Hyundai is slugging it out with Honda for best-selling-car honours in Canada. It came close last year when Civics were in short supply due to the tsunami. Now that Honda can get all the Civics it can sell, Hyundai is being hampered by a shortage of Elantras because global sales are outstripping supply.
Supply has been reduced by a new labour agreement in South Korea that cut shift length and thus production. To address the need, Hyundai has added a third shift to its Alabama plant where the Elantra and Sonata are produced.
That extra supply will help address the shortage of fourth-generation Elantra sedans but Hyundai has also added two new Elantra models – GT and Coupe. Now you can get an Elantra with two, four or five doors.
Attractive and contemporary
The Elantra coupe is another showcase for Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language, first seen on the Sonata and then the Elantra sedan.
From grille to tail lights this is an attractive and contemporary design. That same impression carries over inside.
The driver faces a pair of analog instruments for engine and vehicle speed, flanking smaller readouts for other critical information like fuel and temperature.
A large full-colour screen tops the centre stack (on SE models) providing information on everything from audio choice to what’s behind when you place the transmission in reverse.
The thick, leather-clad steering wheel contains audio, cruise and wireless connectivity controls on the spokes. A single large rotary dial and four buttons control screen functions.
Below is the HVAC system display and again a large central rotary knob flanked by buttons. All very straight forward.
There are numerous little storage spots including a slot on each side of the centre console.
Roomy rear seat
The Elantra Coupe boasts more interior space than the larger-outside Honda Accord and Nissan Altima coupes. That is because the coupe and sedan share the same wheelbase, width, height and overall length.
Instead of being a shortened version of the sedan with a shrunken back seat, the interior dimensions of the Elantra Coupe are within 9-mm of the sedan. The actual interior volume is 2701 litres for the coupe and 2707 for the sedan.
This means that once you squeeze by the dangling shoulder belt and into the rear seat there is as much room there as in the sedan – and more than most coupes.
The wide doors help access to the rear seat and contribute to the design, but they are very long and can be an issue when parked in tight quarters. That’s the price you pay for looking good.
The trunk is also the same size as the sedan, with an impressive 420-litre capacity, but the opening itself is smaller and the rear seats do not fold perfectly flat.
Coupe and sedan share the same engine, transmissions and brakes. But the coupe gets a faster steering gear, a slightly different rear suspension and, in SE trim, "sport" tuning.
The engine is Hyundai’s new Nu 1.8-litre four-cylinder. All-aluminum in construction, with variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust cams but no direct injection, it produces 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque. This is a very smooth, quiet and exceptionally frugal engine.
Hyundai says it weighs 30% less than the unit it replaces, costs 15% less to produce and is 4% more fuel efficient.
But it is not especially powerful. The torque peak is at a rather lofty 4700 rpm and with only 131 lb-ft even at that level, there is not much grunt down low where you need and use it most often.
However, if you are not the type to constantly probe deep into throttle travel you will enjoy hybrid-level fuel efficiency – it's rated at 4.9 L/100 km on the highway with the six-speed manual transmission and 5.0 with the six-speed automatic. Hybrid fuel economy without the cost, complexity and sacrifices.
On the road
My test vehicle had the automatic and, as usual, I didn’t come close to those NRCan ratings. But, I did manage to impress myself with how stingy the coupe can be. You may need patience to pass or climb long hills, but passing gas stations is a breeze.
The ride is pleasantly supple despite the suspension’s "sport tuning." It stays relatively flat when hustled through the turns, but understeer is prevalent and sets in early. The electric power steering is a little light for my taste but provides decent feedback once underway.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe is available in GLS and SE trim levels. You can choose between automatic and manual six-speed transmission in the GLS but the SE comes with the automatic only.
More for less is a Hyundai mantra and it is evident here. The standard equipment list includes air conditioning, power windows, locks, mirrors and sunroof, keyless entry, alloy wheels, heated seats and mirrors, cruise control, tilt & telescope steering wheel and wireless connectivity.
The step up to the SE brings the automatic transmission, larger (17-in) alloy wheels, unique suspension tuning, alloy pedals, leather seats, automatic climate control, an audio upgrade, navigation and proximity entry systems, rear view camera, keyless start and an auto-dimming mirror.