To a lot of car enthusiasts of late, Hyundai can’t seem to do any wrong. The Korean automaker is turning out a lot of great stuff these days. And yet, we all just kind of glossed over the sporty Elantra’s piss-poor fuel economy.
Before I happened to luck into my discounted Fiat Abarth I, like every other gearhead auto journalist, wanted some excitement in my daily driver. I don’t have kids or a big dog but I do have friends, so a roadster or two-door coupe with a tight back seat was out of the question. (Yes, I know the Abarth has a small back seat, leave me and my idiosyncrasies alone, OK?)
I wanted a four-door car, with a manual transmission, and not ungodly expensive, maybe $20,000 for a decent used example.
A Civic Hatchback or Civic Si looked like the right idea, but buying a used one makes little to no sense, given the prices of used cars these days. The Corolla hatchback’s kind of cool, but the rear seat is outrageously tight, and if I’m going to spend twenty thousand dollars on a four-door car, it should have a usable back seat.
I don’t want a GTI, so don’t even ask. (Sorry, Chris.)
Eventually, I stumbled on the Hyundai Elantra GT and Elantra Sport. They check all the boxes: bumpin’ sound system with Apple CarPlay, cheaper to buy than a Honda or Toyota, but also arguably better-looking too. The 1.6-liter turbo has a pretty good amount of thrust, and it’s not hard to find a six-speed manual. I thought: “Looks like this is the one, it’s good looking, let me check out the fuel econo– Wait, what?”
The Elantra GT’s fuel economy is not good. Like, it’s trash. The Elantra GT’s fuel economy would have been competitive in, say, 2002. The Elantra GT has fuel economy worse than some light trucks or crossovers, not exaggerating.
A 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT, with the six-speed manual, is EPA rated at 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and a thoroughly lackluster 26 mpg mixed. By comparison, the Honda Civic Hatchback with a six-speed manual claims a very good 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined.
Why is the fuel economy so bad? It’s not like the Elantra GT is notably quicker than its competitors, it matches the Civic, and is bested by the GTI. Is it gearing? Aerodynamics? I’m not sure it’s transmission-related either, as the automatic version has slightly better, but equally bad fuel economy. Both a ’19 Elantra GT and Civic 1.5 turbo weigh about 3,000 pounds.
I guess cars can’t always be everything – the Elantra is still a lot cheaper than the Honda or VW. I’m sure the savings in purchase price alone will make up for the crappy fuel economy. But if exceptional mpgs are important to you, Hyundai’s sporty economy car is not the ticket. If that surprised you as much as it surprised me, you’re welcome!