Driven: 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe & Elantra GT

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Coupe exterior photograph courtesy of Hyundai. All other photos by the author.

Our last write-up of the current Hyundai Elantra was one of current SSL associate John Kucek’s earliest reviews. Written to a specific purpose, that series evaluated the then-new Elantra and Ford Focus to see which got the best mileage in a controlled loop (and, secondarily, to see how closely their real-world mileage matched that which was suggested by the EPA). A lot of water has flowed under that particular bridge since those articles were posted, and in the intervening time Hyundai has also introduced two new models to the Elantra lineup. For this piece, we’ll take a look at the Elantra Coupe and GT to see if these quirkier variants add any charm to Hyundai’s efficient and reliable workhorse.

Part I: Elantra Coupe

The most effective way to radically repurpose a simple family car is to add or remove doors—a strategy not lost on Hyundai’s product planners. Removing doors has been Job One in any sportiness makeover since the first two-door sports car was built. It’s a simple formula. If a sports car has two doors and our car has two doors, then our car is like a sports car. Flawless logic.

The Elantra Coupe does in deed feature only two doors, but is otherwise almost indistinguishable from its four-door cousin. If this were many other cars, I’d consider that a failure on the part of the designers, but here it’s really only the case because the sedan boasts a stylish and sporty exterior. The grille is a bit more aggressive and B-pillar is set slightly back to accommodate the long doors (a given when you’re talking about a repurposed sedan platform), but the overall design is essentially unchanged. I find it difficult to point this out without commending Hyundai’s design department for penning a shape that lends itself so naturally to both configurations.

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The trade-off, of course, is in practicality. The coupe still seats five, and that means long, heavy doors are necessary to maintain access to the rear passenger area. Long doors mean wide opening angles, and wide opening angles mean less room to maneuver when entering or exiting the car. And heavy doors mean deeper dings when you misjudge the available room.

But since the sedan’s swoopy curves were copied for the coupe, there’s no serious compromise in rear headroom. In fact, the coupe seems to offer very few serious compromises at all.

So what’s the catch? Well, that all depends. While the coupe certainly looks the part of the sporty Elantra sibling, it really isn’t. Mechanically, it seems to be 100% identical to the sedan—same suspension tuning, same drivetrain, etc. It’s sporty-looking, sure, but there’s not actually any more “sport” to be found in the performance. And while its performance is perfectly adequate for day-to-day driving, it’s just not a particularly fun car to hustle. It’s somewhat softly sprung and floaty, even to the point that it masks the so-so manners of the torsion beam rear end. It’s competent and comfortable, sure, but not fun.

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Part II: 2013 Elantra GT

What’s more practical than four doors? Five doors. If cargo space is your thing, then Hyundai has you covered here too.

Like the coupe, the GT carries over the drivetrain and suspension of the sedan relatively unchanged. Unlike the coupe, however, the GT’s styling represents a significant deviation. “Deviation” really doesn’t do it justice, honestly. The GT looks nothing like the coupe or the sedan, and for the worse, in my opinion. The flanks gain a beltline that evokes the outgoing Mazda3, which may have been loved for many things, but was never praised as a stylistic victory. It’s not ugly. It’s just not pretty.

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Where it shines, of course, is in the back. The compact, torsion beam rear suspension and hatchback configuration mean ample cargo room and an improvement of nearly an inch in rear headroom over the sedan and coupe.

All in all, the story here is very similar to that of the coupe. If you’re expecting a radical departure from the dynamics of the sedan, you’ll come away disappointed. If what you want is a comfortable, tech-laden, fuel-efficient daily driver with some extra cargo space, then the GT should be on your list.

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Conclusions

The Elantra is a decent little car, and worthy of your consideration if you’re shopping in this segment and your priority is something other than the driving experience. If you want something a little more able in the corner-carving department, a Mazda3, Focus or Golf might be a bit more your speed. It’s certainly ours.

Hyundai provided the Elantra Coupe and Elantra GT for the purpose of this story.

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