For 2013, Hyundai is re-entering the front-wheel-drive compact coupe race with the eponymous Elantra Coupe. While this is hardly Hyundai’s first entry in the segment — remember the Scoupe and the Tiburon? — the Elantra Coupe is an important spear in Hyundai’s three-pronged approach to expanding its Elantra lineup to include sedan, hatchback, and coupe variants.
But can the Elantra Coupe hold its own against strong competition from America and Japan? Autosavant spent a morning driving through the backroads of New Jersey and New York to deliver a First Drive impression.
Prefer instead to watch and listen to us talk about the Elantra Coupe? Scroll down for our video review on the Autosavant YouTube channel.
A sedan that looks like a coupe that looks like a sedan
The first thing you notice about the Elantra Coupe is that, from most angles, it is indistinguishable from its sedan counterpart. To the credit of Hyundai’s design team, that’s not a bad thing. As we’ve said before, the Elantra sedan, a beneficiary of Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” design language, is an attractive machine.
At the macro level, the Elantra Coupe borrows the same overall profile of the sedan, minus two doors. In contrast to the dare-to-be-different Veloster (more on that later), the exterior design is rather conservative. The interior follows suit, and has virtually the same layout of the sedan.
At a press briefing, Hyundai claimed that, by numbers alone, the compact Elantra Coupe has more interior volume than either the midsize Honda Accord or Nissan Altima coupes. It’s a bold claim, considering that Hyundai’s midsize competitor is the Sonata, not the Elantra. But, as Kevin Gordon and I found out, there is plenty of room in front for the driver and passenger. Rear-seat headroom is slightly compromised by the Elantra Coupe’s sloping roofline, but there is plenty of room for legs and knees, even with 6-footers in front.
Hyundai emphasized the Honda Civic coupe as a top competitor for the Elantra Coupe. While the Elantra Coupe is spacious inside, its interior materials, however, are not up to the standard set by Honda. (They are, however, more than acceptable for a sub-$20,000 price point.) Fit is very good, but in a battle for style, function lost out to form; the dashboard features surfaces of varying levels of tactile appeal, and the plastic on the center console was prone to some shaking.
Tuned for economy
Lopping off the rear doors, to turn a sedan into a coupe, does not always a sporty performer make. That said, the Elantra Coupe is a fairly engaging drive. Its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine produces 148 horsepower and 131 lb.-ft. of torque, placing it squarely and competitively with the Civic. As proven on the hilly Palisades Parkway, the engine’s lack of low-end torque leads it to occasionally struggle with steep grades. A slick six-speed manual, with a nicely weighted clutch, is standard, and presumably the choice for serious drivers. However, our experience with the 6-speed automatic in the sedan and hatchback variants demonstrated a transmission capable of keeping the revs where they need to be.
The wrinkle in the argument for the Coupe to be the sportiest of the Elantras seems to be Hyundai’s quest to hit the magic 40-mpg benchmark across the lineup. The Elantra Coupe’s chassis tuning allows for nicely modulated brakes and steering that is accurate, if light. On our test route, it was unclear if we achieved 40 mpg, but the driving experience is not entirely compromised for the sake of economy.
The Elantra Coupe arrives on the market at an auspicious moment, with respect to its competition, but adheres to the rule of arriving late, fashionably. Have a look at the video below for a full list of features and our in-the-moment driving impressions.
Autosavant attended a manufacturer-sponsored event at which the Hyundai Elantra Coupe was available for evaluation. Want to read about the Elantra GT, too? Stay with Autosavant this week, and LIKE our Facebook page for updates as they happen!