Elantra's steeply-raked lines lend themselves well to a coupe
For 2013, Hyundai has introduced a new two-door Elantra Coupe. This isn't some massive re-invention of the Elantra; it is exactly what it says it is -- a two-door version of the Elantra sedan. Is that a good thing? Read on.
First Glance: As advertised
British car writers have an expression they love to use: "Does exactly what it says on the tin." (On the can, for those who don't speak British.) I've avoiding it for two reasons: One, British cliches in American car reviews are pretentious, and two, I've yet to find the car to which it truly applies.
Well, I've found the car, so forgive my pretentiousness: The Elantra Coupe does exacltly what it says on the tin. It has almost all of the best aspects of the Hyundai Elantra, minus a couple of doors.
What I like best about this car is that Hyundai didn't try to re-invent it. From the front seats forward, the Elantra Coupe is pretty much identical to the sedan. The Elantra's steeply-sloped windshield and hood (link goes to photo) and sharp body-line creases lend themselves quite nicely to the Coupe's graceful back end, and a few unique details like the all-black grille and trunk-lid spoiler give the Elantra Coupe the racy look that it needs. It's handsome but acceptably understated.
Same straightforward, high-quality dash as the Elantra sedan
Photo © Aaron Gold
In the Driver's Seat: More than expected
Larger dash photo
From the driver's perspective, the Elantra Coupe is, again, just like the sedan: Same high-quality materials, same straightforward control layout, same comfortable front seats (heated in all Elantra Coupes, leather-lined in the SE model).
Once you get to the back, you get to my favorite features of the Elantra coupe: Back-seat access and space. Getting into the back seat of a two-door car is never easy, but the Elantra Coupe offers better access than most -- the doors open wide and the right-front seat slides way forward, so I was able to just step in, turn, and drop, making something remarkably close to a graceful entrance. Once there, I found an admirable amount of leg, shoulder, and even headroom (though at 5'6" I require less than most people). The Elantra Coupe also has a 14.8 cubic foot trunk, significantly larger than that of most compact and mid-size two-doors.
On the Road: Change is not necessarily good
1.8 liter engine provides tepid acceleration but great fuel economy
Photo © Aaron Gold
Most of the Elantra Coupe's mechanical bits are identical to the sedan: Same 148 horsepower 1.8 liter engine and the same choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. Like the Elantra sedan, acceleration is adequate, if not truly stunning, although fuel economy is impressive: 29 MPG city/40 MPG highway for the stick-shift and 28/39 for the automatic. (The sedan is rated at 29/40 for both transmissions.)
The Elantra Coupe's front suspension and steering setup are also identical to the sedan, although the steering ratio (the relationship between movement of the steering wheel and movement of the front wheels) is a bit quicker, so the Coupe responds to control inputs a bit more crisply. One big change that
Hyundai made was the rear suspension; compared to the sedan, the Coupe gets a unique setup with an integrated stabilizer bar, designed to stiffen the back of the car in order to provide better handling balance. I think they may have stiffened it a bit too much -- my test car rode like there were a couple of 300 pound linebackers in the rear seat. Granted, I did drive the SE model, which has tighter suspension tuning than the GS base model, but this felt more like a mis-match between the front and rear of the car than an overly-aggressive setup.