Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe SE

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe SE front

The 2012 Elantra sedan was proof that Hyundai could make an attractive competitor for the crowded front-drive compact sedan segment. For 2013, Hyundai apparently believes there are buyers out there who will opt for a coupe variant of the Elantra, and has therefore introduced the Elantra Coupe.

Not that long ago, many manufacturers offered both a compact four-door sedan and a compact two-door coupe version of a model. Think Chevrolet Cobalt. Think Ford Escort and Escort ZX2. Think Mitsubishi Mirage. Think Pontiac G6. However, the front-drive compact coupe segment has been dwindling, with the only options being the Honda Civic sedan and coupe and Kia Forte and Forte Koup. (I suppose you could throw in the Scion tC, too, although there’s no sedan version of it.) Perhaps the decline in compact coupes could be attributed to the popularity of hatchbacks—something I thought I’d say about the U.S. car market. Coupes are purely for looks. After all, you’re not going to gain any practicality by removing the rear doors and offering a hard-to-access back seat. Although the coupe versions of many cars may look sportier, they don’t drive sportier unless you opt for a truly higher-performance variant, such as the Civic Si coupe or Kia Forte Koup SX, both of which offer 2.4-liter engines in place of smaller standard mills.

2013 Hyundai Coupe SE profile

Don’t get me wrong: Our Elantra Coupe SE test subject, wearing Volcanic Red paint, looks good, and yes, sporty. It’s got swoopy styling, a nice set of 17-inch wheels and 215/45/17 tires, and a fairly low, racy profile. In fact, we think the thing looks pretty darn good. However, a sports car it isn’t.

Powered by a Hyundai’s 1.8-liter 145 horsepower DOHC four-cylinder with variable valve timing, the car has enough get-up-and-go to be on par with the 1.8-liter Civic and the 2.0-liter Forte. It doesn’t make a ton of racket, but also isn’t the epitome of quietness, either; it’s rather middle-of-the-road. The six-speed automatic transmission is perfectly fine, and has manual shifting capabilities—no gripes or overt praise either. The Elantra’s engine never seemed to lack power, but it also isn’t an emotive driving experience by any means. The car’s suspension offers a compliant ride, and handling seemed, again, on par with the Civic and Forte. At 2,835 lbs., the car isn’t a lightweight, but it’s also not overweight. Again the car looks sporty, but it’s a rather vanilla driving experience. That’s not to say it’s bad, it just isn’t exciting. I did think there were some pretty bad blind spots when looking over your shoulders for other cars while changing lanes, however. Blind spot detection would be a nice addition on this car.

The car’s fuel economy is rated at 27 city and 37 highway MPG, but I got a disappointing 22 MPG during my week with the car, even with the car’s ECO mode engaged. Granted, as usual, it was mostly city driving, but even so, that’s a fair amount below the city rating. (As you may know, Hyundai and Kia have both recently been scrutinized by underperforming fuel economy numbers.) Other than the blind spots and the fuel economy, there aren’t major gripes while driving. That being said, there aren’t many driving attributes that separate the Elantra from its equally mundane competition. Now if the engine from the Hyundai Veloster Turbo was available, that would be another story.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe interior

The Elantra Coupe’s interior follows Hyundai’s recent modern accoutrements. It’s futuristic with lots of silver painted plastic. Much like the exterior, the interior has a lot of swooping lines and contoured surfaces, and for the most part, it feels solidly built. The climate control consists of a multitude of pushbuttons arranged in a U-shape around the LCD display. This system can be difficult to operate while driving; you need to get familiar with the buttons’ locations before things become second nature.

Like all Hyundais, the Elantra Coupe includes Bluetooth connectivity. Our SE had the optional 360 watt six-speaker audio system with external amp, but it didn’t sound as good as I expected. We did appreciate the also-optional rear-view camera, as we typically do on all cars, and did find the navigation and connectivity to work intuitively.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe trunk
Plenty of room for stuff in the trunk.
The Coupe’s heated leather seats are comfortable and the back seat is usable. Of note are the intricate swiveling brackets that hold the front seatbelts to the front seats: They’re annoying. They get in the way and impede entry and egress to the rear seats. It should be noted the Elantra Coupe’s trunk is very big and useful.

While we think the Elantra Coupe SE is an attractive car on the outside and the interior is comfortable, it’s just, well, bland. It didn’t do anything offensive, but it also didn’t step out and do anything impressive.

Our Elantra Coupe SE totaled $23,965 including destination, a price I find reasonable. That includes $2,445 worth of optional navigation, sound system, proximity key, rearview camera, floor mats, automatic headlamps, and dual automatic climate control.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe rear

There’s nothing wrong with the Elantra Coupe, and the styling is pretty cool. However, other than that styling, there isn’t much to swoon over. The good news is the Elantra Coupe’s competitors also aren’t that interesting. However, the Civic coupe has a reputation for reliability, resale, and refinement. The Kia Forte Koup has more standard horsepower. The thing we think the Elantra Coupe has going for it is its styling. And after all, that’s the real reason to buy a coupe anyway.


Duke said...

I've found the eco mode on the newer Hyundais to be completely pointless. Apparently it just retards the throttle sensitivity. Meh. I've tried with eco on and off in a '12 Accent and have recorded no fuel economy increases. The car is just slower and more of a bore to drive with it on. But yeah, 22mpg out of the Elantra? That's pathetic. I used to get close to that pussyfooting around in the two ton Northstar Caddy I used to drive. On premium, of course.

Unknown said...

Great review. I bought an Elantra Coupe on October 4th, and so far, I'm just kind of like ... meh! I think I was concerned with features per dollar, and this car has that. I do like it, but I wouldn't buy it again. Plus, the MPG is the worst. I have to drive like an idiot to get good gas mileage.