The Hyundai Coupe was the first genuinely desirable Korean car, its swoopy styling reminiscent of something far more expensive. Indeed an independent survey rated the Coupe as one of Britain's sexiest cars. Priced at a level which includes rival offerings such as the Ford Puma and Renault Megane Coupe, the Hyundai always had a hard task on its hands, but like so many other things in life, looks count.
The facelift that the car received in 1999 was, by and large, not well received, taking many of the Coupe's most distinctive features and changing them for something more extreme but less well balanced. Those who have owned a Coupe will attest to its fine handling and benign nature. If one can overcome the badge on the bonnet, it has the ability to seduce.
The Hyundai Coupe landed on these shores in September 1996 to immediate acclaim. If expectations had been artificially lowered by its inelegant predecessor, the Scoupe, the new Coupe was a shock to the system. Styled in Hyundai's Californian design studio, the Coupe was fresh whilst at the same time carrying enough evocative design cues to remind many of Italian exotica. Initially it was available only with the 2.0 injection engine, in either manual or automatic, Coupe i or more luxurious SE trim.
In June 1997 a 1.6 litre engine was offered, manual or automatic, although the SE variants on this engine didn't materialise until January 1999. A bespoilered F2 special edition was launched in the Summer of 1998 to capitalise on Hyundai's rally activities. This was different in bodykit and badge only but the following June, the importers did the job properly, launching another F2 model. This one had a proper Peter Stevens-designed bodykit and a more potent uprated engine but carried a £1000 price premium that took it uncomfortably close to the seductive attractions of the Ford Cougar and Fiat Coupe. Nevertheless, all 1100 examples were sold.
In 1999 the Coupe received a radical makeover. Exterior work ran to new lights, wheels, bumper scoops and an angular rear spoiler, whilst the inside was brightened up with the addition of silver painted controls and faux aluminium trim to reflect the industrial tone set by, amongst others, the Audi TT. The revision was hardly an unmitigated success but kept the Coupe in the public eye until a completely new version was released in early 2002.