First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe and GT [Review]

Hyundai expands the breadth of its Elantra range with a new coupe and a new five-door.

Twin sons from different mothers. Well, not exactly, but there is a similarity between the new 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe and the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT that ties them together and at the same time has them at opposite corners of the wrestling ring.

We traveled to the Texas Hill Country to experience both models, which represent a significant expansion of Hyundai's successful Elantra line.

Entry-level strengths
Hyundai bills its new Elantra Coupe as an "expressive and sporty alternative to a sedan," while the new five-door Elantra GT is designed to be shopped by those needing extra cargo space and/or family hauling capabilities. The competitive set for the two-door features the stalwart Honda Civic and, in a case of eating their young, the Kia Forte Koup. At the same time, the GT, which is based on the European-only Hyundai i30, goes head-to-head with five-doors like the Ford Focus, Mazda Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza.

Both cars utilize Hyundai's Nu 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine. Rated at 148-horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm, it features a segment leading dense power-per-liter rating of 82.2 horsepower per liter. A lower-cost multi-point fuel injection system is used over a direct-injection system, but the engine and six-speed automatic transmission still manages an EPA mileage figure of 28/39 mpg in both vehicles. We were only able to try the automatic versions of both Elantras, but a stick shift is standard.

Both the Elantra Coupe and GT have followed the brand's adherence to its fluidic design language. At the same time, they seem to be highlighting two different directions of that language. For instance, the coupe is more in line with the previous Elantra sedan, while the GT seems to be channeling the latest designs from Mazda, and from certain angles, the Mercedes-Benz R-Class. That's until you get to the front grill area, where the GT jumps ahead with a more modern appearing take on the marque's trademark hexagonal grille.

The Coupe's MacPherson strut front suspension features a motor driven power steering system, and improved dampers. The rear is kitted with a lower-trech torsion beam. Optimized for stiffer roll control, it may not be firm enough for enthusiast drivers. For them, there's always the aftermarket.

By comparison, the GT is actually the sportier-tuned model with its Sachs dampers. Remember when coupes were the sporty ones?

Inside, the Elantra Coupe featured nicely bolstered seating in front and enough room in the rear seat for a short stint on a short drive. Leather seating surfaces give the Coupe a class-above feel, as does the available seven-inch navigation screen with rearview camera. And that was a good thing to counteract the hard plastic surfaces found on the dashboard and around the rest of the car including such contact areas as the windowsills on the doors. Total cargo capacity is 14.8 cubic feet, which isn't bad for a two-door.

The Elantra GT takes the line further than any other Elantra before it. Part hatchback with a little bit of sedan thrown in for good measure, it features much more in the way of refinement. A soft touch dashboard, gauge hood and windowsills combine with a similar center stack and a useful air conditioned glove box.

Both cars offered a width that was generous enough for two adult males to sit side-by-side without contacting the other, which is impressive considering the segment these cars reside in. The GT possesses much more in the way of cargo capacity with 28 cubic feet with seats in the upright position, and 51 cubic feet with them folded flat. Additionally, there is an underfloor storage bin for valuables.

With both cars being introduced at the same time, we were curious why the GT was the better equipped of the two with its refined interior and updated tech features. Hyundai pointed out that the GT is actually the fresher design from the brand, so naturally it would carry the newest switchgear and interior trim inside. In addition, the car was originally slated for European sales, where the customers expect such high-line bits in the cabin.

Huh? What about us?

At over $25,000 as optioned, our loaded up Elantra GT tester does push the limits of the compact car class, although the base model isn't too sparsely equipped.

Behind the wheel
Power coming from the same engine would generally yield the same results, especially considering that both Elantras here are separated by less than 200 lbs.

The 1.8-liter engine managed to find power enough to go up and down the rolling terrain of Hill Country. Tall gearing, for increased fuel economy, managed to let us know the engine room was running at full-bore when we were trying to get on the highways or to avoid becoming a hood ornament for a Texas-sized big-rig. Once at speed, all was right with the world. We did find that it was a safer bet to shove the shift lever into the ShiftTronic portion of its gates for a quick downshift to motivate the Coupe and the GT out of their cruising comfort zones.

The suspensions of both were at home in what we would describe as comfort settings on a variable scale. Neither particularly harsh or nor especially engaging, they did manage to track well into turns just offering the slightest in understeer. We enjoyed the driver selectable steering mode of the GT, which allowed us to vary the steering tension with subtle changes from comfort to normal and sport setting modes.

The steering in the Coupe was of the non-adjustable variety, but provided acceptable feedback from the electric power assist system.

Road noise into the cabin of both cars was relatively low, even on the coarse back roads of Hill Country. Conversation was very possible without the raising of voices.

They might not set the segment on fire, but these two new prongs in Hyundai's compact car attack should bolster its presence.

Leftlane's Bottom Line.
Hyundai rounds out the Elantra trilogy with the introduction of the 2013 Coupe and GT. Both offer good capability and comfort in affordable packages. I

f we were to choose, the refinement and additional features found in the GT would make it our sure thing.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe base price, $17,445.
2013 Hyundai Elantra GT base price, $18,395.

Words and photos by Mark Elias. Elantra GT interior photos courtesy of Hyundai.