Fashionable And Fun – In That Order

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe

It's an interesting time for the compact car class. On one hand, we're seeing the rise of the hatchback. On the other, we're seeing the compact coupe market dwindle. Think about it: When the Chevrolet Cobalt became the Cruze, the coupe bodystyle went away. And when the Ford Focus was redesigned for 2012, the two-door died, but the five-door returned.

That said, it came as no surprise that when Hyundai replaced its Elantra Touring with the stylish new GT, it took on a more traditional five-door shape. But that isn't the only new addition to the model range for 2013. We now have this, the Elantra Coupe, which the Korean automaker hopes will appeal to a younger set of buyers desiring something that's more fashionable than all-around useful. Call it, "cheerleader chic."

With its attractive design and affordable price point, the Elantra Coupe certainly appears to be a hit with that younger, more style-conscious demographic. We donned our best sunglasses and hit the coast of California to see what's what.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe side view2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe front view2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe rear view

It's the spitting image of its four-door sister, albeit with a few cosmetic updates.

Unlike the Euro-tweaked GT, the Elantra Coupe is basically the spitting image of its four-door sister, albeit with a few small updates and an additional four-tenths of an inch of overall length. The lower front fascia has been freshened to incorporate more angular, pronounced foglamps that, combined with a blacked-out grille, give the coupe a more aggressive appearance. The new look is rounded off with a small piece of chrome trim around the hexagonal grille. Call it lipstick if you wish, but it really looks nice.

Along the sides, it's more of the same upward-swept Fluidic Design body lines that we're familiar with on the sedan, featuring pronounced wheel arches at the front and rear. Around back, there's a blacked-out diffuser valance, and two new wheel options are available: a standard set of 16-inch alloys on the base GS model or the upscale five-spoke 17-inch rollers fitted with P215/45-series tires that our test car wore.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe headlight2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe wheel2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe taillight2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe exhaust tips

A loaded Elantra Coupe will set you back $23,870, or $3,000 less than a similarly equipped Civic Coupe.

Consider that SE trim a sort of sport package, if you will – at least, a sport package befitting of a compact, front-wheel-drive coupe. In addition to the larger rolling stock, SE models get an integrated decklid spoiler out back, as well as slightly different suspension geometry (similar to what we drove on the five-door), aluminum pedals, leather seating surfaces, a sunroof and more. Combine all that with the holy-moly-that's-red paint of our test car and you have something that looks, shall we say, shopping mall sporty.

Elantra Coupe pricing starts at $17,445 for the base GS with a six-speed manual transmission (not including $775 for destination), but opting up for the SE will cost you $2,300 more. Don't want to row your own gears? That'll be $1,000. Want amenities like navigation, premium audio, and a rear-view camera? Add $2,350 to the price of an SE with the automatic 'box. Altogether, a loaded Elantra Coupe will set you back $23,870 (including destination), or $3,000 less than a similarly equipped Civic Coupe. Yes, a two-door Civic EX-L Navi starts at an MSRP of $23,605, but after adding the optional fog lights and 17-inch alloy wheels – standard kit on the Elantra SE – you arrive at $26,838, including the $790 destination charge.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe driving2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe driving2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe driving

We spent the better part of a day near San Diego driving a fully loaded SE coupe. And despite having the same 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque as the sedan, along with the same 2,877-pound weight, the coupe feels ever-so-slightly more eager to hug corners and offers a ride quality that's one notch higher on the firmer scale. It's no sports car, this coupe, but it never felt unwilling to be hustled through a corner every now and then. But when it comes to driver engagement, it's not quite as good as what's offered in the Elantra GT.

When it comes to driver engagement, it's not quite as good as what's offered in the Elantra GT.

The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and refined, and we appreciated the Shiftronic function to hold gears while driving down long stretches of downhill slopes. But just like the other Elantra variants, the coupe suffers (relatively speaking) from being geared for fuel economy first and actual performance second. Because of that, you really have to keep the revs high in the range for spirited driving. But considering the target audience, it'll be just fine.

Automatic-equipped coupes will net up to 39 miles per gallon on the highway (28 city). Get the manual, though, and you'll reach the magical 40-mpg mark if you're on your best behavior.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe engine

Hyundai would be smart to employ its selectable steering across the entire Elantra lineup.

Our biggest wish for the Elantra Coupe, though, is that it had the same selectable steering modes as the GT. Instead, the coupe's helm is dialed in for more of a relaxed approach with not a great deal of feedback. That doesn't make it bad, but having driven the coupe back to back with the GT, all we can say is that Hyundai would be smart to employ its selectable steering across the entire Elantra lineup posthaste.

Much as Hyundai would like us to believe this two-door Elantra is a sports coupe, it just isn't. If you really want an engaging driving experience at this price point, buy a Honda Civic Si or one of the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins. But if you want something that's more pretty than passionate, the Elantra Coupe is a fine choice.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe interior2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe front seats2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe tachometer2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe start button

With 95.4 cubic feet of total interior volume, it bests larger rivals like the two-door Altima and Accord.

There's more to like inside, as well. It may have two fewer doors and a slightly more raked roofline, but the coupe only loses two-tenths of a cubic foot of passenger space compared to the sedan. Not only is it roomier inside than the Civic Coupe, but with 95.4 cubic feet of total interior volume, it bests larger rivals like the two-door Altima and Accord.

The seats in the coupe have slightly better side bolstering, meaning you'll be more comfortable behind the leather-wrapped helm, but everything else from the instrument panel to the center stack to the cup holders is exactly the same as what you'll find in the four-door. Fine by us – as we said in our review of the GT, Hyundai is doing some seriously good stuff when it comes to compact car interior refinement.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe rear 3/4 view

Hyundai has expanded its Elantra into a full trifecta of well-rounded compacts.

But are people really clamoring for compact coupes these days? Look at the Scion tC, for example – just 22,000 were sold in 2011, which is about as many Elantra sedans as Hyundai manages to move in a single month these days. Good thing, then, that the Korean automaker is only estimating the two-door to account for maybe 10 percent of Elantra sales, tops.

So if it's easy enough for Hyundai to create a two-door Elantra, we see no harm. After all, if the four-door Elantra is selling well because of its value and good looks, what's to complain about with a model that better embodies those two qualities? Moreover, by offering the sedan, coupe and GT, Hyundai has expanded its Elantra into a full trifecta of well-rounded compacts. What's not to like about that?