In the early 90’s, Hyundai tried to spice up their portfolio with a sporty 2-door called the SCoupe. But in truth, it did not come out at sporty as they would have liked. On the other hand, the RD Hyundai Coupe was not only sporty, it was stylish. It didn’t hurt that Porsche helped to develop the suspension.
Perhaps a precursor to the current Fluidic Sculpture design language, the 1996 Hyundai Coupe had an organic, flowing style that would fit neatly into their product lineup today. The aggressive nose flowed into a deep concave character line that rose above the front wheel, creating a bulging front fender that slightly resembled a flexed muscle. That line then tapered into the door, and a convex protrusion ran along the bottom of the door from the front wheel to the rear. Another inset line began underneath the door pulls, and curved around the rear fender to the tail lamps, creating yet another bulging muscle on the rear fender. There was a lot going on from a styling standpoint, but somehow it worked.
A 1999 facelift to the RD added 3 headlights and two fog lights – to each side of the car. Some felt this gave the front a busy look t the look of the entire car.
The interior of the RD Hyundai Coupe was just as unique as the exterior, and it featured a fighter-plane cockpit motif that wrapped around the driver, beginning on the door and ending at the base of the curved and canted centre console. A popular customisation is to paint the wraparound dash and door trim in the exterior body colour, giving the interior a distinctive look that is not an expensive modification.
Designed to compete against the Toyota Celica, the Hyundai Coupe brought lots of goodies to the table with the popular FX model. There were standard alloy wheels, a CD player, power windows and mirrors, and a car alarm.
For those in search of an affordable sports coupe, the Hyundai Coupe is based on the Lantra platform, and the spring and damper rates were breathed on by Porsche. The 4-wheel independent suspension employed coil springs at all four corners, along with special shock absorbers filled with nitrogen gas. This resulted in a well-sorted chassis that was able to balance ride and handling far better than the Excel-based SCoupe.
Although the Hyundai Coupe will not be mistaken for an actual Porsche, the performance is actually pretty good. The base Hyundai Coupe is powered by an 1.8L engine from the Lantra range that puts out 94 kW of power and 161 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption for this mill is around 6.9L/100km. The sportier models, like the Hyundai Coupe FX, have a dual-cam 16v 2.0L that makes 102kW at around 6000 rpm and a healthy 180Nm of torque. As with all small-engine sporty cars, more performance will be achieved when the air conditioner is off. Fuel consumption for the sport models is still a reasonable 7.6L/100km.
Transmission choices for the Hyundai Coupe are a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. Since this is a youth-oriented model, pay attention to clutch engagement in the manual, and shift quality in the automatic. Any signs of trouble here could indicate that the car was driven pretty hard.
Power windows, central locking, power steering, and a CD player are all standard kit on the base Hyundai Coupe. Later models added air conditioning, remote central locking, cruise control, and quad fog lights. The FX and SFX trims added sportier alloy wheels, the bigger motor and better interior trim.
The Hyundai Coupe was designed to be a fun, affordable alternative to more expensive offerings from Honda and Toyota. For example, the Camry-based Toyota Celica offered similar power and handling as the Hyundai Coupe, but its engine feels much less enthusiastic when pushed hard. And it didn’t offer anywhere near the same amount of standard kit as the Hyundai.
The Honda Integra Coupe had a much more suitable range of engines, and lots more standard kit than the Toyota, but both cars are considerably more expensive on the used market than the Hyundai Coupe, and neither look quite as unique.