Where are a host of appealing cars you can buy for around twenty grand at the moment. The trouble is that most of them have a big boot and Isofix points and scream ‘I do a school run’. So how about a 2+2 coupe for the same money? If you can live with the minor impracticalities it’s much more interesting than a hot hatch. Isn’t it?
This is the new Hyundai Coupe SIII. The exterior has been completely redesigned, and significant changes have also been made inside, or so it says in the blurb. The nose has new, elongated headlights and a ‘more aggressive letterbox-like grille’ – although personally I’ve yet to come across an aggressive letterbox. There are also new side air vents and the rear bodywork has been re-sculpted too.
Subscribe to evo magazine
From some angles it’s really quite an attractive shape. It’s certainly not offensive. But there’s nothing terribly distinctive about it and details like the big, square door mirrors jar slightly and look like budget afterthoughts.
Inside, a designer has picked up on VW’s cool blue backlighting in a big way. Someone has also decided that if the TT has got round vents then the Hyundai Coupe should have a couple too. Metal-look finishes are also a big theme. Unfortunately, despite these late-’90s design highlights, the interior is pretty woeful. The steering wheel is huge and ugly, the control stalks are fat and made of particularly nasty plastic, and the whole thing is topped-off by the fact that anyone over six foot can’t sit up straight without opening the sunroof.
The Golf GTI with its acres of headroom isn’t looking so bad now. Still, a lithe, V6 coupe should have it licked dynamically…
Fire it up with a twist of the key and there are definitely more than four cylinders, but it isn’t a rich or complex sound. Slot ‘D’ with the slightly outsized gear selector – yes, our test car is an automatic, and a four speed one at that – and ease off. The throttle is lively in the first part of its travel, but you very quickly find yourself using the whole length of its travel just to encourage whatever acceleration the Coupe can muster. Hyundai claims 8.6sec to 62mph, and it feels about that unremarkable. The standard-fit traction control hardly seems necessary, and the V6 really needs to be kept above 4000rpm otherwise it tends to just make noise rather than actually creating any meaningful propulsion.
Keeping things on the boil is made slightly tricky, however, by only having that four-speed auto. You can understand why the gearbox doesn’t have any more than four ratios, because it takes so long to swap between them that if it had six you’d end up going nowhere. If you use the selector to change gears then you can click it fore or aft and have your left hand back on the wheel before anything has happened. Downshifts lack any attempt at a throttle-blip and arrive with a palpable jolt.
The Coupe’s saving dynamic grace is a chassis that is supple and benign, if not the last word in edgy thrills. This, combined with the fact that it feels like a small car, turns in well and corners neutrally, allows you to thread it down a road confidently and throw it into corners without any fear of hideous reprisals. The high-speed ride is impressively smooth as well.
But acceptable dynamics can’t save the Coupe. In all honesty, it doesn’t do anything really badly, it just doesn’t do anything really well. Equipped with the six-speed manual it would deserve an extra half star (and cost £1000 less), but the bottom line remains that a 162bhp V6 and packaging that would have been borderline five years ago mean it just isn’t a desirable car, especially for twenty grand.
|Engine||V6, 2656cc, 24v|
|Max power||162bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque||181lb ft @ 4000rpm|
|Top speed||135mph (claimed)|