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2013 Hyundai Elantra

2013 Hyundai Elantra
2013 Hyundai Elantra Wheelbase Media

The pace of change at Hyundai is indeed swift, and the expanding Elantra brand is at the forefront with a new two-door Coupe that’s about to join the compact sedan.

An equally new GT hatchback is also set to arrive (replacing the Elantra Touring), providing a fresh-faced three-model Elantra lineup. All of this frenetic activity is part of Hyundai’s plan to introduce seven new models throughout the 2012 calendar year.

Two-door designs haven’t been particularly popular and they traditionally represent only a small percentage of total sales for most automakers. But they do serve as bait to reel in more youthful buyers, even if in the end they often wind up making a more practical sedan purchase. For the Elantra, both are smart choices, but for slightly different reasons.

The Coupe rests on an identical platform to the sedan and offers the same interior volume and trunk room. That’s good news for back-seat travelers who shouldn’t feel too pinched on longer journeys. And as Hyundai points out, the Elantra Coupe beats both the Civic Coupe and the Kia Koup in the interior space race by a significant margin.

So, what’s the point of a seemingly less functional car? In a word, va-va-voom.

The Coupe has a more visible and aggressive hexagonal grille that’s similar to the one fitted to the Veloster hatchback and larger Genesis coupe. In back, the addition of an integrated trunk-lid spoiler and a blacked-out lower bumper area with twin exhaust outlets creates at least the impression of the Coupe’s sporty behavior.

The theme carries into the cabin with its more prominent front-seat side bolsters that complement a dashboard/control panel that’s a virtual copy of what’s found in the sedan.

Where the sedan and Coupe really differ is in the suspension department. A thicker front stabilizer bar, more rigid rear torsion beam, retuned shocks and a quicker electronic power steering ratio are all designed to give the car more agility in the turns. A firmer-still suspension setup comes in the up-level SE model, along with 17-inch wheels (16-inchers are standard).

Both sedan and Coupe do converge in the powertrain department. Standard is a 1.8-liter engine that puts out 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque (slightly less in states with stricter emissions requirements). It connects to a six-speed manual transmission, or optional six-speed automatic (one of the few transmissions of its type actually built by Hyundai and not derived from an outside supplier). The stick-shift-equipped Coupe is rated at 29 mpg city and 40 highway, and 28/39 with the automatic. These numbers closely match the Honda Civic’s, but are significantly better than the Kia Koup’s (Hyundai owns the Kia brand), which is mainly due to the Koup’s performance-oriented 156-horsepower base engine, and optional 173-horse four-cylinder engines.

Hyundai claims that the Coupe can travel up to 500 miles on a single 13.2-gallon fillup, but in the real world you’ll have to be light on the gas to even come close to that mark.

Base GS coupes arrive reasonably well equipped, including the usual power-operated controls plus heated front seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a 172-watt, six-speaker audio system. Moving up to the SE adds a sunroof, climate control, leather-covered seats and fancier interior trim, including alloy pedals.

Among the few options is a 360-watt sound system that incorporates a combination seven-inch touch-screen navigation and rearview camera.

Hyundai has yet to reveal any Coupe pricing details, but to stay well below the $18,000 Veloster hatchback’s base threshold — and to remain competitive with the Honda Civic coupe — you can expect an on-the-road starting point of about $16,500. That will get you all of the basic styling and fuel-economy goodness inherent in the Elantra sedan, but with a more-tempting let’s-play attitude.