The 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan surprised many when it captured the North American Car of the Year award from the nation’s automotive wordsmiths.
Hyundai had won a loyal, if limited, following in the last few years by creating small, high-mileage, low-priced, well-equipped front-wheel-drive cars that put quality ahead of quantity.
The surprise was that the Genesis sedan introduced for 2009 year signaled a new approach — a large, well-appointed, yet moderately priced rear-wheel-drive sedan.
And now Hyundai has added a 2010 Genesis coupe, a smaller (4.6-inch shorter wheelbase/13-inch shorter length) two-door companion.
Kudos to the design staff. Admirers stopped, gawked and asked its ancestry, surprised it was South Korean. The long, low, wide hood suggests a secure stance on the road. The raised deck lid sports a modest, decorative spoiler. Deeply sculptured accent lines along the rear quarter panels and doors hint at spirited movement.
Inside, those who deeply admire the sedan may wince at the coupe’s limitations. The roofline slopes forward, which dictates how much you have to duck to get in and out. But where the missing 13 inches are felt most is in rear-seat legroom. Front seats come thisclose to touching rear seats even with no 6-footers up front.
Perforated leather seats keep occupants from slipping around, while large side bolsters hold them in place in aggressive motoring. But those who designed the front seats misjudged the human body’s ability to withstand one-size-fits-all headrests that poke most in the neck or melon rather than rest along the neck between shoulders and head.
Trunk space is adequate, but the opening is not very big. A lever in the trunk releases the rear seat back, but you have to lower it from inside the cabin to gain cargo space. No matter for that inconvenience; the tiny gap between trunk and cabin limits utility to golf clubs.
The sports suspension is tuned so the coupe travels in the direction the wheel points without wandering. Handling benefits from traction control for smooth, slip-free takeoffs, and stability control for optimum control into and out of corners. No slips, dips or dives.
Rear-wheel drive means near-even weight distribution for balance and optimum performance. Unlike a front-wheel-drive coupe that pulls sharply to one side at hard acceleration, Genesis holds a straight line without wiggling to gain speed for takeoff.
All-wheel-drive isn’t under consideration — yet.
Usually ride is sacrificed for handling, but this coupe provided jostle-free motoring even over a series of exaggerated tar marks left by highway workers who obviously didn’t want to come back and fill the cracks again next year. The coupe keeps teeth from rattling, but the sedan is smoother.
Where the coupe gains the most fans, other than its looks, is from the 3.8-liter, 306-horsepower V-6 with a 6-speed automatic and manual mode shifting. The V-6 is very alert and quickly responds to pedal pressure. The zero-to-60 claim is 5.7 seconds, fast enough to lead rather than follow.
A 2-liter, 210-hp, turbocharged 4-cylinder is available for those who want performance but a little better mileage. It’s rated at 20 mpg city/30 highway versus 17/27 for the V-6, both with automatic.
Base price is $29,000, and you don’t need options. Heated leather power seats; power tilt/slide sunroof; automatic temperature control; power mirrors (heated)/locks/windows; AM/FM/XM radio with MP3/CD player; Bluetooth phone; side-curtain air bags; anti-lock brakes; auto-dimming mirror with compass; and push-button start are standard.
Genesis coupe and sedan cater to different personalities. The sedan is more for those who enjoy a machine with a little spirit and a lot of luxury, the coupe for enthusiasts who measure fun in zero-to-60.
AWD would be a pleasant option for Snow Belt motorists. And how about a hardtop convertible for a fashion accessory?
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at email@example.com.
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