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Car reviews - Hyundai - Coupe - FX

Our Opinion

We like
Striking design, agreeable steering and handling qualities, affordability, hatchback practicality
Room for improvement
Hyundai's low-fi image, auto durability questions remain

18 Jun 2003

HYUNDAI'S unimaginatively named Coupe is the South Korean industrial giant's second attempt at an inexpensive sporty coupe.

The first was the S coupe from 1990 to 1996. Although popular, it was hardly sporty - looking and driving like the second-generation Excel two-door sedan it essentially was.

Hyundai took a decidedly different approach with the Coupe with styling that is as provocative as its Scoupe predecessor was meek.

The sporty Coupe's bold show-car curves and creases have not only challenged the Toyota Celica's sales crown but also people's perceptions of what a Hyundai is.

The Coupe is proof that Hyundai builds more than just bargain- basement runabouts.

Inside, Hyundai has banished dullness with a heavily stylised dashboard that echoes the exterior's striking lines.

The oval-shaped instrumentation, air vents, switches and controls plus the black finish all manage to look purposefully sporty, although such slavery to fashion means the style-conscious Coupe is starting to date.

The Coupe's seats look the part with deeply sculptured sides for comfort and support. The driving position is good with the chunky three-spoke steering wheel and gear lever falling easily to hand.

One blemish is the placement of some switches that forces the driver to thread a hand behind the wheel to use them.

Three Coupe models are available - the entry level 1.8-litre SX, the mid-range 2.0-litre FX and top-of-the-line 2.0-litre SFX.

The FX is the best seller in the range. Its standard features include alloy wheels, car alarm, CD player, central locking, power mirrors, electric windows, fog lights and a rear spoiler. And thanks to that all-black cabin, many used Coupes will have the optional air-conditioning fitted.

There is plenty of room in the front except in the SFX with its head space-stealing sunroof. The rear seat is best left to tiny folk while the luggage area is good for a sporty car as there is a large rear hatch.

Unlike the Scoupe, the Coupe is based on the current generation Lantra although the chassis is modified and the spring and damper rates are new. Hyundai reportedly sought the engineering expertise of Porsche.

Combined with the FX's standard 15-inch tyres and the suspension modifications, this Hyundai handles like no other.

The Coupe is adept at negotiating the twisty bits with sharp steering, agile handling and sure-footed roadholding. Around town, the steering still manages to remain light yet well weighted, giving a good degree of feedback.

The ride, while firm, remains supple and well controlled, especially at speed.

While the base SX uses the same 94kW, 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine found in the Lantra range, the FX and SFX feature the 2.0- litre, twin cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine.

With 102kW at 6000rpm and a peak torque figure of 180Nm, the engine gives the Coupe good if not blistering performance. The portly 1173kg weight is to blame here. There is a handy spread of torque from low revs, sparing the need to extend the sometimes rowdy four-cylinder engine.

The standard five-speed manual gearbox is hampered by an unpleasantly notchy gear change, a usual Hyundai bugbear. A four-speed automatic is optional.

Prospective buyers need to check for signs of accident damage since, like most cars, the Coupe's sharp handling on a wet road in the hands of an inexperienced and over enthusiastic driver may have resulted in a tail spin or brake-locked slides.

Beware of hard driven and thrashed examples. Uneven tyre wear, slackness in engagement of the clutch and rattly engine noises are a giveaway. And always insist on a service history.

As yet the car suffers no reputation for unreliability and most should have had any problems ironed out by the dealer.

The Coupe is the first desirable Hyundai, offering unique style, an inspiring drive and value for money.

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