The Hyundai Elantra family is multiplying like bunnies these days, and the 2013 Elantra Coupe is the latest arrival. Flaunting an alluring two-door interpretation of Hyundai's "fluidic sculpture" design language, the Elantra Coupe is aimed squarely at the longtime ruler of this roost, Honda's venerable Civic. Has Hyundai cracked the affordable-coupe code? We ventured to the mountains of San Diego County to find out.

The first thing we noticed was how natural the Elantra looks as a coupe. Sedan-based coupes often have awkward proportions, but the two-door Elantra flows organically from nose to tail, as if it had been designed from the get-go to be a coupe. We were particularly struck by the SE model, which comes with smart 17-inch alloy wheels, mirror-mounted turn signals and even an optional chrome-trimmed grille.

Inside, the Elantra Coupe has the same curvaceous dashboard as the sedan, but there are some notable differences. The front seats, for example, have more prominent side bolsters, and the view of the road ahead is more dramatic thanks to the radically sloped windshield, which pushes the A-pillars forward for a sleek, futuristic feel. The SE stands apart with its alloy pedals, which add to the sporty ambiance. Surprisingly, the back seat is adult friendly: a couple of average-size folks could lounge back there all day, while lanky riders would fit fine on short trips.

Happily, the Coupe largely duplicates the sedan's one-two punch of feature content and affordability. Standard niceties on the base GS, which starts at just $17,445, include 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, air conditioning, heated front seats and a six-speaker stereo with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. If you step up to the $19,745 SE, you get the 17-inch alloys, a sport-tuned suspension, a sunroof and leather upholstery, as well as exclusive eligibility for a technology package with navigation, a 360-watt stereo, dual-zone automatic climate control and keyless entry/ignition. Even a fully loaded SE automatic lists for a reasonable $23,095.

On the road, the Elantra Coupe does its best to live up to its sporty image. Cornering ability is enhanced by a more aggressive rear suspension design that Hyundai calls V-beam, an upgrade shared with the Euro-flavored Elantra GT. Naturally, the SE model's firmer dampers and bigger tires add an extra dollop of athleticism. Yet ride quality remains satisfactory, even if the platform feels a bit insubstantial on rough roads.

It's only when you put your right foot down that you realize the Coupe's dynamic styling may be writing checks its sedan-spec engine can't cash. Don't get us wrong: the 1.8-liter inline-4 isn't bad, emitting an endearing snarl above 5,000 rpm-and returning an impressive 40 mpg on the highway. Trouble is, 148 horsepower just isn't that much, especially when it's paired with a mere 131 lb-ft of torque. That's fine in the workaday sedan, but some may expect more from a suave two-door. The related Kia Forte Koup solves this problem by offering an optional engine with extra power, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Hyundai follow suit in the near future.

Overall, the Elantra Coupe is hard not to like. There's just not much wrong with this car, and you may even find that those 148 horses are plenty for your needs. Hyundai has a potential hit on its hands here with a capable compact coupe that should give Honda a lot to think about. If every new Elantra is as pleasant as the Coupe, this is one family that should keep right on multiplying.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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