Finally, an evolution revolution brings a new coupe
The coupe still inspires much passion, and two new models richly deserve the once-over, writes Campbell Spray
SOME time ago, when going through the first of many mid-life crises, I put in time with a very bright and attractive young blonde lady who desired -- and then bought -- a Hyundai Coupe.
It suited her rather racy personality and, although some derided it as the 'hairdresser's Porsche', it had a style that shone very brightly and was a motoring star when the rest of Hyundai's products were rather drab.
Through a number of upgradings the basic coupe changed little, perhaps becoming slightly sharper, but basically it was a fine two-plus-two that was very pleasing to the eye and senses. Some called it a 'coupe' and others a 'coupay', but it always brought a wistful faraway look in my eye and a pang to my heart.
But that was then and this, as they say, is now. Hyundai has moved on, as has the young lady. Now being a mother to four, the coupe has probably been replaced by a people carrier and me by a much more suitable person.
The last coupe was produced in 2008 and, at last, the Korean manufacturer has launched a successor.
Called the Veloster it is many miles from the low and sleek coupe and is more of a competitor for cars like the VW Golf GTi.
Its accessibility has also been much improved by the inclusion of a rear door on the passenger side. It is a bit bizarre, as in left-hand versions it goes on the other side, and the logical part of my mind is asking why not put in two doors and be done with it? Maybe that will come as I feel the Veloster is a work-in-progress. My immediate reaction was not a positive one, but that may have been tinged with a bit of nostalgia. The drive was far too firm, I didn't like the split rear window, the front passenger seat was far too low especially when you could put the driver's seat through many adjustments, and the engine revving and acceleration isn't right yet.
However, the car is very well finished inside, the rear reversing camera is the clearest I have yet seen and the dials' blue glow is classy indeed.
By the end of the week the car felt definitely more male than its predecessor, although I still felt rather ungainly getting in and out. But that's more about me than the car. In fact, I was driving the Astra GTC Coupe the week before and my head took a bit of knocking then too. The Astra GTC is a supremely beautiful car and shows just how attractively Opel can build cars with their new design team. It was a pure pleasure to look at and turned many more heads than the Veloster which, however, got a steady band of admirers.
It isn't cheap and while prices start at €23,495 the test model was nearly €8,000 more than that when loaded with extras -- including a 'premium forward lighting pack' at €1,143, metallic paint (€535), and 19-inch alloys at €514.
The GTC has a far more refined chassis than that of the normal five-door Astra, giving a confident rather than overtly sporty feel, yet it is a joy to drive and, in that respect, is better than the Veloster. While diesels might rule the roost for most purchases, the 1.4 petrol model I was driving had just enough poke for the sophisticated driver rather than boy racer.
It has taken five years since the Veloster was introduced as a concept at the Seoul Motor Show for it to come to the market here.
The time lag hasn't dimmed the passion for a coupe replacement however it may not be until much later in the year, or even 2013, until much of that demand can be sated. Most of the manufacturing output is going to the UK and Hyundai in Ireland are concentrating in getting extra units of the brand new executive i40 and the new version of the successful i30, which was launched last week.
At the moment it is only powered by a 1.6 petrol engine using a six-speed manual box, however turbo and diesel models are coming.
The price of the Veloster is €25,495 before the usual horrible delivery charges. It is very well-specced and with a CO2 of 137g/km comes in the same road tax band (€225) as the Opel.
Both cars suffer from the very wide and heavy door syndrome of coupes which causes many bruised legs, scratched cars and muscle strain. But they are both great examples of the breed. Of course, being always turned by a pretty head, there is something very special about the Opel's looks. But bearing in mind the impressive strides Hyundai is making to become one of the biggest players on the world stage, the Veloster will only improve. There is just enough reminders of the old coupe about the long and low nose to bring back memories. Yet we have all moved on and that's the way it should be.
Sunday Independent Supplement