Review and road test of the Hyundai Coupe (2002-2010)
A CHEAP CAR NAMED DESIRE
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Beauty may be only skin deep but Hyundai's Coupe has long majored on some serious skin deep success. In its original form it found favour as a quirkily styled budget coupe that looked a good deal more expensive than it was. The driving characteristics weren't bad either, but as soon as you clocked the interior, it was apparent the little Korean was, in fact, nothing exotic. A facelift in 1999 somewhat spoiled the looks but it wasn't until 2002 when the second generation Coupe was launched that we could appreciate what Hyundai's engineers and stylists had been beavering away on. The current Coupe is a very handsome car indeed and now that a 2.7-litre V6 engine option exists, it can back up the looks with a charismatic powerplant. With very few demerits and a big quota of plus points the Coupe makes a sound used buy.
2 DR COUPE (1.6, 2.0 & 2.7, [S, SE, V6])
The Hyundai Coupe's reputation as the poster child amongst those looking for style without the expense was well cemented by the time the second generation car was launched in 2002. Few who were familiar with its predecessor could quite believe what an improvement Hyundai had made to the car. For years industry experts had berated Subaru to just get to grips with designing an slick interior and a sexy coupe body for the Impreza in order to make it a mega-seller, but to date it has proved quite beyond them. Hyundai showed how it should be done, the Coupe coming with a dash of Ferrari 456 about its proportions and a very tidily styled interior. True, the fit and finish wasn't quite in the Audi league, but when the car was priced from under £14,500 new few were complaining.
Three engines were offered, an entry-level 1.6-litre unit good for 103bhp, a 2.0-litre that developed 134bhp and the full-on 165bhp 2.7-litre powerplant. With the top model costing just £18,495 upon launch, the Coupe soon proved very popular with UK buyers and received critical acclaim from many in the know.
It's popularity was boosted by the 2005 model year facelift which saw new headlights included for an edgier look along with a revised front bumper. Overtaking presence was also increased by dint of some gaping air intakes that ape a Ferrari 360.
A further facelift for the 2007 model year introduced spooky blue lighting for the instrument cluster and an iPod-compatible stereo while the front end was given a significant overhaul. You'll spot these cars by the longer, meaner headlamps, a thin 'letterbox' grille and a wide air-intake below that hides revised fog lights in its corners. The trademark side gills also have integrated side repeater lights.
By 2009 the model range had been reduced down to only include the 2.0-litre engine.
What You Get
The value proposition we come to expect from Korea. What we still view as something of a novelty is a car that can stand comparison with the best in class without taking the upfront price into account. That's where the latest Coupe is so impressive. Take the styling. That cutback side window and the arc of the roofline shout Ferrari 456, whilst the front-end treatment looks like the best post-millennial US-Fords. The rounded rear is still recognisably Hyundai, but the overall effect is far more cohesive and mature than anything the company has yet produced. You'll get a sense of dej vu when you see the vertical gill slats behind the front wheels. Where have they come from? They are increasingly appearing on many designs, the Range Rover among them, and are another styling feature filched from Ferrari, the 575 wearing a rather natty set. This somewhat shameless pilfering of other manufacturer's design cues continues inside. True, it's a pragmatic philosophy to identify what works for others and replicate it yourself, but you can't help but think 'Mondeo' when you see the clean metallic lines of the fascia. If anything, Hyundai have gone one further than Ford with some very neat touches. The central-mounted torque gauge is somewhat gimmicky but it's interesting for a few minutes to see the torque swell as you ascend the rev range.
Interior space isn't bad if you count the rear seats as occasional items. The only grumble is headroom, which can be an issue if you're much over six feet tall. If so, don't opt for the sunroof, as this exacerbates the problem. Otherwise front space is generous and the big boot serves up a welcome dose of practicality.
What to Look For
Hyundai have developed a reputation for producing reliable cars, and the Coupe is no exception. It seems few owners exploited the dynamic capabilities of the handling and so most examples will have led a relatively sedate existence. Traction control systems mean that front tyre wear isn't the problem it would at first appear. The only part of the car that looks a little suspect to damage is the metallic paint finish on the fascia. Test clutches on the 2.7-litre cars as they have been known to give up the ghost at surprisingly modest mileages.
(approx based on a 1.6S ) A new exhaust system for the Coupe will cost £350, whilst a set of rear brake pads retails for £35. A radiator will set you back £170, and be prepared to find around £300 for a new alternator. A starter motor is £240 and do try not to break a headlight. If this fate befalls you, expect to see £315 go the way of your friendly Hyundai dealer.
On the Road
The ride is firmer than you may expect for something with such a well-appointed interior. The leather trim, quality CD audio system and air conditioning may well lead you to believe this will be an experience more syrupy than a Nigel Havers apology, but it's surprisingly hard-edged. Likewise, the engine growls purposefully and the oddly shaped gearstick can be manoeuvred between the six ratios with a nicely mechanical thunk. The handling is what we've come to expect from Hyundai Coupes - far better than the matinee-idol looks would suggest, but geared towards entertaining the average driver rather than wringing the last few tenths out of a lap for track day fiends.
The 2.7-litre V6 manages 60mph in 8.2 seconds on the way to a top speed the custodial side of 135mph. Most drivers will instead opt for the more familiar 2.0-litre version and they certainly won't feel short changed. With 137bhp under the bonnet, it can crack nine seconds for the sprint, although you won't get the six-speed box as part of the package. Those on a slightly tighter budget will relish the 1.6-litre S version, its 105bhp still able to entertain. If handling is a priority, that 2.0-litre SE model is perhaps the best compromise between power and poise, with far less weight in the nose and less push-wide understeer than the V6. The V6 is something worth experiencing though. Drive it hard and you'll be treated to the most delicious metallic engine note this side of a Porsche Boxster. The note rises readily from idle to 3,000rpm, but just when it seems as if it will peak in a crescendo of aural magnificence, it gets a trifle shy and reins itself in. If Hyundai ever produce a tuned version of this V6 with a sports exhaust it will sell on engine note alone, believe me. Lack of traction is rarely a problem in any circumstance, Hyundai well up to speed on the electronics front with traction control, ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution systems offered.
The Hyundai Coupe is probably the best used buy in the affordable coupes sector. With the Ford Puma dead and the Peugeot Coupe on its last legs the Hyundai smacks a little more of the here and now and offers a decent drive to boot. Recommended.
Hyundai Coupe (2002-2010) review by ANDY ENRIGHT