Rhymes with fun day: 2021 Hyundai Elantra GT a high-value hoot in N-Line form

By Ed Piotrowski

What changes will make the 2021 Hyundai Elantra GT different?

2020 Hyundai Elantra GT N Line

Good question. The hatchback companion to Hyundai’s Elantra sedan could stand-pat or get a midcycle refresh — only Hyundai knows for sure. What’s certain is that a full redesign is on the way. Whether it’ll come for model-year 2022 or 2023, however, only Hyundai knows.

A midcycle refresh would tweak styling, update features, and carry this front-wheel-drive four-door compact through to its next redesign, whenever that might occur. Now in its third generation, today’s GT debuted for model-year 2018. A performance-upgraded N-Line model came online for 2019 as a rival for the Honda Civic Sport hatchback and Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Should I wait for the 2021 Elantra GT or buy the 2020?

2020 Elantra GT N Line

Even with possible styling and feature changes for 2021, the 2020 Hyundai Elantra GT merits serious consideration. It still looks fresh, has pleasant road manners, and is a strong on features-per-dollar.

Either way, expect the simple, two-model lineup to again feature the Base trim and the sporty Elantra GT N Line. The Base GT would remain fine as basic transportation. The N Line would again deliver a much more engaging driving experience with little compromise to ride quality or passenger comfort.

Not only does the N Line have more power, it has an independent rear suspension, which gives it sharper handling and better overall control the Base model, with its prosaic torsion-beam rear axle, can’t match. The GT is more expensive, but the extra performance is well worth it.

Will the styling be different?

2020 Elantra GT

Only if there’s a model-year 2021 refresh. Even then, any changes would be minor, limited mostly to revised front and rear fasciae and possibly new wheel designs.

The GT will retain an overall look in line with Hyundai’s current design language, keynoted by a prominent hexagonal grille and headlights that stretch to the front wheel arches. The N Line will retain a unique front bumper, larger brake rotors, and 18-inch wheels instead of 17s.

The 2021 GT’s interior should see minimal, if any, changes. It’ll return with clear instrumentation and simple, handy secondary controls. An 8-inch infotainment touchscreen would remain standard, as would support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Imbedded GPS navigation that doesn’t require a connected smartphone should remain optional on N-Lines equipped with automatic transmission.

2020 Elantra GT N Line

Distinguishing the N Line’s interior from the Base model’s would be contrasting red piping on the seats, red stitching on the steering wheel, and red trim rings around some air vents. We hope the refresh would bring to the N-Line a flat-bottom steering wheel, as in the Golf GTI.

Expect comfortable front seats to return, the N Line’s featuring prominent side bolsters that enhance lateral support during fast turns but, thankfully, are not overly confining. Headroom is good on models not equipped with the optional panoramic sunroof, the housing of which robs some space from front and rear passengers. Rear legroom would remain somewhat tight, especially when compared to the very spacious Civic hatchback.

The 2021 Elantra GT’s cargo room would remain among the best in the competitive set, with 24.9 cubic feet available behind the rear seatbacks and 55.1 with them folded.

Any mechanical changes?

2020 Elantra GT

Regardless of what Hyundai does to the 2021 Elantra GT’s styling or features, don’t expect significant mechanical changes.

The Base model would return with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine of 161 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, linked exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration would again be adequate from a stop, but the engine would feel very strained when merging into fast-moving highway traffic.

The ’21 Hyundai GT N Line will reprise a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It would again pair with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional seven seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Hyundai no longer offers the Elantra sedan with manual transmission, but we’re hopeful it’ll keep it on the GT N Line. Manual transmissions are a vanishing breed, but this one reminds us how much shifting for yourself can contribute to the driving experience. Its only fault is slightly notchy action, particularly from second into third gear. The smooth, easy-to-modulate clutch means the N Line is very driveable even in heavy traffic. And the Auto Hold mode prevents rolling backward if you release the clutch on an incline.

2020 Elantra GT N Line

Credit the N Line’s fully independent suspension and 18-inch tires for handling response approaching that of the segment-leading GTI and Civic Sport Hatchback. The Hyundai’s steering feel isn’t quite as sharp, but it’s still plenty good and a vast improvement over the previous-generation Elantra GT. Capable handling doesn’t come at the expense of ride comfort. Our test GT N Line took bumps in stride, with no unpleasant resonance either in the suspension or through the body.

The N Line’s exhaust note will likely remain love it or hate it. The free-flow design creates a ruckus during acceleration, a noise far less pleasant than that of the GTI. Still, given how much less expensive than the VW a GT N-Line can be, it’s a tradeoff we’re willing to make.

Will fuel economy improve?

2020 Elantra GT N Line

Not likely, which is unfortunate because the Elantra GT lags the competition. Expect 2020 EPA ratings to repeat, so the 2021 GT Base should again rate 25/32/27 mpg city/highway/combined.

Expect the ’21 Elantra GT N Line to rate 23/30/26 with manual transmission and 25/32/28 with the dual-clutch automatic. Our manual-transmission N-Line review sample averaged 29.4 mpg with more highway driving than suburban commuting.

All ‘21 Elantra GTs would continue to use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline.

Will there be new features?

Perhaps. Hyundai is improving availability of key safety features across its products, and we hope the 2021 Elantra GT will be among the next to benefit. Specifically, we’d urge the South Korean automaker to make important driver assists, such as autonomous emergency braking, standard instead of an expensive option limited to the costliest version of the GT.

For model-year 2020, forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive radar cruise control, and drowsy-driver alert were offered only on N Lines equipped with the dual-clutch gearbox. The features were part of a pricey $3,850 Tech Package that also added a panoramic sunroof, power driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, upgraded audio system with imbedded GPS navigation, wireless smartphone charging, and Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics.

Puzzlingly, availability of blind-spot alert and rear cross-traffic detection was optional for the Base ’21 GT but not offered on the N Line.

CarPlay, Android Auto, and the 8-inch infotainment screen should return as standard across the board. The ’21 N Line should continue to include leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless access with pushbutton engine start, and an upgraded center console with sliding armrest.

Will 2021 prices be different?

Without a midcycle refresh, they’ll likely be only marginally higher. With a midcycle refresh, they’ll be bit more than marginally higher, but still affordable. Estimated base prices here include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $930 on the 2020 Elantra GT

Expect the ’21 Elantra GT Base model to be priced from around $21,500. Look for the 2021 N Line to be priced around $24,500 with manual transmission and around $25,600  with the dual-clutch automatic.

In addition to the N Line Tech Package, among the few options would again be a Base Style Package ($2,900 in 2020) that would include most of the features standard on the N Line, plus a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic detection.

When does it come out?

2020 Elantra GT

Release date for the 2021 Hyundai Elantra GT will likely be in the fall of 2020.

Best competitors

Honda Civic Hatchback, Mazda 3 Hatchback, Subaru Impreza Hatchback, Toyota Corolla Hatchback, Volkswagen Golf and Golf GTI

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]