Editor's note: This review was written in January 2012 about the 2012 Hyundai Genesis. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2013, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
Even though the 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan wasn't built explicitly for family duty, it's one of those rare cars that's smooth and seamless for a family of five to live with on a day-to-day basis.
The 2012 Genesis has evolved only slightly since last year's model. See the two compared here. While I drove the base 3.8-liter V-6 version, the Genesis is also available in 4.6-liter and 5.0-liter versions, as well as a 5.0-liter, performance-oriented R-Spec version. See them all compared side-by-side here.
Note that the Genesis reviewed here shares its name with a sportier, more affordable Hyundai coupe, officially called the Genesis coupe. For details on that unrelated model, click here.
Hyundai seems to have no problem referencing positive design cues from other manufacturers (That's gentle terminology for "copycat.") While others may think this type of borrowing is bold, I think it's just plain smart. The Genesis has sleek, sloping exterior lines like a Mercedes-Benz, at a fraction of the price. It's clean, modern and much more upscale-looking than its reasonable price tag (it starts at $34,200; my loaded test car was $43,035) would have you believe. Even my test car's white satin pearl paint color looked expensive.
The Genesis' low step-in height makes it easy for people of any age to get in and out easily. Beware, however, that tall people will obviously have to duck under the roofline while getting in. The interior isn't intentionally family-oriented, but its clean lines help cut down on the visual and mental clutter that we parents suffer through on a regular basis. My test car was dressed in delicious-looking chocolate brown leather with wood accents. The dash sweeps from one side of the Genesis to the other with the smooth line of a polished river stone.
Backseat passengers benefit from air vents stashed in the B-pillar between the front and rear doors, a rarity in most sedans. Rear passengers also have access to their own separate heat and air-conditioning controls, located at the rear of the center console. Standard heated seats for the driver and passenger, as well as optional heated outboard seats in the back, were upscale options in my test car that we appreciated during a cold snap. Cooled front seats are optional. The available moonroof opens up the interior of the cabin nicely, letting the light shine in on the rich chocolate interior.
There was plenty of legroom for my elementary-school-aged kids behind both the driver's seat (pulled far enough forward to fit my 5-foot-3-inch frame) and even behind my husband's passenger seat, pushed back to accommodate his extra foot of height over me.
While the audio and optional navigation systems in the Genesis can be controlled by either the driver or the passenger using a toggle-like knob below the gearshift, I found that the available touch-screen controls were much more intuitive and did most of what I needed them to. If it were my choice, I'd do away with the redundancy and stick with the Mac-like, user-friendly touch-screen interface only.
There are two cupholders for the driver and passenger, plus two more in the center armrest in the backseat. There are no additional bottleholders in the doors, but small pockets in each door allowed me to stash and store a few extras, like my toll transponder and garage door opener. Pockets on the back of each of the front seats gave a little extra space for my girls to carry the stuff that's important to them. (Though I could easily argue over the "importance" of five tubes of Lip Smackers lip gloss and an old wallet packed full of expired grocery store coupons, birthday party invitations and hotel room keys from my business trips.)
The elongated Genesis sedan creates a cavernous trunk area big enough for my family's trip to Costco for bulk toilet paper, paper towels and two hormone-free roast chickens.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny — Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Groove On
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The 2012 Hyundai Genesis is one of those rare cars that I looked forward to driving each morning, even on our family's "Tuesday Driveathon" — all the usual to- and from-school driving, with the addition of dance team, ballet and piano practices after school thrown in for good measure. Sound mind-boggling? Try it in the Genesis and you'll be willing to do it every day. Wait. Did I just type that out loud? Just for the record, I'm definitely not willing to do that every day.
My test car's 333-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine had plenty of oomph for my taste and daily driving needs. My speed-needy husband commented that the style of this car seems to deserve a more powerful engine. He could have used one of those more powerful versions I mentioned earlier; see them all here.
The suspension in the Genesis is smooth without feeling overly floaty, and the steering is light and easy.
There were, however, a couple of days during my two-week test that I opted not to drive the Genesis; its rear-wheel drive and standard all-season tires didn't exactly love Denver's snow and ice.
The Genesis sedan earned Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, representing top scores in all of the organization's crash tests.
As is required of all 2012 models, the Genesis sedan has standard antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control. Also standard are dual front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags for the front and outboard rear seats, and side curtain airbags for both rows. While I got plenty of use out of the optional lane departure warning, active cruise control and backup camera in my test car, I was surprised that this $40,000-plus Genesis didn't come with a blind spot warning system.
For my three girls in the backseat, I had enough width to put my two younger ones (ages 7 and 9) in Bubble Bum booster seats, with more than enough space left over for my 11-year-old to sit comfortably. The two outboard seat belt buckles in the backseat are on stable bases, so it's easy for older kids to buckle up on their own. However, since they're more or less flush with the bottom cushion, younger children may need assistance reaching down to get buckled while in their booster seats. The center buckle is on a short strap that makes it difficult for younger children to hold it stable with one hand while trying to insert the buckle with the other hand. Securing child-safety seats using Latch anchors is also a challenge in the Genesis, as the lower anchors are buried tightly in the seat bight.
See the Genesis' standard safety features listed here.
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