Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hyundai Elantra Coupe Adds Style to a Favorite

Years ago, Hyundai vehicles were decent transportation devices but didn't quite measure up to the more established brands, such as Toyota and Honda. Their styling was boring or derivative -- or both! But since the Fluidic Sculpture look arrived a few years ago, Hyundais are cool.

The Elantra sedan got hit with the beauty stick for 2011. Since then, it has won awards and generally spread itself all over American highways. Today, you can get a five-door GT model and the new two-door Elantra Coupe. I just tested an Atlantic Blue sample.

The market for compact sedans is heating up and is brutally competitive, so Hyundai has chosen to distinguish itself. For one thing, it looks sharp. The flowing creases on Hyundais are almost enough to make you seasick if you study them for too long, but the point is, the cars look very good and also not like anything else. The six-sided mouth looks like it was designed specifically to eat up the competition.

My wife commented that she "could see the clay," meaning the models produced in the styling studios. The wavy lines and dramatic curves would be fun to carve into the models. I assured her that the folks in the studios use computer-aided design today, but I see her point. 

The Elantra Coupe is roomier than its competitors, moving slightly into the midsize category, leaving the others in the compact dust. A few cubic feet more makes more room for passengers and an overall better experience.

You can get an Elantra Coupe in the GS or SE model. The SE, of course, is sportier, looking especially so in the coupe format. The SE wears 17-inch alloys in place of the GS's 16's.

Every Elantra Coupe comes with the same proven engine as in the sedan -- a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder with 148 horsepower and 131 lb.-ft. of torque. In California, Oregon, and a few other enlightened places, you can get a PZEV (extra clean) version of the SE. The PZEV version loses three horsepower and 1 lb.-ft. of torque, but it gets a 9 in both Greenhouse Gas and Smog scores from the EPA, while earning official mileage scores of 27 City, 37 Highway, and 31 Combined. I got less.

The fuel economy gauge in my test car reset after each fillup, so I got 24.5 mpg on the first tank, and, with a few non-commute longer freeway trips, 28.4 on the second tank. These numbers are not the absolute best around, but are darned close.

The engine, combined with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, is a good match for the approximately 2,700-pound coupe. I would have liked to sample the manual, but the automatic did what automatics these days do--move the car along quickly with no fuss. Today's technology is probably a whole lot smarter than we are, anyway.

Hyundai has stylish exteriors, but it's inside where you really can sense that something has happened. The detailing is exquisite, considering the price point. Seams match. Surfaces are interesting and varied. The chrome trim over silver on the controls is elegant. The pinch of the dash where it meets the center console is dramatic and allows for slim storage pockets along the console. Only the SE gets aluminum pedal covers.

Hyundai also knows its seats now. I took two drives on Saturday that took me way out in different directions for events, and I never got sore or still sitting there. The seats are a bit more bolstered than the ones in the sedan, for sportiness, but also to hold you in place en route. The seats are heated in all Elantra Coupes.

Every Elantra Coupe comes with an audio system. The standard 172-watt system includes Satellite RAdio and a USB port for your iPod. The optional one nearly doubles the wattage to 360 and adds an external amplifier.

My tester, as an SE PZEV with automatic transmission, was at the top of the price chart. It's base price of $20,745 rose about 10 percent with the Technology Package ($2,300). It includes a navigation system with a seven-inch color screen and the optional audio system, passive entry with pushbutton start, and automatic headlamps. Total price out-the-door was $23,965. The base car, a GS with manual, starts at $18,375.

What a fun way to be frugal without being boring or bored.

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