incarnations I’ve been able to test, and this spirit remains alive and well. Country roads are a delight.

Highways, unfortunately, are a bit of a drag, as the Elantra GT hit bumps and road seams a little hard. Not as bouncy as a Soul, but still a little rickety.

Driver’s Seat: It’s a not-so-cheap version of a cheap car, so I wasn’t preparing myself for the coddliness of a Lexus. But the GT’s seats did OK, though; my wife didn’t complain until I asked what she thought, so that means not so terrible.

Friends and stuff: The rear seat is not too awful. It’s roomy in the feet and legs, a little less so in the head, but not as bad as I expected. The seat itself is low of comfort, and reclines a bit too much.

Thanks to the GT hatchback, cargo space is 24.9 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 55.1 with the seat folded. Pretty generous, for its size.

Play some tunes: The Elantra receives the standard Hyundai stereo, with 8-inch display and six speakers. Sound is really good for a basic Hyundai model, at least a B+. (Definitely plays rings around the basic Toyota version.)

Controls are easy to follow, with dials for volume and tuning, and the touchscreen is attractive enough. Plenty worthwhile for a less-expensive ride.

Keeping warm and cool: Giant dials control the temperature, and buttons control the fan speed and location. Seat heaters were also included with this car, which is a nice touch for the price range.

The vents themselves, though, are over designed and hard to direct; the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat felt too much air blowing on her for most of our travels together.

Fuel economy: When you ignore that shift indicator light, expect to pay the price. I averaged about 25 mpg in a raucous round of testing in Chester County. Feed the Elantra whatever.

Where it’s built: Ulsan, South Korea

How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the Elantra GT a predicted reliability of 5 out of 5.

In the end: I wish I’d have been able to drive this more, so that must mean the Elantra GT gets my nod.

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