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Click for pictures“Hyundai’s Coupé —
  styled to tease and
  guaranteed to please!

AS KEEN as everyone else to have hands-on experience of Hyundai's Coupé flagship 2.7 V6, we plumped instead for
the mid-range 2.0-litre SE.
At £16,495 it costs a useful £2,000 less than its big brother and has an insurance rating of 10 as opposed to 14. Okay, so it
's ahead in the economy stakes. But is it still fun?

It didn't take long to find out. Within yards of pulling away for the very first time you realise that this two-door sports coupé is going to be a treat to drive.

With a touch of sharp Italian good looks, the Coupé looks better from every angle than some other coupés costing twice as much. And, as well as being (eminently) affordable, it comes with a generous helping of kit as standard.

Just a casual walk around the car confirms the seriously-good build quality and the eye-catching styling. The twin exhaust tail-pipes, discreet rear spoiler, sculpted rear apron and 'waisted' body lend the Coupé a purposeful air. Visually, the front end is more restrained, with the rearward sloping twin-headlamp units set above a smart split lower grille flanked by spot fog lamps neatly integrated into the body-coloured front bumper moulding.

Open the wide door and slip behind the wheel. The leather-covered three-spoke steering wheel adjusts for rake, and the driver's seat adjusts for height. The seats provide excellent lateral support and provide a snug, sporty driving position. For added comfort there's lumbar support and height adjustable seat belts. The pedals are drilled aluminium and there's also a large matching left footrest in the wide foot well. With no shortage of leg, shoulder, and elbowroom, the only grouse has been over the lack of headroom for drivers over six feet tall. To be fair, we didn't find it a problem although one of us is five-eleven!

A large speedometer and rev-counter dominate the central binnacle, with fuel and temperature gauges nestling in between. Switchgear is sturdy and logically sited. A silver, metal-grained centre console houses secondary switchgear, a decent radio/CD and a multi-gauge instrument panel (economy gauge, voltage, and torque meter). Two effective eyeball air vents partially inset into the solid dash keep you as cool — or hot — as you want. Air conditioning is standard, and it works just fine.

Noise suppression is good, and you only hear the engine when you're really working it hard. Otherwise the pleasingly uncluttered cabin is pleasant and relaxing. Materials and fit and finish are of a good quality and the dash well laid-out with everything easily to hand. Rattles are only noticeable by their absence, and the whole ambience is one of Audi-like simplicity.

Handy stowage areas accommodate most things you'll need to carry in a car these days, including provision for your mobile and a handy sun-glasses holder in the overhead console along with the sunroof controls.

'Walk-in' front seat backs provide access to the rear seats, although the sloping rear screen does limit headroom for adults. The 50:50 split seats both fold, which, combined with an already generous and unobstructed load area, make this particular sports coupé a versatile load carrier. A handy luggage net, with a variety of tie down hooks, proved a boon for keeping shopping in place. The tailgate can
be opened remotely from inside the cabin, and the rear wiper has a practical intermittent setting.

Badge snobs may sniff at the emblem on the Coupé 's thrusting bonnet, but they can't deny that you get a lot for your money: automatic air-conditioning and electric windows (one-shot for the driver), cruise control, power steering, a 6-speaker radio/CD with RDS, leather seats, electric tilt/slide sunroof, remote central locking, front fog lamps, electric door mirrors with heating, and speed sensitive windscreen wipers. 16-inch, five-spoke alloys are also included in the Coupé's 'off-the-peg' specification. An optional four-speed automatic is available on the 2.0-litre model if you don't fancy the standard five-speed manual change.

We've yet to try the auto 'box — a Porsche-designed H-matic giving the versatility of a 'stepped' manual transmission or a full automatic at the push of a lever — but the standard-fit manual gearbox is a real sweetheart: the gate is small, throws are short, and the changes precisely slick. The type of 'box that encourages cog swapping just for the sheer hell of it.

The new chassis delivers a comfortable ride that soaks up bumps. Thanks to well-controlled body roll and well-weighted and accurate steering with good turn-in, it also handles predictably. Grip is high, and the Coupé corners precisely on its 16-inch alloys shod with 205/55 Michelin rubber.

Under the longish bonnet is a straight-four, fuel-injected engine with 16-valves. The DOHC unit features Continuously Variable Valve Timing. Power is put down through the front wheels and with 141bhp on tap (and 137lb ft of torque) the sporty Korean is a keen performer, hitting 62mph in 9.1 seconds and going on to a top speed of 129mph. Motorway cruising is stress-free, with 70mph coming up at a relaxed 3,250 rpm.

Despite a good turn of speed it's no gas-guzzler
with a combined 35mpg figure that stretches to an impressive extra urban of 44mpg, there's little danger of fuel consumption breaking the bank. The tank holds 55 litres. Looked at another way, that represents a potential 500-mile touring range between fill-ups.

In addition to offering great value-for-money, the Coupé also comes with Hyundai's five-year warranty. All models in the range are equipped as standard with dual-threshold airbags for the driver and passenger (so in a very low speed collision the airbag is not inflated, reducing the risk of occupant injury), as well as side airbags plus ABS with electronic brake force distribution.

The Coupé delivers the entertaining handling its sporty two-door attire promises: once you've driven it you quickly discover that it's one of those cars you simply can't stop yourself using. In fact, it rewards a boisterous hand on the wheel — push it hard and you'll be surprised at just how chuckable this little number can be.

Our test Hyundai Coupé effortlessly soaked up the motorway miles on the way to a long weekend in Glastonbury and back along winding country roads, where it coped admirably with bumps, humps and tricky Z-bends.

Just one word of warning. Don't be tempted to lend it to a friend — they'll cook up all sorts of excuses about why you can't have it back!

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Hyundai Coupé 2.0 SE
| £16,495
Maximum speed: 129mph | 0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
Overall MPG: 35mpg | Power: 141bhp | Torque: 137lb ft

-------------------------------------------------------------------- Hyundai Coupé