By Jeff Glucker
You’re a young person. This means you have no children, no major responsibilities besides school or an entry-level job, and you certainly have no money. Well, unless you are either a star of MTV’s Teen Mom, a first-round NBA draft pick, or Batman. Odds are you’re not one of those three things, which means you are hunting for affordable and efficient wheels with just two doors and a compact body.
Historically, one shopping in this segment would immediately turn to the Honda Civic. For years, the Civic has proven to be the yard stick by which compact coupes are measured. Sure, there are other choices but they’re typically more expensive, ugly, extra boring, or simply not as good as the Japanese go-to machine.
Other automakers have been studying the Civic formula however, and many are poised to take the crown from Honda. After all, the automaker has been making odd choices as of late, and the top spot is ripe for the picking. Hyundai is one such automaker who has been paying attention, and the Korean kingpin is ready to dive bomb into the lead. How will it do this? Well, the hopes and dreams of a class-leading compact coupe have been pinned on to the all-new 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe.
Read on to see if this swoopy two-door has the chops to dethrone the king…
If you’re a fan of the current direction of Hyundai styling, you’re going to like the Elantra Coupe. Fluidic Sculpture is the name of the game, and the design theme has run rampant over the skin of this two door. Everything is swoopy, flowing, and pronounced. The strong character line puffs sharply out from the side of the car, and serves to connect the generated movement present in both the head and taillamps. There is no mistaking this car for anything else, and that’s a good thing considering many of Hyundai’s customers are motivated by exterior design.
Inside, it’s the same story with more fluidity and style. One thing Hyundai has nailed with respect to its most recent models is an aesthetically pleasing interior that also functions rather well. The seats are supportive and comfortable, and visibility is solid in all directions. The back seat is reasonable as well, seeing how on our drive route we shuffled around a representative from Hyundai. Why did we need him? Well, our driving partner was Mr. Matt Farah from the TheSmokingTire, and he required … attention, per the risk-management personnel at Hyundai. Thankfully for the friendly Hyundai chaperone, the Elantra Coupe is wider and longer than the 2012 Honda Civic Coupe, which means there’s more room inside. In fact, with a total passenger volume of 110.2 cubic-feet, the Elantra Coupe reaches into the mid-size segment per EPA classifications.
So what has Hyundai done with all of that space? Filled it with great standard features and top-notch optional extras. Heated seats come standard across the entire Elantra Coupe line, as does satellite radio, iPod and USB inputs, and a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel. Step up to the SE trim, and you will also get aluminum pedals, which add a dash of “Look at how sporty I am!” into the cabin. The optional extras include a crisp seven-inch touchscreen to display the navigation system, voice-activated features, a rear-view camera, leather seating, and push-button start just to name a few.
Interior doodads and exterior styling are nothing without a powertrain however, and Hyundai engineers didn’t have to work that hard to find an appropriate engine and transmission combination for the Elantra Coupe. Under the hoods sits the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder Nu engine found beneath the skin of the Elantra Sedan. This mill produces 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque, which is a few ticks better than the 1.8 motor employed by the Civic Coupe (140 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque). Despite the extra shove, the Elantra manages to match the Civic fuel economy figures when saddled with the six-speed automatic gearbox (28/39 Elantra and Civic, and it bests the numbers when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission (29/40 Elantra vs 28/36). We’re no dummies here though, and it became quite clear how Hyundai eked out the extra bit of fuel efficiency with the manual gearbox.
Our drive route started started by the ocean, near the Torrey Pines golf course in La Jolla, California. From there, we moved inland towards Palomar and Julian, where things get rather hilly. It was on these hills that tall gearing revealed itself in not-so-spectacular fashion. We kept the car in second gear to extract as much power as possible, but we were up near the redline quite often. Shifting to third pushed the revs way back down, and power disappeared. So we were forced to stay in second for as long as possible. The engine actually sounded better than expected, with a soft burble hidden beneath the wail of the rising revs, and it pulled hard enough to climb the hills. We just wish the drop between second and third was a gentle valley, and not a steep cliff that ended in disappointment.
Once we reached the top of the hill, it was time to head back down, and the transmission woes were in our rear-view mirror because we could hold the car in third car. New woes raised their head though, this time in the form of handling. The Elantra Coupe offers up a surprisingly plush ride thanks to the softly-sprung suspension. That’s the problem though, because this sporty looking car serves up a surprising amount of body roll. Additionally, the steering is on the wrong side of light. If the steering feel in your average BMW is Dethklok-grade heavy, the steering feel in the Elantra Coupe is Jem and the Holograms. Yes, I just made a Jem reference… but the steering is far too light, and it deserves to be saddled with the comparison.
Handling issues aside, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe is quite a compelling addition to the compact coupe category. The styling is the opposite of boring, the interior rivals that of premium vehicles when fully equipped, and the fuel efficiency is hard to beat, though we wish it didn’t come at the sake of better gearing. Are the standard amenities, optional extras, and standout styling enough to tackle the Civic though? If you think so, you’re going to need to shell out a few extra bucks over the price of a Civic to own the Elantra. A base Civic Coupe starts at $15,755, but you’ll really need to jump up to the $17,805 LX model to have a fair comparison to the more comfortably equipped Elantra Coupe. Pricing for the Hyundai starts at $17,445 for the base six-speed manual-equipped GS, and climbs to $20,745 for an SE with the paddle-shiftable six-speed automatic.
The Honda Civic has as serious competitor on its hands in the form of the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe. ****, the way the 2012 Civic came to market, maybe we should say that the Elantra Coupe has competition from the Honda. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a sporty car just based on looks though, because it’s a sporty looking economy car that offers excellent features right out of the gate, and it pairs those features with an efficient powertrain.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe is proof that young people can look forward to buying first new car, without being fearful of settling.
[Disclosure: Hyundai wanted us to drive the 2013 Elantra Coupe, so they invited us down to The Lodge at Torrey Pines. We didn't play any golf unfortunately, but we ate good food, and enjoyed a few drinks from the fridge in our room. On top of the room, they gave us a pair of Oakley karting shoes, which we are still figuring out what to do with. We also drove the Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo. Keep your eyes peeled for both of those reviews in the next few days.]