By Michel Deslauriers
Friday, June 29, 2012
Now that the Elantra nameplate is getting some serious attention, Hyundai wisely chose the right time to expand its line-up. There is now an Elantra to please just about everybody in the market for a compact car.
Say hello to the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe as well as the 2013 Elantra GT, a five-door version that will replace the aging Touring wagon variant. Both are trickling into dealerships right now.
The Elantra closed out the 2011 calendar year in 2nd place among top-selling cars in Canada, right behind the Honda Civic. You would think that Hyundai is multiplying Elantra variants in an effort to catch up to its Japanese rival, currently about 6,000 units ahead in 2012 calendar year sales, but no.
The friendly folks at Hyundai tell us they aren’t chasing the Civic, knowing very well that they won’t close the sales gap. The Alabama, US plant is producing as many Elantra sedans as it can. By the way, the Coupe and GT versions will be built in Hyundai’s plant in Ulsan, Korea.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe will aim to please buyers who want something with a sportier look than a sedan, but not as dynamic as a Veloster or a Genesis Coupe. Yet sales expectations are modest: about 5% of all Elantras sold should have only two doors, according to Hyundai Canada.
Mechanically, the Elantra Coupe is very similar to the sedan. A 1.8L four that develops 148 hp and 131 lb-ft is the sole engine choice, although you can choose between a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic with manual mode. You also get the sedan’s hydraulic power steering, MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension.
According to Hyundai, however, the Coupe benefits from a quicker steering ratio (13.9:1 vs. 14.2:1), modified dampers to improve body motion control, while the rear axle gets an integrated stabilizer bar.
On the road, these marginal differences are not readily apparent; at least, not without driving the coupe and the sedan back-to-back, which we didn’t have to opportunity to do. On the other hand, it’s clear that the two-door Elantra isn’t as frisky as the Veloster, nor is it designed to be that way.
Alas, the on-center numbness of the steering felt in the sedan is still somewhat noticeable in the coupe, which means constant corrections on the highway to keep a straight line.
The 1.8L four is still noisy at wide-open throttle, although it doesn’t sound unrefined at all. Too bad the Elantra Coupe isn’t a tad more powerful than the sedan, though. The Civic has a 201-hp Si version, but then again, Hyundai’s got the new 2013 Veloster Turbo to confront it in terms of power and price.
Room for four
The new coupe rides on the same wheelbase as the sedan, and exterior dimensions are virtually identical. The curb weights of both cars are also very close. In short, Hyundai didn’t try giving a different flavour or style to the Elantra Coupe. Not that it had to.
Despite two less doors, the Elantra Coupe is still a roomy car, and can easily accommodate four adults comfortably; compared with the sedan, passenger volume is down by only 6 litres (or 0.2 cu ft), while trunk space is identical. Getting in and out is obviously more complicated, although back-bench headroom is not an issue for folks under six feet tall.
The rest of the cockpit is pretty much carried over from the sedan, including its swooping dashboard design with silver-painted trim, and excellent ergonomics.
Pricing: Elantra Coupe vs. Civic Coupe vs. Kia Forte Koup
Unlike the Elantra sedan, Hyundai’s new coupe will not be offered in a stripped-down base model. The Elantra Coupe GLS will start out at $19,949 and will include 16” alloy wheels, a power sunroof, a 6-speaker stereo with USB port and fog lamps.
The $25,199 Elantra Coupe SE will add a sport suspension, 17” wheels, a navigation system with rear-view camera, leather upholstery, aluminum pedals, an intelligent key system, climate control and a 360-watt sound system.
In comparison, the Civic Coupe includes a cheaper LX trim, and the $20,240 EX has about the same list of features as the Elantra GLS; the $24,890 Civic EX-L actually costs less than Hyundai’s SE trim.
The Kia Forte Koup EX is quite the deal at $18,995, while the $24,595 SX Luxury with navigation also beats out both the Honda and the Hyundai in regards to features for the price.
I’m puzzled by the fact that the Elantra Coupe SE will only be available with the automatic, as opposed to the base GLS who’ll offer both gearboxes. But Hyundai says the take rate for manuals in uplevel trims is usually marginal.
Gorgeous, with a spacious cabin and a fuel-efficient engine, there are plenty of arguments for choosing a 2013 Elantra Coupe over a Civic Coupe. I wonder why Hyundai created this two-door version in the first place; its driving experience isn’t any different or better than the sedan, they’re not expecting to sell in very high numbers and it might interfere with Veloster sales.