Hyundai's Elantra has been a huge success, missing just a model or two to complete the usual compact-car trifecta. A hot seller and an award winner--the North American Car of the Year for 2012--the latest Elantra seems to have caught the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla completely off guard, underpricing and out-valuing them, challenging their safety leads and taking the lead on infotainment not just by a baby step or two, but by magnitude leaps and bounds.
Now Hyundai's fleshing out the Elantra lineup with a two-door Coupe and a five-door GT, just to make the comebacks even more difficult for those mainstays of the compact class. It won't be easy on them, if our first drives of both last week outside San Diego are any indication.
2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe First Drive: you were expecting...?
The Coupe's the easier of the new pair to dissect. There's very little change, outside of the obvious stuff that makes the four-door a two-door. That said, the Coupe isn't without a surprise or two.
Aimed right at the Honda Civic Coupe, but also at its kith and kin, the Kia Forte Koup, Hyundai's Elantra Coupe looks intent on snaring the few shoppers who objected to the sedan because it wasn't curvaceous enough. The overlapping arcs and layers of metal stack up almost as neatly as they do on the sedan, while the long roofline appears taller, almost VW-like. Hyundai's cleverly coupeed its smaller car instead of cutting down its larger Sonata sedan--which explains why the Elantra Coupe looks so balanced, while the Nissan Altima Coupe is a Monte Carlo-ish mess. And thankfully, it's left the interior pretty much alone.
The drivetrains are the same, and so is fuel economy, except for the laggy 39-mpg rating on automatic two-doors. What's different here is the swifter steering and the Coupe's new twist-beam rear axle. Hyundai says it's stronger than the one on the sedan, and provides more stability for the rear wheels. It's subtle, but the Coupe does ride more comfortably, and the steering doesn't wander like the first two years of Elantras did--both the coupe and sedan have improved hardware to dampen that motion from their electric power steering systems.
With nearly the same dimensions as the sedan, the Elantra Coupe finds itself overlapping some convenient size labels. It's a mid-sizer by EPA-measured interior volume, while the Civic, Accord, and Altima two-doors are compacts. It plays mostly in great head room, not in exceptional leg room. In fact, the Coupe's somewhat tedious to enter and exit, since the front seats lack a single-lever action for rear-seat access--you have to flip the backrest first, then reach down to slide the front seat out of the way. The rear seats do fold down for trunk access, though at 14.8 cubic feet, the trunk's bigger than the hold in some sedans.
As with the Elantra sedan, the $18,220 Coupe GS has an exceptional list of standard features, including Bluetooth; satellite radio; a USB port; and heated front seats. Opt for the $20,520 SE and you'll get a sport suspension; a power sunroof; aluminum pedals; leather seats and trim; and a rear spoiler.
Along with the SE, we'd probably leave the otherwise fine $1,000 automatic transmission behind, and take the Technology package. It bundles a navigation system; a rearview camera; a 360-watt audio system; automatic headlamps; and automatic climate control, for a tab of $22,870.
There's more in our full review. As Hyundai does, we've grouped the Coupe together with the sedan, so steer over to our 2013 Hyundai Elantra review for the details.