I purchased a 2013 Elantra GT with the 6 speed manual shifter and am more than pleased.
After breifly owning a 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback for a week and returning it because of automatic transmission issues, I decided no more automatics in small cars.
The manual tranny in the GT is smooth with reasonably short throws.
I installed 17 inch wheels with Continental Extreme Contact DWS tires and the improved cornering and traction is noticeable.
It now handles as well in the corners as the Focus did, without the reliability issues that Ford has always been known for.
The interior quality and noise levels are better in the GT than the Focus and the controls in the GT are much more intuitive.
Looks great, good gas mileage (42 mpg on a recent highway trip, 33 to 35 all around mpg so far), rides better (smoother, quieter) than anything in its class that I test drove and is still a fun sporty car to drive.
Base model is very well equipped compared to a Focus.
GT base model has heated cloth seats, satellite radio, 4 wheel disc brakes, just to mention a few standard features that are options on just about everthing else in its class.
Get it with the Style package which has 17 inch wheels (or do what I did and buy the base model and install your own 17 inch wheels and tires).
The small decrease in ride smoothness is worth what you gain in traction and cornering.
A 2 liter engine would probably do just as well on overall fuel efficiency and give the GT just a little more power.
In 6th gear, with the cruise set at 65 mph, the 1.8 liter engine is reving at 2600 RPM.
A 2 liter engine might use a little more fuel around town but would likely do a little better on the highway.