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First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

The compact coupe segment is a much smaller one today than it was a couple years ago. General Motors had a longstanding tradition of coupes that began way back, with the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird/Sunfire and carried forward to the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac Pursuit/G5. Those two-doors disappeared when, first, Pontiac was killed off and, then, when the four-door only Cruze replaced the Cobalt in 2011.

Ford sold a two-door Focus from 2008 through 2011, but it too went away with the introduction of the 2012 Focus.

That leaves the popular Honda Civic coupe, Kia’s Forte Koup—a relative newcomer—and this car, the even newer 2013 Hyundai Elantra coupe, to appeal for buyers looking for a small, inexpensive two-door.

It’s no surprise that Hyundai names the only two other compact coupes left as its key competitors with this first-ever Elantra two-door. The only other car that could be considered similar in price and target demographic is the Scion tC, but it’s a hatchback (not that that necessarily matters) and it’s not much of a threat sales-wise because, despite Scion’s value-added approach, the Toyota sub-brand’s cars don’t exactly fly out of showrooms.

Hyundai’s two calling cards here are the car’s looks, which adopts the sedan’s Fluidic Design (over)styling, and its interior space: the company says this car has more of it than the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima coupes, both of which are based on big family sedans. Hyundai achieved that by leaving the Elantra sedan’s 2,700-mm wheelbase intact (the two-door versions of the Accord, Altima and the Civic all ride on abbreviated versions of the platforms that underpin their respective sedans). The result is a back seat that offers as much legroom as the Elantra sedan, and only a little less headroom, due to the more rakish roofline.

The huge front doors are a bonus for easier rear-seat access, but a hindrance in tight parking situations. My other coupe annoyance, the reach back for the front seatbelts, is mitigated by belt extender arms that put it within reach (and can be folded out of the way to ease rear-seat ingress and egress).

Hyundai says the coupe’s cargo capacity is 420 L, same as the sedan. The split-folding rear seat is here, too, and reveals a so-so-sized opening to the passenger compartment.

The coupe is powered by the same 1.8L “Nu” engine used in the sedan and GT. Hyundai is quick to point out that its power figures of 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque are 8 hp and 3 lb-ft more than the Civic’s 1.8L makes. The Forte Koup’s 2.0L makes 156 hp and 144 lb-ft, and an optional 2.4L mill adds 17 hp and 24 lb-ft to those numbers. The Scion tC goes even further, with a 2.5L engine that’s good for 180 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque. And, of course, all of this ignores the Civic Si, with its 201 hp and 170 lb-ft.

All to say that, on the road, the Elantra Coupe would acquit itself just fine against entry-level versions of its direct competition, but has nothing to offer the driver seeking a performance upgrade to go with the car’s more stylish bodywork.

As we wrote in our 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT First Drive, both transmissions work well, but it’s a good thing the manual is an easy shifter with a light clutch, because you’ll need to use both a lot to make the most of the engine’s modest reserves of low-end power.

The omission of paddle shifters in the tech-heavy automatic-only SE version may be a notable one to some (and so might the omission of a stickshift option in that fully-loaded car). The coupe (and GT) has the same Shiftronic manual mode as the sedan, which, to its credit, responds promptly to driver input.

The coupe shares with the GT hatch a rear suspension that’s more sophisticated than the sedan’s, but that’s not enough to quell the rear end’s tendency to get loose on uneven pavement, and made us a bit reluctant to attack some of the juiciest corners as aggressively as we might have liked. The GT rides better, and the reason for that lies in its use of upgraded Sachs-branded shock absorbers; if Hyundai wants to make us like the Elantra more, it needs to put those Sachs shocks on every Elantra, not just the Euro-star GT.

What’s interesting about the Hyundai Elantra in general is that it seems nicely sorted and quite refined when taken on its own, but tends to feel cheap when lined up next to some of its competitors, as it was in Autos.ca’s recent nine-car compact comparison.

As with the GT hatchback, the Elantra coupe lineup favours the buyer looking for a more comprehensive list of standard features than the sedan.

The coupe range begins with the GLS, priced at $19,949 with a six-speed manual transmission, or $21,149 with a six-speed auto. Standard kit here includes manual air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, heated seats, trip computer, power windows/locks/mirrors and keyless entry and USB and auxiliary inputs.

An SE trim is worth $25,199 and comes standard with the automatic. It also adds 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, mirror-mounted turn signal repeaters, automatic climate control, navigation, proximity key entry and pushbutton start, automatic headlights and an upgraded stereo.

The Elantra coupe is on sale and available at Hyundai dealers across Canada.

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