IN the ‘nearly but not quite’ world of Far Eastern manufacturers, Hyundai stands out as one of the nearest.
It had a record year for sales in the UK in 2006 when it sold 35,589 models, giving a 1.52% share of the total market.
In fleet, it saw sales rocket by 19% to around 14,500 units, a key sign of market confidence in the brand. Before its recent growth, thanks to success in SUVs (the Santa Fe was the first Hyundai ever shortlisted for a Fleet News Award), its Coupe was the main weapon in changing opinions about the brand.
And in its latest incarnation, the Coupe still manages to tempt buyers to look at the car, not just the badge.
The Coupe SIII continues a tradition of being surprisingly attractive, offering ‘poor man’s Ferrari’ styling with a price tag that starts at £15,745 on-the-road. Choosing the 2.0-litre 141bhp model that can hit 60mph in 9.3 seconds takes the price to £17,995.
Squint and it could be mistaken for a much more expensive car, with swept back front lights, a strong crease line running down the side and twin exhaust pipes to set off the rear.
The designers have also been at the interior, with blue lighting for the instruments, silver-effect pedals and a good-looking central console.
It even comes with an iPod port in the centre armrest as standard and offers more equipment than most rivals.
Equipment levels include ABS and lots of airbags, 17-inch alloys, twin exhausts, climate control, cruise control, electric everything, heated seats and lots more.
As a result, it provides an extremely good all-round package that is a tempting offer to most company car drivers.
Well, nearly, but not quite. There are relatively few niggles, but they are important ones, such as the tailgate. It is so steeply raked that the glass extends over rear-seat passengers’ heads. Even average-sized occupants risk having their head walloped when it is shut.
The ride is harsh and rarely settles, while motorway cruising is a noisy affair, but on the plus side is a decent amount of low-down grunt from the 2.0-litre engine.
It handles with confidence and grips well, not relying on electronics to maintain grip during hard cornering and acceleration, which is just as well because traction control and ESP are missing from this model.
The downside is sub-30mpg fuel economy if you try too hard and a 193g/km emissions figure that incurs 25% BIK tax.
The strong warranty and seemingly bullet-proof mechanicals make for a sound buy.
Despite the niggles, it’s a very strong ‘nearly but not quite’ package that continues Hyundai’s increasingly attractive offering in fleet.
P11D value: £17,767
CO2 emissions (g/km): 193
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 25%
Graduated VED rate: £205
Insurance group: 10A
Combined mpg: 35.3
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £5,825/34%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £354
Three rivals to consider
A better product brings a higher price and already the Hyundai has come up against formidable sporty opposition, with the Focus ST matching it pound-for-pound. The Vauxhall Astra is close behind, while you pay more for Italian flair with the Alfa Romeo.
Emissions and tax rates
Thanks to its smaller engine, the Astra leads the pack here, but only by a small margin from the cheaper Hyundai. The Alfa Romeo is a few percentage points behind but the Ford trails in last place because of its engine size advantage and extra power.
Model, ppm, 60k total
Astra 4.00 £2,400
GT 4.16 £2,496
Focus 4.87 £2,922
Coupe 5.63 £3,378
An Alfa Romeo that’s relatively cheap to service? So it seems. Surprisingly, the Hyundai brings up the rear of this group, as Ford and Vauxhall offer their traditional low servicing costs, and the strong performance of the Alfa means the Hyundai looks expensive.
Astra: 10.76, £6,546
Coupe: 11.19, £6,714
GT: 12.15, £7,290
Focus: 12.99, £7,794
The smallest engine here wins comfortably and, not surprisingly, the thirsty five-cylinder Ford is a long way behind, costing more than £1,000 extra over 60,000 miles. The Hyundai puts in a strong performance compared to the Alfa, despite a similar engine size.
Focus: 17.65 £10,590
Coupe: 19.36 £11,616
GT: 20.23 £12,138
Astra: 20.34 £12,204
A very strong showing from the Ford reflects the demand expected in the used car market for such a capable performer that was priced competitively as a new car. Its low depreciation costs put it nearly 2ppm ahead of the Hyundai and nearly £2,000 ahead of the Vauxhall.
Astra 35.10 £21,060
Golf 35.51 £21,306
Coupe 36.18 £21,708
GT 36.54 £21,924
The Vauxhall takes the running costs crown here, but it is a close run contest with the Ford ST, which offers more power, more cylinders and more performance. The Hyundai Coupe sits comfortably close to the pack leaders, while the Alfa brings up last place.
For drivers in this sector, looks and performance are going to win over running costs and discounts, so even the relatively expensive but beautiful Alfa Romeo could take the win here. But in terms of power per pound, for both the fleet manager and driver, the Ford offers so much more than the rivals in this pack. High fuel costs aside, it’s a winning combination that should keep everyone happy.