The second you close the preposterously long door to the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe, the magic is gone. The swoopy coupe, expertly draped in Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design language, is washed from your memory. Before you is the same instrument panel, center console, seats, shifter, steering wheel and all of the other vitals from the Hyundai Elantra sedan. And because it uses the identical 1.8-liter engine, everything feels the same.
This sounds like a good thing. After all, we like the Elantra sedan. But do strong styling and the promise of a "Sport Coupe" driving experience justify its existence?
Creating the Coupe
Like the biological child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the Elantra coupe benefits from some seriously good genetics. Compared with the Elantra sedan, the coupe gets a unique front grille treatment with piano black accents, a new front bumper, new rocker panels, a unique rear spoiler and bumper and alloy wheels. The results are insubstantial enough that only Hyundai fanboys and executives will be able to pick them apart from 100 feet. Measuring tape enthusiasts will find that, thanks to the new bumpers, the coupe is only 0.4 inch longer than the sedan.
Here is the list of items that remain the same as the sedan: everything else.
Like the Elantra sedan and the Elantra GT the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe is powered by Hyundai's 1.8-liter four-cylinder. It still produces 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 131 pound-feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. The car we drove, however, wore the PZEV badge that reduces power to 145 horses at 6,300 rpm and 130 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. The Elantra's closest competitors, the Honda Civic coupe and the Kia Forte Koup make 140 hp and 156 hp, respectively.
Predictably, the Hyundai also bests its closest competition in fuel economy, returning 28 city/39 highway mpg when equipped with the six-speed automatic. Hook up the standard six-speed manual and you're looking at 29 city and the elusive 40 mpg on the highway.
A Difference, To Be a Difference...
The last 2011 Hyundai Elantra Sedan we tested weighed nearly 100 pounds more than this coupe and managed a respectable-for-the-segment-but-still-boring 9.4-second-run to 60. Give or take a tenth, that's what we'll see from the coupe, too.
The sedan surprised us with its midrange punch, but we don't remember the levels of aural involvement that are present in the coupe. Give it some sauce and there's a pleasant mechanical whir with overtones of industrial sucking. And then, like the VTEC switch in an old Honda, the note changes to something higher and more exciting. It's not subtle, either — like flipping a switch at 5,000 rpm. Unfortunately, unlike VTEC, you're not rewarded with any more power — just more noise. But in this era of muted engines and disconnected drives, we'll take what we can get.
Coupes have to be sporty. We're not sure who came up with this, or why, but it's true. The Rolls-Royce Phantom coupe, a car that weighs more than the country in which it's built, is billed as being sportier than the car on which it's based. And so, by mandate, the Hyundai Elantra coupe is sportier than the sedan. The coupe uses the sedan's MacPherson strut front suspension augmented with a 22mm stabilizer bar. Its rear twist-beam's stiffness is optimized for coupe duty as well. SE coupes benefit from a "sport" tuning of the suspension to accommodate larger 17-inch wheels (GS models come with 16-inch wheels).
Steering feel is still more virtual reality than useful feedback, with needlessly heavy effort. Why Hyundai didn't adapt the Elantra GT's variable-effort steering system for the coupe is a mystery. Look for this in the coupe by the 2014 model year at the latest.
Comb over the minutiae all you want, but know this: The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe drives exactly like the sedan, complete with that car's masterful highway ride and sleepy dynamics.
...Has To Make a Difference
Unique to the Elantra coupe are special bolstered seats with standard heating (up front). They're supportive and the bolstering is useful, but they're set lower than in the sedan and on twisty roads — you know, the type you're supposed to crave in a sport coupe — the A-pillar blocks the view through tight left corners. This is the price you pay for that low seating position, sharp windshield angle and good scores on the roof strength crash tests.
Then there are the rear seats. The coupe has them and, in comparison with the sedan, there is slightly more hiproom, slightly more legroom, less shoulder room and exactly the same amount of headroom. With the driver seat in a reasonable position, our 6-foot-2-inch passenger wasn't offended by the experience and we all got a good laugh as his lanky frame folded into the crevasse between the seat and B-pillar.
There is, however, one difference that matters when it comes to Elantra coupe vs. Elantra sedan: price. Walk into your local Hyundai dealer and the sticker on a base, manual-transmission 2013 Elantra sedan will be $17,470. Sitting next to it, with two fewer doors and slightly different standard equipment will be the Elantra coupe which starts at $18,220. Call it the cost of looking good.
Buy the GT (or the Sedan)
The coupe genre got its footing when sedans were plain, restrained and designed to not offend. Hyundai flipped this paradigm with its current lineup of expressive, visually interesting yet still practical sedans. The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe, unlike coupes of the past, doesn't bring anything new to the party.
Hyundai says 52 percent of potential Elantra coupe buyers are seeking a "youthful-looking vehicle." Only 40 percent of Elantra GT buyers are concerned with looking young but still want a vehicle that is fun to drive and stylish. In the Elantra GT, Hyundai combined function with style and adorned it with better driving dynamics than the coupe. For those reasons, we prefer the GT. If it doesn't look young enough, we'll wear a Tapout hat or take up kayaking.
And our young, hip, extreme-sports-playing friends will appreciate having their own doors.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.