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Click to view picture gallery“Hyundai’s cracking
  2.7-litre V6 Coupé
  comes with a choice
  of a 6-speed manual
  gearbox or an H-matic
  auto. Whichever you
  choose, it’s a case
  of Drive one, Buy one!”

WITH HANDSOME LOOKS and that unabashed air of Italian panache, Hyundai's Coupé is a proven hit in the UK — now the biggest European market for the highly-regarded Coupé, ahead of Spain and Italy.

The Coupé is available with a choice of three petrol engines: 1.6, 2.0 and 2.7-litre V6 offering, respectively, 103, 141 and 165bhp. We've previously tested the 2.0 SE, which is more than capable of satisfying a good number of enthusiasts — particularly those restricted to a budget — but, not surprisingly, the model most buyers aspire to is the 165bhp V6 2.7-litre flagship. Which is why, this time round, we've spent an enjoyable two weeks putting the two V6 models through their paces — we drove the six-speed manual for one week, and the auto for another.

Whichever engine and transmission you decide to mix and match, you'll get the Coupé's much lauded Italianate styling. Several restrained makeovers since the Coupé first appeared in the UK back in 2001 have resulted in the look going from 'plain pretty' in the early days, to the current 'pretty mean'. But the only point that truly matters about the 2+2-configured Coupé's striking looks is that, in the metal, it exudes
a whole lot of charisma. More, you can be sure, than some coupés costing twice as much. Up close, the build quality is impressive; the paint gleaming and shut-lines tight and even — push the big, wide frameless-windowed door closed and it shuts perfectly every time.

Inside it's a similar story. The cocooning all-black cockpit presents
a cabin with a welcoming ambience. Well finished, with good quality
trim, meaty switchgear and a neat, functional design integrating brushed metal finishes and black leather upholstery. The sports seats are comfortable and supportive, thanks to eight-way adjustability.
No hardship, either, that it's not powered. And there's plenty of room for legs, shoulders elbows and, especially, the driver's knees. Head room is also good, six-footers will be pleased to know. The sun roof slides open above the metal roof, maximisings headroom and providing buffet-free views of the sky.

There's height adjustment on the steering column and also on the driver's seat, so from behind the chunky three-spoke leather-rimmed steering wheel — dressed up with perforated leather and red stitching — it's easy to find a satisfying driving position. The driver also gets lumbar support and a left foot rest which — along with the pedals —
is trimmed in bright metal. A good number of cubby-holes are dotted around the cabin, including cupholders and a slot for your mobile.
The slim door pockets are usefully deep. The tailgate is released by a switch conveniently sited below the armrest on the driver's door.

Instrumentation is uncluttered and information easy to take in, thanks to legible white numbering and red needles on the black-faced, silver-bezeled analogue dials. The large speedometer and the rev-counter dominate the main instrument binnacle, with fuel and temperature gauges and a digital trip meter — showing range, average speed and driving time — nestling between them.

Smartly finished in a silver brushed metal, the centre stack houses a digital clock and the switchgear for the hazards and front and rear fog lamps. Occupying the space between these and the radio/CD unit is
a horizontal bank of three smaller secondary dials — economy gauge, voltage and torque meter. Keen drivers would, no doubt, prefer an oil-pressure gauge as you don't need to watch a dial to feel the torque swell as the revs climb. Beneath these is the straightforward climate control panel. Window switches are sited logically, close to the armrest on each door, along with the driver's controls for the door mirrors. Also keeping to logic, the sunroof controls and sunglasses holder are in an overhead console above the rearview mirror.

Given the V6 Coupé's affordable £18,795 price tag (£19,795 for the auto), the specification leaves you wanting for little. For your money, all V6 models come with full leather upholstery, cruise control, power steering, electric front windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, remote central locking and alarm, six-speaker radio/CD with RDS, climate control air conditioning, power steering, self-dimming rearview mirror, electric tilt 'n' slide glass sunroof and speed sensitive wipers.

Externally, side 'shark gills' on the front wings and a pronounced rear spoiler with integral stop lamp, two big bore exhaust pipes and 17-inch lightweight forged alloy wheels proclaim that the 2.7's appeal is much more than just skin deep.

A valuable sweetener to the Coupé's 2+2 body is its very sizeable and unobstructed 14.8 cu ft cargo area, easily accessed via a wide opening hatchback. Unexpected in a 2-door coupé, the very practical load space can be further expanded by folding down the contoured 50:50 split rear seat backs. Beneath the boot floor is a useful and discreet underfloor storage area. Six sturdy tie-down hooks and a luggage net are provided for securing loads. Adults will find it a tight fit in the back, a direct consequence of the Coupé's sloping roofline which limits head-room. Little people will be more than happy to be chauffeured about in the back and most drivers will, we suspect, treat the rear seats as 'occasional' items.

Safety is well addressed. Along with the provision of side impact air-bags, the driver and passenger front airbags are dual-stage. Active safety components include ABS brakes with discs all round (11-inch ventilated at the front; 10-inch at the rear), backed up by electronic brake force distribution and a switchable traction control system that does a very good job of letting you wring the most out of the chassis without losing traction. Large, easy to use buttons make interfacing with the radio/CD a minimal distraction while on the move. Another safety plus-point is good-sized door mirrors.

Enthusiastic drivers will revel in the standard manual 'box's six closely-spaced ratios. If you're so inclined, £19,795 will instead buy you a V6 Coupé equipped with a Porsche-designed H-matic 'two-pedal' system offering a stepped manual mode/full automatic at the push of a lever. Whichever transmission you opt for, the charismatic V6 is a gem. While the manual will frequently spur you to swop cogs just for the hell of the surging acceleration, the auto, in manual mode, is almost as much fun and made more so as the revs rise to a delicious, metallic engine note. The automatic is no sluggard either Used in anger, it dispatches the 0-62mph sprint in 8.6 seconds — the manual is a tad quicker; taking 8.3. There's no real top speed penalty in choosing the auto 'box over the stick-shifter: 135mph versus the manual car's 137.

The snappy, short-throw manual gear lever, placed nicely to hand, features a tight and satisfyingly mechanical 'double-H' gate that's noticeably spring-biased to the 3rd/4th plane. The auto uses a sturdy and well-sited selector with a perforated leather head. Sequential manual changes are made by moving the lever into the parallel left-hand manual gate, then pushing the lever forwards and back for, respectively, up and down gear changes.

Both auto (P-R-N-D) and stepped manual (M1-4) selector positions
are displayed clearly on the small screen between the speedo and rev-counter. Shifts are positive, quick and smooth. The V6's torque is generously spread around — a healthy 181lb ft peaking at 4,000rpm — and doesn't blunt the auto-equipped car's dynamics, so when the
mood takes you it lets you keep to the higher gears, trading off the snarly bite of 165 eager horses for some lazy cruising.

Happily, the Coupé's chassis is more than up for it. A well-sorted partner to the eager 24-valve, double overhead cam, all-alloy injected V6, it's clearly intended to provide driving entertainment. Called on
to perform, it quickly proves itself to be grippy and neatly responsive. Body roll is well-controlled and, allied to neutral handling, makes the Coupé a car you can safely press on in. Road adhesion from the 215/45 Michelin Pilot Sport tyres is strong, while adding to the enjoyment is meaty and well-weighted steering. The chassis delivers a surprisingly good ride — hard-edged, as opposed to simply hard. Well-bolstered at both shoulder and side, the low-set Recaro/Keiper-designed sports seats ensure the driver is fully in control at the heart of any action.

With off-the-line acceleration to the benchmark 62mph in 8.6 seconds, the automatic-specified model is fast enough — actually feeling a good second faster than the official figures say. Most likely this is down to its easy driveability. However, there's plenty of urge when you want it, especially along a well-known and challenging B-road. The V6 will
shrug off the twists and turns in a manner that will have you panting for more. The brakes have good feel and — always nice to know when you're hammering on — reassuring bite.

Resist the V6's press-on charms if you can, and your reward will be
at the pumps. Several free-flowing cross-country trips saw 35mpg, virtually right on the nose as far as the official extra-urban figure of 35.3mpg goes (the same, incidentally, for both manual and auto models). Play hard though and you'll quickly become acquainted with the 2.7-litre's urban figure of 19.9mpg. Most owners will achieve, and should be pleased with, the combined figure of 27.4mpg.

No doubt many will see the V6 Coupé simply as a hard-charging sports car. But that side of its personality overshadows the other side of
its character. It can cover long distances in comfort, unstressed, while transporting two people with a fair bit of luggage. And that marks it out as a satisfyingly balanced all-rounder. Factor in Hyundai's un-matched 5-year, unlimited mileage, fully transferable warranty and a good helping of standard kit and, as we said at the beginning — drive one, buy one. And smile!

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Hyundai Coupé 2.7 V6 H-matic | £19,795
Maximum speed: 135mph | 0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 26mpg | Power: 165bhp | Torque: 181lb ft

--------------------------------------------------------------- Hyundai Coupé V6