As of late, I’ve been a big fan of Hyundai, and in particular the Elantra, which I believe is one of the marque’s most-improved products.
I would credit much of this to content, for example making navigation, rearview camera, proximity key with push-button start, and even heated leather seats – front and rear – available in a vehicle that is second from their bottom rung.
And I’d credit equal parts to styling.
Not that Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design renders equally across the lineup. With some models, Korean sibling Kia, employing Peter Schreyer’s crisper lines and more European look, delivers a more fetching exterior. For example, I prefer the Optima’s styling over the Sonata.
But fluidic sculpture is spot on with the Elantra Coupe, one of the company’s sharpest rides next to the more powerful and pricey Genesis sports coupe.
In the two-door Elantra, Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and swept-back headlights provide a bolder first impression than any predecessor. Slit fog lights flow into muscular front wheel arches, adding to the aggressive demeanour.
What’s best about the new exterior is its side profile. The wedge silhouette with deeply sculpted surfaces and upswept character lines is yet another example of why two doors generally look better than four.
Add the optional five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels as found in SE trim, and you’d think this sporty coupe far exceeds its $25,199 price tag.
The same goes for the nicely fitted interior.
Even at the $19,949 for the base GLS with manual, you get a well-equipped car that includes the usual power locks, windows, keyless entry and air, along with heated front seats (six/four-way adjustable for driver and passenger), hands-free Bluetooth, tilt/telescopic and leather-wrapped steering with audio and cruise controls, 60/40 split folding rear seats, and 172-Watt AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers.
A six-speed automatic with Shiftronic adds $1,250, and the SE package, as tested, bumps that by another $4,000.
For this relatively hefty sum, you do get a load of additional content such as 17-inch alloys (up from 16-inch), automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with pushbutton start, seven-inch navigation screen with rearview camera, leather seating and an upgraded 360-Watt audio system.
You don’t get the heated rear seats as found in the sedan, but you do get identical legroom in back, which I didn’t expect.
Despite the Coupe’s taut styling and steeply-raked roofline, it does match its four-door sibling on nearly all key dimensions: wheelbase, rear head and leg room, and overall volume including the trunk.
Which gives it a leg up over top-selling competitors like the Civic, where the Elantra delivers more rear headroom (943 versus 872 mm) and cargo volume at 420 litres versus 331.
Numbers aside, the rear of this sporty coupe is capacious enough for full-size adults to sit comfortably, and there are no gymnastics in getting back there, as the front seat travels well forward for easy access.
What’s missing from the Coupe’s passenger cabin is abundant wind noise at highway speeds, thanks to a slippery exterior. Drag coefficient is 0.28 Cd, which is extremely low by any standard.
Engine noise, as well, intrudes less than I’d expect from the small displacement inline four.
At only 1.8 litres, Hyundai’s Nu engine, which is shared across the Elantra lineup, delivers a smooth 148 hp and 131 lb/ft of torque, and is rated at a thrifty 7.6/5.3/6.6 litres/100 km city/hwy/comb.
Choose your own gears with the six-speed manual, and it’s even more fuel efficient.
Active Eco, which comes standard with all automatic transmission models, ups the green ante. It will sap some of the life from this engine, but at $1.30-plus per litre, I’m willing to compromise.
Besides, as sporty as the Elantra Coupe appears, it’s no road rocket. Acceleration is as good as anything in its class, but if you really want a kick in the seat, along with the joys of a sport-tuned suspension and limited-slip differential, there are other options, like the Civic Si and Mazdaspeed3.
But you’ll pay a premium at the dealership and at the pumps – a little more with the Si, and a lot more with the Mazda.
No matter, you can still have fun with the Elantra Coupe.
Front suspension includes MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar, and in back the sedan’s V-beam torsion bar has been swapped for a lighter version with integrated stabilizer bar. All contribute to a reasonably firm ride.
Enhancing this are steering knuckle design, torsion beam rigidity and damper tuning that have all been tuned for sportier handling than its sedan sibling. Go hard into the corners and there’s relatively little body roll.
And the electric power steering delivers just enough feel to keep it interesting.
I’ll admit the tighter driving dynamics of the five-door GT, which is based on Hyundai’s European i30 model, are even more compelling than the Coupe. And the GT’s driver selectable steering mode (which allows you to dial in steering feel from “comfort” to “sport”), is a nice touch.
But the two-door would be my hands-down favourite in terms of styling.
Which shows that Hyundai not only has a vehicle for nearly every taste and budget, but in the compact segment, where most Canadian buyers choose to spend their hard-earned dough, they provide real options that are about more than just content levels and price.
Hyundai Elantra Coupe 2013
Body style: Compact sporty coupe.
Drive method: front-engine, front-wheel drive.
Engine: 1.8-litre DOHC four-cylinder (148 hp, 131 lb/ft of torque) six-speed manual, 7.2/5.2/6.3 L/100 km city/highway; six-speed automatic 7.6/5.3/6.6 L/100 km city/highway
Cargo: 420 litres
Price: GLS manual, $19,949; GLS automatic, $21,199; SE automatic, $25,199.