Fleet News

Hyundai Coupe

Hyundai

Review

IT was a masterstroke for Hyundai's stylists to hint at some of Pininfarina's finest works when they came up with the new Coupe.

Since it was unveiled at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show it has been compared favourably with Ferrari's 550 Maranello and 456 GT thanks to its subtle, tapering roof-line funnelling into a broad C-pillar, and the vents and styling details behind the front wheels.

Although its first incarnation was reasonably attractive, but a little too bulgy for my liking, the 2000 facelift spoiled the front end giving it a 'spider eyes' appearance — off-putting for a committed arachnaphobe like me.

However, the Coupe has been a global success for Hyundai, outselling the Fiat Coupe in Italy and helping the company record overall growth in the UK of 3% in 2001.

Despite cutting back on its involvement in the corporate sector last year, Hyundai is ready to try again, having established relationships with residual value forecasters.

It will re-enter the daily rental market, with a different strategy, spreading the same number of vehicles (about 3,000) among about a dozen rental companies rather than choosing one or two.

Hyundai's growth in retail sales last year was up by 21% thanks to the introduction of new models in niche markets — like the Santa Fe SUV and the Trajet. The company is expecting to feel the benefit of its new Matrix mini-MPV and growing line-up of common rail diesel engines during 2002.

The Santa Fe and Trajet are now available with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine while the unit will also appear in the Elantra upper-medium saloon next month.

A new 1.5-litre turbodiesel was available with the Matrix when it was launched in October, and it will be offered in the Accent from May.

There will also be an as yet unnamed new product in the 'supermini' sector towards the end of the year.

The company is aiming to achieve annual sales of 50,000 by 2004 — significantly higher than last year's 27,000 — and to do this it knows it must increase its presence in the fleet market as well as relying on a product-led boost in retail sales. Up to 15% of the Coupes sold this year (about 675 from an expected total of 4,500) will be bought with company money.

The 1.6 S and 2.0 SE will have appeal for low-mileage drivers looking to choose a head-turning coupe because both fall below the 25% company car tax barrier under the first year of the new emissions-based benefit-in-kind rules (see pages 12–13).

Hyundai also believes it has a strong sales opportunity in filling the void left by the Ford Puma and Cougar and the Fiat Coupe.

Hyundai has got the styling right with the Coupe - it falls somewhere between the overtly sporty Toyota Celica and the classically elegant Peugeot 406 Coupe.

The latest Coupe comes with a new interior, and Hyundai's designers have been hard at work here, too. Although the very dark plastics give the interior a slightly claustrophobic feel there is a clear logic to the layout of switches and dials.

The quality of fittings is good and while I would hesitate to say it has a 'Germanic' feel, it is easily the equal of the best volume manufacturers from Japan.

However, Hyundai must be ticked off for the inclusion of the most pointless gadget to be found in a car since the Mitsubishi Shogun altimeter. As if the fuel economy gauge wasn't enough overkill, sat alongside it is a torque meter which gives readings in Newtonmetres. Why?

Pointless gadgets aside there is tasteful use of metallic trim while all but the 1.6 S have leather seats as standard.

It's a shame that there isn't more room in the rear though, the bench only suitable for two children, although in its favour, the Coupe does have the practicality of a rear hatch and the rear seat divides and folds 50/50.

In 2.0 SE guise, the Coupe has a firm ride which makes the car feel surefooted rather than jarring, although it does not like poorly surfaced roads.

However, handling is fluid with communicative steering and the five-speed gearbox is smooth. There isn't much character to its engine or its exhaust note, but it is refined and quiet at speed. Driving of the 2.7 V6, which was curtailed slightly with ice and snow making the planned route hazardous, showed the V6 to have a lusty engine note and six gears with which to exploit it.

Although it isn't as powerful as most of the V6 coupes on the market, and has the added burden of high fuel consumption and emissions, the engine loves to be revved and there is plenty of torque from about 3,000rpm.

It is not quite as much fun as the 2.0 SE when pushed hard, being a little more likely to run wide on fast bends, but there is much to recommend it.

Driving verdict

THE Hyundai Coupe is a sharp handling, sleek looking and well-equipped car for the user-chooser. We can expect the 1.6 and 2.0 models to be the best performers from a running costs perspective and we fully expect Hyundai to take advantage of gaps as Fiat and Ford pull out of the coupe market.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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