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2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe SE review: Handsome Hyundai soured by sport suspension

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The Good The 2013 Elantra Coupe SE is an attractive, fully loaded economy car at an entry-level price. Bluetooth, USB, and iPod connectivity are all standard. Active Eco mode helps to maximize miles per gallon.

The Bad The "sport-tuned" suspension exhibited unnerving behavior over uneven surfaces. Fuel economy comes nowhere near EPA estimates.

The Bottom Line The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe SE is a good value, but its sporty pretenses work to its detriment. Check out the more laid-back sedan, instead.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.1 Overall
  • Cabin tech 7.0
  • Performance tech 5.0
  • Design 6.0

Review Sections

Let's start by stating the obvious and then working backward: the 2013 Elantra Coupe has two fewer doors than the Elantra Sedan, but don't think that you're getting a smaller, nimbler car out of this chop job. Check the specs and you'll find that the dimensions of the Elantra Coupe are identical to those of the sedan in nearly every direction. We obviously didn't expect a change in wheelbase or track, but the Coupe is actually just a few fractions of an inch longer than the sedan -- most likely thanks to its revised front end and standard SE trunk-lid spoiler. Thanks to a slightly resculpted roofline, the Coupe suffers from a slight loss of headroom when compared with the Elantra that we reviewed last year, but only by a fraction of an inch. We didn't notice from the driver's seat, and you probably won't either.

Remember, the Elantra sedan already has a very rakish, coupelike design. While the visual differences between the Coupe and the standard Elantra Sedan are obvious when the vehicles are parked, you'd actually be hard-pressed to tell these cars apart if they passed you on the street. So you're not really getting a sportier-looking car out of the two-door deal. No, what you really get when you decide to go Coupe is a rear seat that's harder to get into and front seat belts that are harder to reach every time you hop behind the wheel. And maybe it's just me, but I couldn't find a seating position in the coupe where my knees didn't bash into the steering column over every bump. I don't remember having that issue in the sedan.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe
The Elantra Coupe certainly looks sporty, but it doesn't have the performance to match. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

However, these may not be cons to you. You may never use the back seat, and could have shorter legs than I do. You may like the idea that the SE Coupe is 148 pounds lighter than the sedan, $255 cheaper when comparably equipped, and features a "sport-tuned suspension." But before you get those sporty-coupe hopes up again, let's take a moment to discuss that suspension.

'Sport-tuned' suspension oddities
The SE trim level features a sport-tuned suspension that is unique to the Coupe. The sport in question can't possibly be related to driving, because something has gone horribly wrong here.

I expected a slightly firmer ride; more road noise coming up from the larger 17-inch wheels and modest 215-width, all-season tires; and slightly more responsive turn-in. What I did not expect as I rounded a bend was the amount of lateral movement that the Elantra Coupe exhibited over uneven and cracked asphalt. This wasn't the sort of grin-inducing liftoff oversteer that you can sometimes coax out of the best sport front-drivers, but also didn't feel -- to the seat of my pants -- like regular ho-hum understeer. I could feel the whole car sort of sidestep a bit out of line when encountering a bump midcorner. And this wasn't at breakneck speeds, but at the speed limit.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe
The sport-tuned suspension did not inspire driver confidence, even at reasonable speeds. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

I also noticed that our Elantra SE Coupe had a tendency to slavishly follow ruts in the road. Occasionally, I noticed the same tendency to shift a bit laterally over bumps, even when traveling in a straight line. I don't remember the Elantra sedan being this much of a handful and requiring as much constant steering correction. Heck, even the Accent SE that we tested last year felt more stable 'round a bend.

Engine room
Suspension and handling oddities are hard to forgive and caused me to hesitate to really push the Coupe's limits on public roads. This is probably OK because there's not much more performance to be found in the Elantra Coupe's humble engine bay. The Coupe is powered by the same 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that powers the sedan. Back in 2011, we called this engine "pedestrian" and its acceleration "adequate." Our PZEV variant of the coupe actually has the slightest bit less power than the engine in that sedan. Output is rated at 130 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, thanks to more stringent emissions tuning.

1.8-liter engine
The humble 1.8-liter engine puts out a reasonable amount of power. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Elantra Coupe is available with a six-speed manual transmission at both of its trim levels -- a fact that should please fans of the third pedal -- but our tester was equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual shift mode, a feature that is required if you want to subsequently add the Elantra's Technology package, which we'll discuss in a bit. Like the engine, this gearbox is pretty unexciting. Its tendency to short-shift in pursuit of higher fuel economy takes what little fun there is out of the engine, and its manual shift mode doesn't really give anything back. This is a vehicle that doesn't like being hurried and performs best when you're as laid-back as its gear changes.

We had a hard time replicating the 2011 model's EPA fuel economy estimates -- and as it turns out, we weren't the only ones -- averaging about 25 mpg with mixed driving. 2013 Elantra models with the automatic transmission are now equipped with an Active Eco mode that attempts to boost driver fuel economy by slightly remapping the input of the accelerator pedal to tune out lead-footedness for smooth, even acceleration. This comes at the expense of a bit of accelerator pedal tip-in responsiveness -- not so much that the car becomes annoyingly slow, but it definitely takes some getting used to.

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