Hyundai prides itself on efficiency, and that characteristic has now extended itself to media previews of the automaker's cars. Instead of showing just one or two new models during a recent driving event, Hyundai went full throttle and introduced us to a trio of 2013 cars in just a matter of days.
All three models – the Elantra Coupe, Elantra GT, and Veloster Turbo – are themselves efficient in regard to fuel economy, power output and weight-saving design, but they also stand out for their distinctness relative to each other and within Hyundai's growing lineup. Here's what we found during our time behind the wheel.
2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe:
Since its revamp in 2011, the Elantra has become a formidable competitor in the compact segment, adeptly going toe to toe with stalwarts such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. The Elantra has been embraced by a wide variety of buyers looking for a fuel-efficient, good-looking, low-cost sedan. If you wanted a coupe version, though, you were out of luck.
That finally changes for the 2013 model year with the introduction of the Elantra Coupe. With this sleek two-door version of the Elantra, Hyundai hopes to broaden its base of buyers when the car reaches dealer lots in the coming weeks with a starting price of $18,220, including destination.
Like its sedan sibling, the Elantra Coupe is powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower. The engine makes another number that's just as important for today's buyer: 40. As with the Elantra sedan, the Coupe is estimated to return up to 40 mpg in highway driving (in this case with a 6-speed manual transmission; 6-speed automatics get up to 39 mpg). During our test drive of the 2013 Elantra Coupe over countless miles of twisty mountain roads and highways in the San Diego area, the car's emphasis on efficiency was evident. The engine's power was adequate, enough to satisfy most drivers, but not those who want a great measure of speed with their coupe's sporty looks. And unlike the Honda Civic Coupe and Kia Forte Koup, only the one engine will be offered in the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe. Steering feel was a bit disappointing, offering only a vague feel of what was going on.
On a brighter note, the 5-passenger Elantra Coupe's roomy cabin was quieter than expected, and the suspension was not as harsh as that of past Hyundai models. Fit and finish was good in our SE test model, which flaunted soft-touch material and comfortable front seats that feature standard heating.
The verdict: The new Hyundai Elantra Coupe isn't likely to win many drag races, but it's attractive in many other ways, not the least of which are its good looks, value and fuel-economy figures.
2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Like the Coupe, the GT is a new version of the Elantra. The 2013 Elantra GT is a five-door compact hatchback that will essentially replace the Elantra Touring. One look at the GT vs. the Touring, and it's easy to see why Hyundai decided to bring over this European hatch to take the place of the rather ungainly Elantra Touring. "We thought this car just looked terrific, and there was some overlap (of the Elantra Touring) between the Tucson," said Hyundai Motor America President and CEO John Krafcik. The GT will go on sale in coming weeks with a starting price of $19,170.
The GT has looks, practicality and fuel economy (up to 39 mpg) nailed, but in a welcome surprise it's also a lot of fun to drive. Though it uses the same 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine as the other Elantra models, the GT has a trick up its sleeve that makes rolling over the miles much more engaging: a 3-mode driver-selectable steering feature. With the touch of a button, you can choose between Comfort, Normal, and Sport settings to make the steering feel more or less firm. While the difference felt negligible between the first two, the Sport setting made the GT into a different car, one that adeptly carved mountain roads with aplomb. If your wants in a car lean toward the pragmatic, the GT has those bases covered, too, with a standard features list that includes a cooled glove compartment, fold-flat rear seats and hidden storage.
The verdict: Combined with an eager-to-shift 6-speed automatic transmission, the versatile and fun-to-drive GT quickly became our favorite Elantra.
2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
The Veloster. Just the name sounds aggressive. But when Hyundai's unique hatchback debuted for 2012, driving enthusiasts found it lacking in the Department of Power. Well-designed and fuel-efficient, yes, but Hyundai's youthful, 4-passenger mover with the quirky third door only looked the part of a sports car.
That will change when the Veloster Turbo goes on sale later this summer. To make the Veloster the kind of speedy car many crave, Hyundai has blessed this spicier version with a twin-scroll turbocharger. While the small 4-cylinder's engine size remains the same as in the regular Veloster -- 1.6 liters -- the power figures are much improved: 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque for the turbo, versus figures of 138 and 132, respectively, for the naturally aspirated Veloster.
On paper those figures look good. On pavement, they're even better. This feels like the Veloster so many of us wanted in the first place. The 2013 Veloster Turbo isn't supercar fast by any means, but it's much better suited for bolting from a stoplight or passing on the freeway. Turbo lag wasn't noticeable, and even though this is a front-wheel-drive car, neither was torque steer. The suspension hasn't been altered, but even with the added power the Veloster Turbo remained composed on a variety of roads and even an autocross course.
And the Veloster Turbo remains fuel efficient. The car loses just 2 mpg vs. the non-turbo, at least in 6-speed manual transmission form. With the short-throw stick shift, a Veloster Turbo garners up to 38 mpg on the highway; those with a 6-speed automatic still earn a commendable 34 mpg.
The verdict: With a starting price of $22,725 -- $4,500 more than a base model but with more standard features like leather seats, heated front seats and a 450-watt audio system -- the Veloster Turbo is the one we'd choose in a heartbeat.