When the 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan took home North American Car of the Year, some doubters thought it a fluke, a lucky shot by a rookie. The 2010 Genesis Coupe shows it wasn't, that Hyundai not only is serious in its upmarket intentions, but also can deliver serious contenders and at impressive prices.
This new coupe is not merely a shortened, two-door, four-passenger version of the larger, four-door, five-passenger sedan. While it shares some of the sedan's underpinnings, in almost every way that matters, and in some that probably don't, it's a unique, sporty coupe that offers remarkable value for dollar.
There's a choice of engines, between a turbocharged, 210-horsepower four-cylinder and a 306-hp V6. Both come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, increasingly a rarity, if offered at all, in the sporty coupe market. The optional automatics are Shiftronic manu matics with steering column-mounted shift paddles. In a hat tip to the car's rear-wheel drive, the rear tires and wheels are wider than the fronts, making for a better managed, more efficient delivery of power to the road.
Inside you'll find leather upholstery on most models, but the fabric seats are more than up to the dual challenges of keeping their occupants comfortable over long distances as well as reassuringly restrained on winding mountain roads. For the multi media generation, iPod and USB audio inputs are standard along with a simple auxiliary jack.
All of this, though, is icing on the cake. This is a very competent, nicely balanced sporty coupe that feels as at home on a closed track as slogging through daily commute traffic. Rear-wheel drive is generally regarded as being better for sporty handling than front-wheel drive, and the Genesis takes advantage of this. We found the ride and handling on the street and on the track to be remarkably good, especially for a car with a starting sticker price of $22,000.
The 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe comes in two basic models: the 2.0T and the 3.8. Each model has three trim levels: The 2.0T ($22,000), the 2.0T Premium ($24,250), and the 2.0T Track ($26,750), the 3.8 ($25,000), the 3.8 Grand Touring ($27,500), and the 3.8 Track ($29,500). The 2.0T's optional transmission is a five-speed automatic with Shiftronic ($1,250). The 3.8's optional transmission is a six-speed automatic with Shiftronic ($1,500). Also available is the 2.0T R-Spec ($23,750) available only with the six-speed manual.
The 2.0T comes with fabric upholstery, power windows, outside mirrors and central locking; leather-wrapped shift knob and manual tilt steering wheel; six-speaker multi-media stereo; and XM satellite radio and Bluetooth capability are all standard across the line. Premium adds power driver seat, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror with compass and programmable garage/gate remote, a 360-watt multi-media stereo with 10 speakers including woofer, power tilt-and-slide moon/sunroof, and proximity key with push-button start/stop, its feature list matches the Premium trim.
The 2.0T Track comes with leather seat trim complemented with color-coordinated leather door trim accents, Xenon headlights, body color spoiler, aero windshield wipers, 19-inch wheels with 40-series summer tires (instead of all-season tires), aluminum foot pedals, Brembo braking system, track-tuned suspension, limited slip differential and fog lights.
The 3.8 feature list mostly tracks the 2.0T's but also includes leather seat trim and door trim accents, automatic climate control, and fog lights. The Grand Touring and Track editions add folding and heated features to the outside mirrors, which also get integrated turn signals; the Xenon headlights; the moon/sunroof; the uplevel stereo, the auto-dimming rearview mirror; the power driver seat; and the proximity key with push-button start/stop. The 3.8 Track shares the 2.0T Track's aero and handling bits.
Options are limited to floor mats ($95) and an iPod cable ($30). These are added after the Coupe leaves the ship at the port of entry.
Safety equipment includes frontal, side-impact and side-curtain airbags. The front seats have active, anti-whiplash head restraints. All four passengers get three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters. The rear seat comes outfitted with child safety seat anchors. Active safety features include antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control and tire pressure monitors. A backup warning system comes on the Grand Touring model.
The 2010 Genesis Coupe has a quirky, hybrid look, a mix of several styling themes. Some of it works and some of it doesn't. On the upside, it's distinctive. On the downside, it's distinctive. One thing about which there is no confusion is that the Genesis Coupe is not merely a sporty, two-door knock down of the company's award-winning sedan. The only visual feature it shares with the sedan is the company's stylized H logo.
The front end is an intriguing collage of swoops and scoops. Two sharp hood creases squeeze past the upper grille to pinch down on top of a lower grille flanked by horizontal polished ribs on flat black insets pushing the fog lights to the extremes of the lower fascia, which itself wraps around the front tire wells to emphasize the broad stance. Projector-beam headlights peer out of compound housings slashed into the fenders. The busy front end is not going to look any better with a license plate bolted to it, a realization that might have buyers living in states requiring two plates sorely tempted to scoff at that particular law.
Side view shows what at a quick first glance could be the INFINITI coupe. There's a nice balance between hood and boot, which are split by a perfectly proportioned glasshouse. Right-sized tires on airy alloy wheels fill round wheel wells. Topping it off is something called a Z character line that broadcasts sportiness to passersby. The curves of the body catch the light and shadow and a Z-shaped reflection breaks up what would otherwise be a large expanse of sheet metal along the sides of the car.
To the extent there's any Hyundai legacy in the Genesis Coupe it's found in the hindmost view. Were it not for the car's mass, followers might think they were tailgating a Tiburon, the smaller, lower priced, less-sophisticated sporty coupe (phased out during the 2008 model year). There's the same lower valance with almost identical wide spaced exhaust tips, a similar oval ness to the taillight rear bumper fascia trunk lid grouping and the same tucked-in tapering of the rear quarter panels behind the rear tires. This isn't to say the look is other than pleasant, but the clear visual linkage to that older, lesser coupe is strong enough that it could dim the new coupe's up-market prospects, at least to those following behind.
The Genesis Coupe interior shows cost-cutting doesn't have to mean cheap. Yes, most of the larger pieces are hard plastic, and pizzazz is not a word that comes readily to mind when describing the gauges and array of switches and knobs on the center stack. But for the most part, where function and feel matter, the Genesis Coupe measures up.
Seats, those in front at least, are comfortable but sufficiently assertive to hold the backside in place during spirited motoring, especially in the 2.0T with its basic black cloth. The 3.8's leather is a nice touch of semi-luxury, but it's slippery, as well as sweaty in the hot months and clammy in the cold. It's that old debate between cloth and leather.
The back seats are only for small children and, in some states, lower insurance premiums.
The steering wheel feels good, with just the right rim thickness and cross section. The shift knob, steering wheel and driver's seat hip-point triangulate well for 90-percentile males. The column-mounted shift paddles for the Shiftronic automatics are at the fingertips of hands at the 10-and-2 o'clock positions and are within reach from 9-and-3. The up/down slot on the console mounted shift gate opens toward the driver, where it's a natural tug at the lever. The foot pedals are where the driver's feet expect; heel and toeing in the six speed manuals could be easier but doesn't demand a stretch or awkward ankle twist. Unlike the buttons for the power windows, which are placed on the door armrest at such an odd angle that to use them requires twisting the wrist into an almost painful contortion.
The primary gauges are analog, with coolant temperature and fuel gauges embedded in the base of the speedometer and tachometer, respectively. Basic, bright red needles communicate their information quickly and surely. The aforementioned knobs, buttons and rocker switches for the audio and climate management controls are large and logically located, with audio controls up top for ready access requiring minimal shift of the driver's line of sight away from the road ahead, to which a low dash gives bay window-like visibility. Quite the contrary is true for lane checks; despite a recessed lower sill that expands the glass area, the rear quarter windows offer limited visibility, in large part due to the large C-pillar.
Cargo area isn't commonly a strong point for coupes, and the Genesis Coupe does not challenge that perception. With 10 cubic feet of cargo space, the Genesis Coupe holds more than the 2009 Mazda RX-8 (7.6 cu. ft.), less than the BMW 328i/335i coupe (15.5 cu. ft.).
Nor is a roomy cabin traditionally a coupe's forte, another standard to which this coupe adheres. That said, the Genesis Coupe holds up well against those competitors in terms of front seat roominess. Front-seat head room tops that in the RX-8 and 3 Series coupe by about one inch. The same holds for front-seat leg room, which bests those two by more than two inches. Hip room in those front seats is wider by almost three inches than in the RX-8's seats. (BMW, like most German carmakers, does not publish figures on hip room.) If rear seats must be added to the chart, the Coupe truly fares not well, trailing in head room by more than two inches, in leg room by between just under one inch and more than three inches, but eking out a win by one inch over the RX-8 in hip room.
Bringing the Genesis Coupe to market at this price point meant compromises. Fortunately, Hyundai made those compromises elsewhere and not in the handling package. It's a pleasant ride in cruise mode and surprisingly fun, and competent, during play time.
If there's a complaint, it's with steering feel at high speeds over anything other than glass-smooth pavement, when too much sensitivity to surface irregularities feeds back through the steering wheel; the best descriptor is high strung. This afflicts the 2.0T more than it does the 3.8, which is more relaxed, but both feel as if they could use a little more damping. Driven hard on a closed track, however, both were a delight, nicely balanced, with just a smidgen of understeer from the mild front-end weight bias. One of the benefits of rear-wheel drive is that it allows the driver to better control the car in a turn using the throttle. Lifting off the throttle after carrying too much speed into a corner kicked the rear end out a bit, but a touch of opposite lock and giving it gas put everything back in line.
What was truly fun was turning off the electronic stability control and using that same throttle to manage the line through a turn and then to draw different exit lines in search of the optimum entry line into the next turn. All of which every one of the Genesis Coupe powertrain combinations took in stride, never surprising with some unexpected dynamic resulting from an unnecessary compromise during development. Sure, the Track editions' envelopes were more expansive, especially in the braking category (love those Brembos!) but the other two editions were no slouches.
Power delivery in the 2.0T was linear with virtually no evidence of the dreaded turbo lag, to the point, sadly, of requiring some extra anticipation when executing a pass on mountain two lanes. Shifts in the automatics were smooth and precise. Upshifts are controlled solely by the driver when the Shiftronic is in manual mode. Shift throws in the manuals were short but could have been more precise.
The ride was comfortable on well-maintained interstates, showing some rough edges only on weathered urban roads, where broad expansion joints and broken pavement sent jolts through the suspension hard points. Road and tire noise was mostly muted, as was wind noise, even at interstate speeds, although the outside mirrors on a couple test cars at the introduction in Nevada generated an occasional whistle.
The 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe offers sporty handling and rear-wheel drive. Our impression was the Genesis Coupe rides smoother than the Mazda RX-8, though it feels less sophisticated than the BMW 3 Series coupes. Power from the four-cylinder and V6 engines is competitive. Fuel economy bests all but the 335i (where BMW recommends premium fuel). The BMWs are tops in styling, and those two and the Mazda have richer, although not necessarily more comfortable, interiors. Then there's price. Sticker for the Genesis Coupe starts out lower than the least expensive RX-8 by about $4000 and by more than $15,000 than the least expensive of the BMWs. In terms of value, the Genesis Coupe prevails.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Las Vegas, Nevada.