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2017 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport first drive - not the fiery hatchback I'm looking for

The Elantra GT posing for the camera
Mack Hogan | CNBC
Key Points
  • The Elantra GT Sport isn't at all like the Hyundai Elantra Sport.
  • I took it for a test drive to see if it's the hatchback I've been looking for
  • It's not, but it'll suit some people just fine.

When I reviewed the Hyundai Elantra Sport back in September, I found a lot to like but nothing to love.

It was a fantastic little car to drive, despite lacking the steering feel or responsiveness of more aggressive rivals like the Ford Focus ST. Since I liked it so much, I was happy when Hyundai invited me to Detroit to sample a few new cars, including the Sport's hatchback brother, the Elantra Sport GT.

What's the difference between the Elantra Sport and the Elantra GT Sport?

The front of the Elantra GT Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Hyundai Elantra and Elantra GT aren't as alike as other vehicles that share similar names.

The front fascia, rear and interior are completely different. The ride and handling characteristics are changed, and additional sound deadening is present to keep out the echo from an open cargo area.

The Elantra GT Sport costs more — it starts at $24,135 for the manual — but comes with more standard kit than the sedan version.

That's a lot of changes, so I wanted to see whether or not that boiled down to a different driving experience.

It doesn't.

Behind the wheel

A peek behind the wheel
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The Hyundai Elantra GT Sport is for for consumers who might be considering the Volkswagen Golf or Mazda 3, not necessarily for folks shopping for a Volkswagen GTI or or Focus ST.

The interior, already great in the Elantra Sport, is downright phenomenal in the GT Sport. It's modern and elegant but not so overly simple. I still love Hyundai's infotainment system, and the technology for the price is great.

The cabin controls are simple
Mack Hogan | CNBC

While the engine can't quite run with the big dogs, the car is more than adequately powered for a small hatchback. Two transmissions, either a seven-speed dual-clutch or a six-speed manual, are available, and I'm happy to report that rowing your own makes this a far more special driving experience than the typical Corolla.

A peek under the hood
Mack Hogan | CNBC

There are no options if you choose the manual model. It costs $24,195 and comes with blind spot monitoring and leather seats. If you'd rather the automatic model, that comes with a $1,000 premium but opens up a $3,850 technology package. Adaptive cruise control, panoramic sunroof, lane-keeping and cooled seats are possible if you're willing to spend about $29,000.

Not my hatch

It's a nice-looking hatchback, no doubt
Mack Hogan | CNBC

All-in, the Elantra GT Sport isn't the fiery hot hatch I'm waiting for. That'll come when Hyundai brings the "N" performance moniker stateside.

In the meantime, it'll happily sell you a quiet, composed, stylish, well-equipped hatchback with a peppy turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. That'll suit some people just fine, but not me.

The Elantra GT posing for the camera
Mack Hogan | CNBC
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