Auto shows may offer a first look, but automotive launches give journalists a first impression of a new or redesigned vehicle. At the recent launch of the redesigned 2018 Hyundai Sonata and all-new 2018 Elantra GT in Charleston, South Carolina, attended by Latino Traffic Report, two features made a big impression—the blind spot monitoring system and six-speed manual transmission.
Hyundai has been known to take risks to set itself apart from its competitors, like its five-year/60,000-mile, fully transferable bumper-to-bumper warranty. For the 2018 Sonata, Hyundai makes another bold move by adding a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert to the Sonata’s list of standard equipment, setting it apart in the midsize sedan segment. At the launch, John Shon, senior manager, Hyundai product planning, admitted that this is the most requested feature by customers.
Created at Hyundai’s California design studio, the 2018 Sonata improves on looks, accented by the new cascading grille, sculpted hood, LED daytime running lights, and catamaran shape on the lower bumper, as well as, essentials.
Choices abound when it comes to powertrains with three available engines and transmissions—a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, a 2.4-liter gasoline direct injected engine matched to a six-speed automatic, and 1.6-liter turbo matched to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. All transmissions are include Shiftronic simulated manual shifting.
While a hybrid and plug-in hybrid will be available, the best fuel economy from the three powertrains mentioned, will be the 1.6-liter turbo unique to the Eco trim with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Powered by the 2.0-liter turbo, the test model Sonata Limited at the launch averaged 28.8 mpg.
As for other new technology, a wireless charging pad for Android phones is available as is Lane Keep Assist with Driver Attention Alert, a heated steering wheel, and smart cruise control.
Built in the United States at the Alabama assembly plant, the 2018 Sonata has a starting price of $22,935.
With a silhouette that bears more resemblance to a wagon than a hatch, the all-new five-door 2018 Elantra GT presents an interesting option in the compact segment. Even more refreshing, however, is that it also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and not just on the base trim.
If offered at all, most manual transmissions are used by manufacturers to lower the starting price on the base model, which is sold as-is, i.e. without the chance to add available options. Equipping both trims, the Elantra GT and GT Sport, with a manual transmission means that aficionados, like yours truly, can drive a stick with access to upgrades and features like a blind spot monitor (standard on the GT Sport) or smart cruise control. The GT Sport also gets a unique red shift knob.
The appeal for a hatch is convenience and the GT fulfills that expectation offering nearly 25 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat and 55.1 cu. ft. with the 60/40- split rear seat folded flat.
Standard features include a rearview camera, eight-inch display audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and individual tire pressure display, another great feature. Have you ever tried to figure out what tire needs air without it?
Like the Sonata, the Elantra offers unique four cylinder powertrains for both trim levels. The 2.0-liter powers the GT with 161 horsepower and 150 ft.–lb. of torque. While the manual transmission is standard, a six-speed automatic is available. The GT Sport is powered by the 1.5-liter turbo with 201 peak horsepower, 195 ft.–lb. of torque and offers a seven-speed automatic as an option.
Fans of new technology will appreciate the new Blue Link skill for Amazon Alexa that links an Alexa-enabled device, like an Amazon Echo or Dot, to start the car.
Pricing for the 2018 Elantra GT starts at $20,235.
At the launch, both vehicles performed nicely and should attract buyer attention. Offered in a wide range of trim levels, the fact that all Sonatas now include the blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert creates a win-win, from the base to the top-of-the-line. The compact five-door segment offers versatility and economy. With a manual transmission available on both Elantra GTs, Hyundai’s five-door hatch surpasses expectations.