If Hyundai's needed any final proof that its days as Automobile Choice of Last Resort are long over, witness the actually pretty awesome Elantra GT.
It's totally affordable, good looking, sporty and really, truly fun to drive; a small car that's infinitely more pleasurable and - come to think of it - probably better built than recent Honda Civics.
Admittedly, the truncated GT is no 300-horsepower tire-roaster, but it offers all the same panache as a Ford Focus or a standard Subaru Impreza, for as little as $19,395. Quiet on the highway and loaded down with all of those multitudinous Hyundai options and design features, the Elantra GT is a nice statement of where those Koreans have come to in 2013.
Those design bits are the biggest change from the ugly Elantras of old - this car has more swoops, cuts and angles than a car you'd expect to see at a 2017 car show. There are oddly glowing, gold-accented wheels, super-aerodynamic headlamps that stick way, way off the body, plus an aggressive nose and brilliant foglamps.
The body gets an intense sine-wave sweep, and with short overhangs, you might be surprised that it's a reasonably commodious five-door hatch, complete with a comfortable patch of luggage room.
But really, it's the full panoramic sunroof (part of a $2,750 style package) that really ties the room together, as the Dude might say; that option group also includes leather seating, turn signal repeaters in the mirrors and a stiffly sport-tuned suspension, plus those aforementioned shiny 17-inch wheels.
And this is still an Elantra, you might end up asking yourself? Indeed. Blend those cunning looks with an interior resplendent with stuff including sporty seating (power-adjustable, and heated, as well), nicely designed instruments and a blue-lit audio interface that substitutes as a navigation directional readout ... and it's a nice surprise.
That's all great, but it's the ride that will blow your mind. Totally quiet at 75 mph on the freeway, the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is also capable of rather speedily hitting that figure. The engine isn't ridiculously more powerful than the standard Elantra motor (148 hp, just three more than normal) but ... combined with the improved ride and the more-sensual handling, it can get you down the road in much less frumpy style.
Not unlike the $130,000 BMW M6 I recently drove (that story coming soon), the little Hyundai also features a driver-selectable steering adjustment mode, providing easier maneuvering in parking situations or a more crisp feel while engaging in fun-seeking.
The six-speed automatic with Shiftronic manual mode gave me no problems and could be customized at will; a six-speed manual is also available as an option for those so inclined.
The GT comes across as a well-poised and balanced machine that can even be pushed into the corners a bit. On the whole, I'd say it's the car that the Veloster wanted to be - at least until it got a turbo engine - though the Elantra GT expresses itself in a more normalized vehicle form.
And like so many of Hyundai's offerings, the new GT is also almost embarrassingly fuel efficient, more than readily capable of 37 highway mpg. An active Eco program can also be turned on to help calm your lead-footing and boost those numbers.
Some of that fuel frugality can be directly attributed to the extensive use of high-tensile steel throughout the body, dropping the curb weight to 2,784 pounds - up to several hundred pounds lighter than competitors including the Focus, Mazda3 and the VW Golf.
A 172-watt stereo system is standard with XM satellite radio as part of the package, plus the Hyundai-wide Blue Link system - their take on an OnStar-styled, built-in-car-phone-connected concierge and information connection that can even download navigation information to the vehicle.