Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, goes the saying. Take a close look at Hyundai’s Coupe SIII and you’ll catch a hint of Ferrari 456GT about the silhouette, the swage lines could suggest BMW Z4, and the front-quarter flanks might be straight from the Jaguar XK.
It would be uncharitable to compare the Hyundai design team’s efforts to Woolworths’ “pick ‘n’ mix” because all the elements meld together well.
Choosing any coupe over its sensible hatch or saloon equivalent makes no sense in a rational world: it will be more expensive, cramped, accommodation will be compromised when carrying passengers and the car (or driver) will get more attention too.
But those reasons are reason enough for the potential coupe buyer. They want to be noticed – it’s about style and image.
Can’t hack it or prefer not being the centre of attention, is stealth and practicality more your style? Then buy a Skoda Octavia vRS.
So how does a value brand like Hyundai – better known for its relatively cheap, reliable hatchbacks, family cars and 4x4s with little in the way of image – stack up and muscle in against exotic offerings from the established coupe manufacturers? Remarkably well, in fact.
Granted, thanks to hot hatchbacks and sporting saloons, the lower end of the coupe market is a markedly less populated sector these days.
Put aside any brand prejudice and look at what your £19,597 buys you. There are well-proportioned looks and a range-topping 2.7-litre V6 engine where you’d expect to find a humdrum 2.0-litre four (although an insurance-friendly 1.6 and mid-range 2.0-litre SIII are also available).
The SIII isn’t so new. It was introduced in 2002, but some clever cosmetic surgery for the 2007 model year has refreshed the Coupe’s looks. Best of all, the earlier car’s awkward slab-fronted look has gone to be replaced with a new lower, wider and more aggressive nose-down stance, as well as some minor tweaks at the rear, and all are neatly accentuated by the optional (£350) Mica Stone Black of our test car.
There are two rear seats, but head and legroom are limited and there’s a strong possibility that a taller rear passenger’s head will make firm contact with the full-length tailgate as it’s lowered.
Headroom in the front too – even with the driver’s seat on its lowest setting – is at a premium thanks to the standard tilt-and-slide sunroof eating into the available clearance. This forces a too reclined driving position that exacerbates the problem of the steering wheel not being adjustable for reach.
By way of compensation, though, the rear seats fold down individually and easily double the SIII’s already generous 418-litre boot capacity – golf club bags, weekend luggage for two or even a racing bike are no problem.
Then there is Hyundai’s five-year manufacturer warranty including three years of RAC Assistance cover.
The Coupe’s cabin is neatly appointed with high levels of standard equipment, most notably the rich red leather upholstery and matching door-panel inserts.
It’s easier to list what’s not standard: SmartNav (£495, including a 12-month subscription) and that’s it.
For SIII V6 money, true coupe rivals are few. Only Alfa Romeo’s stylish GT Coupe 2.0 JTS and Mazda’s rev-crazy RX-8 in its low-power form keep the range-topping Coupe company, although the Alfa costs £200 more and the Mazda £1,500 extra.
A top speed of 137mph and 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds are commendable for an engine producing 162bhp and 181lb-ft of engine torque, less so is the fact that engine is a 2.7-litre. In such a lowly state of tune the engine won’t set pulses racing, nor will it deliver neck-straining performance.
It’s too civilised despite the low overall gearing – at 70mph in sixth, it’s turning at 3,000rpm.
Engine torque is so smoothly delivered across a wide rev band that the customary push in the back never materialises.
So, is it to be style or stealth? I’ll let you know.
The manufacturers’ view
Since the original Hyundai Coupe was launched we have sold more than 43,000 in the UK. For many, it is Hyundai’s most instantly recognisable model.
Although it is not a typical fleet choice, it is often chosen over three-door hatchbacks and other lower-medium vehicles. Contract hire and leasing companies have been particularly delighted with the SIII model and have been actively promoting it to their clients. The Coupe SIII comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, six-year anti-perforation warranty and three years’ RAC Assistance.
Jeff Peyton-Bruhl, national fleet manager, Hyundai
Equipment and options
Price: £19,597 (£19,972 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 236
Company car tax bill (2007) 22% tax-payer: £120 per month
Insurance group: 14A
Combined mpg: 28.5
Test mpg: 26.4
CAP Monitor RV: £5,800/30%
Contract hire rate: £463
Expenditure to date: Nil