This is the first installment of a three-part series on Hyundai’s three newest offerings, the Elantra Coupe, Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo.
As I casually sauntered over to the gunmetal Elantra GT, I my mind began to ponder Jack’s piece on the Lamborghini and the politics of masculinity, until a Hyundai PR rep stopped me in mid-daydream. “Oh, you guys are driving the Elantra Coupe this morning.”
How fitting. The compact coupe. The chick car par excellence. Favored by grade school administrators and recent divorcees, with a rich lineage dating back to the Mercury Cougar (the front-drive version), the third-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Nissan 240SX (yes, it skewed predominantly female in the pre-drifting era).
The Elantra Coupe finishes third not because it’s a bad car, but because it’s just less desirable and less fun than the other two cars here. While Mercedes made the coupe version of the S-Class (the CL) look extremely elegant and attractive, Hyundai’s coupe looks like a shortened Elantra – not a bad thing, since the Elantra is already a pretty attractive car.
Under the skin, it’s the same thing, too. Same chassis, same 148 horsepower 1.8L 4-cylinder engine, though there are a couple unique bits, such as a revised electric power steering system and a unique rear suspension setup with an integrated swaybar. Interior dimensions remain largely the same, save for a bit of a reduction in rear headroom.
Our drive route took place along mostly arterial roads, with a few twisties thrown in to help us get a taste of the Elantra Coupe’s capabilities. There’s a reason for the heavy bias towards normal driving; the Coupe ain’t sporty. There’s a fair amount of body roll, the steering is heavier but doesn’t really provide much feedback and whatever responsiveness that’s built into the engine is sacrificed at the altar of fuel efficiency – tall gearing helps it get that coveted 40 mpg highway rating. The clutch and shifter are nothing to write home about either. To its credit, the Elantra Coupe has a lot of well thought out elements, but none of them have to do with driving. Things like Bluetooth, and heated seats are standard. The center console is very intuitive, with Hyundai avoiding the “button explosion” issue that plagues cars like the Chevrolet Cruze. There are cup holders and storage compartments everywhere. And that’s all on the $17,745 GS trim level, which serves as the base model. At $23,095 fully loaded with Navigation and automatic transmission, the Elantra Coupe Technology Package has all the “premium” features one might ever want.
Hyundai is honest about the Elantra’s mission as a mainstream, rather than a performance car, but their positioning may need to be tweaked. Ostensibly aimed at Gen Y customers, the Elantra Coupe will likely fall into the same trap that snared the Scion xB and Honda Element (and apparently, the Veloster, which has its fair share of buyers that could be the parents of Generation Y customers). They will be snapped up by a more mature crowd, looking for a swoopy, youthful two-door that’s easy to get in and out of, won’t beat them up on the way to work and most of all but has neither the boy-racer stigma nor the inherent compromises of a real sporty 2-door. According to Hyundai, they are considering a performance-oriented version of this car. They said it wouldn’t happen with the Veloster, but a year later, they did introduce a turbo version. Right now though, think of this car as a Celica GT or a Saturn Ion Coupe for the second decade of the 21st century.
Gen Y on the other hand, doesn’t have such a favorable view of coupes. A 3-Series or a Mustang gets a pass, but for many of us, sedans can have their own prestige too. We may not have grown up riding in Dad’s “personal luxury coupe” – our contemporary, well-to-do father figure likely had some kind of 4-door Japanese sedan that coddled its passengers and let the driver have some fun as well. Look at the demise of the Monte Carlo and Impala-dominated lowrider movement and the birth of the “VIP car” scene if you need further proof. An Elantra sedan may very well be an acceptable vehicle to Gen Y’s sensibilities, since 4-doors don’t carry that kind of stigma. If anything, the two-doors might be viewed as a try-hard, perpetual-bachelor type of vehicle, if memories of the Ford Probe and third-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse still linger.
The Elantra Coupe will be a very appealing product for an undeserved but prominent market segment, that still likes the idea of owning a 2-door car, but wants some comfort, convenience and efficiency. They may be underwhelmed with their Civic Coupe, looking to get rid of their aging Celica GT or hoping to downsize from their Altima. They won’t be in my cohort.
Hyundai provided flight, accomodations, meals and press vehicles. Thanks to Morgan Segal for augmenting my own crappy photos with his stock photography.