Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away
Yes, it?s clich?, but as I sit behind the wheel of the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe, I can?t help but think: This is a Hyundai?
The Elantra Coupe is a new addition to Hyundai?s lineup and its crosshairs are aimed squarely at the Honda Civic Coupe. The Hyundai, which starts at $19,949 (base GLS trim) and becomes available this month, seems poised to give its Japanese competitor some grief in the showroom.
Based on the Elantra sedan, the two-door coupe has a more aggressive fascia, which incorporates the prominent, hexagonal grille shared by the Genesis Coupe and Sonata Hybrid. Larger-diameter front and rear stabilizer bars, a retuned suspension and a more responsive steering rack are designed to give the coupe sportier driving dynamics than the sedan.
It rides on the same wheelbase, which is why the coupe only gives up 6 litres of interior volume to the sedan (due mostly to the more streamlined roof), providing expansive, four-door-like rear passenger legroom. There?s plenty of room for two adults in the back (a third fits tightly) and, at 6 feet tall, my head just brushes the headliner when seated comfortably upright.
There are two trim levels available, GLS and SE, and both are feature-laden; a frill-free base model is not available. The GLS includes air and cruise, a six-speaker sound system, power door locks and windows, keyless entry, heated exterior mirrors, heated front seats, 16-inch aluminum wheels and a power sunroof.
For comparable equipment, you?d have to opt for the Civic Coupe EX, which costs $290 more than the Elantra GLS but lacks the Hyundai?s heated front seats and power sunroof. The Elantra also has an extra cog in the gearbox, at six speeds, whether you choose the manual or optional automatic.
But you can?t forget the Kia Forte Koup, which is remarkably well-equipped at $18,995 in base EX trim. Add an automatic transmission and power sunroof, however, and the price jumps to $21,095. And the Hyundai still has more passenger and cargo space than either of those cars.
The Elantra SE, at $25,199, adds push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 360 watts of sound, leather seats, a navigation system with seven-inch touch screen, rear-view camera, 17-inch wheels, sportier suspension settings, and a six-speed automatic (no manual option). Hyundai has cleverly concealed the rear-view camera beneath the badge on the deck lid, which flips up when engaging reverse. This helps keep the lens clean, as demonstrated during my rainy test drive.
The Elantra?s 1.8-litre inline four produces power comparable to the Civic?s, at 148 hp (140 for the Honda), although the Kia Forte wins the horsepower battle at 156. The folks at Hyundai would not confirm if a sportier, more powerful Coupe, a la Civic Si, is in the pipeline.
Where the Hyundai excels is in fuel economy, which is claimed to be a class-leading 5.9 L/100 km for the manual and 6.3 L/100 km for the automatic, bettering the Honda by about a half-litre and the Kia by about a full litre.
My tester is the loaded SE model, and acceleration is adequate as long as you don?t select ECO mode (available only with the auto transmission), which improves fuel economy by up to 7 per cent but keeps engine revs low, and forward movement sluggish.
In normal drive, the car gets off the line with relative enthusiasm. What?s truly impressive is how smoothly and quietly the powerplant operates. Even at high revs, engine noise is barely discernible in the cockpit, and the transmission shifts gears with near-CVT fluidity.
The manual gearbox (sampled in an Elantra GT) is also quite nice, with a light clutch and the shifter providing precise, solid-feeling gear changes, although shifter throw is long-ish. I did accidentally downshift from fifth to fourth a couple of times when attempting to initiate an upshift to top gear, but I?d put that one down to limited seat time rather than a design flaw.
Ride quality is well-refined and at a level you?d find in cars costing considerably more. Steering is light yet responsive, suspension is firm yet compliant, the chassis feels rigid, and body roll is minimal.
As well, the cabin is very well-isolated from road noise. My benchmark for cabin calmness in affordably priced cars is the Buick Verano, which uses a variety of sound-suppressing technologies to quell the ruckus outside.
The Hyundai surprised by exhibiting Verano-like cabin serenity. Road and suspension noise is nearly non-existent, as is the whishing of the tires on the wet pavement ? an unexpected bonus in a modestly priced, sporty coupe.
Interior materials, fit and finish are also better than you?d expect in this price range, and the dashboard has a logical layout with attractive, large analogue gauges for the speedometer and tachometer.
The dual-zone climate control took some getting used to, since it has a multitude of buttons for the various functions, but with time, you can get accustomed to their location. And, despite the sloping roofline, rear visibility is relatively good.
The only criticism I have about the interior is that the driver?s seat could use more adjustability. It?s got the basic adjustments ? fore and aft, height ? but considering the high level of features in the SE, it would have been nice to have tilt and lumbar adjustments, which I could have used.
The front seats could also use a one-touch lever that both tilts the seatback forward and advances the seat to ease rear-seat entry. As designed, you need two separate actions to perform this manoeuvre and then two actions to readjust the seat.
On price point alone, the Elantra Coupe might not cause you to do a double-take; Honda and Kia beat it out with their base model coupes. But factor in the endless comfort features, larger interior dimensions, superior fuel economy and superb ride quality, and it?s simply a value that?s hard to beat.
2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe
ENGINE: 1.8 L inline four
POWER/TORQUE: 148 hp/131 lb.-ft.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 5.9 L/100 km (manual); 6.3 (automatic)
COMPETITION: Honda Civic Coupe, Kia Forte Koup
WHAT?S BEST: Quiet, refined ride, seamless automatic transmission.
WHAT?S WORST: Lack of adjustability in driver?s seat, no manual gearbox in SE trim.
WHAT?S INTERESTING: Compact coupe sales are forecast to increase by 46 per cent by 2016.