You can’t judge a car by its photo. Take the Hyundai Genesis coupe, for instance.

It looks pretty good in pictures, but in person, its lines have a sweep and a cohesion that make it look way better than pictures ever can.

While styling boosts street cred, what really sets the Genesis coupe apart is sparkling performance and a high-level of fit and finish.

Like its four-door sibling, the Genesis coupe, which is Hyundai’s second rear-wheel-drive car, is rewriting the rules for its class. It is poised to challenge the top performers in its segment. There are two versions, a turbocharged four-cylinder and a 3.8-liter V-6. The turbo four has 210 horsepower, while the V-6 has 306 horsepower. Prices begin at $22,750 for the turbo four. The V-6 starts at $25,750.

The test car, from Hyundai’s press fleet, was a Grand Touring V-6 with the six-speed manual transmission. Its base price was $27,500.

What you get is a lot of bang for the buck. When the engine is mated to the six-speed manual gearbox, the car is quick. It hits 60 miles per hour in less than six seconds and has a top track speed of 149 mph. That’s serious performance for the price.

According to John Krafcik, president and chief executive of Hyundai Motor America, “The 3.8-liter version of Genesis coupe takes driving to an even higher level, rivaling the capability of premium-performance coupes like the Infiniti G37.”

The less expensive four-cylinder is an excellent entry-level sports coupe, both in terms of price and fuel economy.

The four-cylinder and V-6 are available in “track” versions for buyers who want the most aggressive handling.

Aside from performance, what impressed me most about the V-6 coupe was the level of fit, finish and design found in the cabin. Hyundai designers have mastered the smallest detail. Every little button or panel has a beveled edge or a touch of chrome trim. The look is as sophisticated as that of more expensive luxury brands, and better in some cases.

South Korean automakers are making huge strides in design and quality, and the Genesis coupe and sedan are examples.

Throughout the vehicle, tight shut lines, clever styling touches and rich materials all speak of attention to the smallest detail.

The V-6 is an engine that is not only tractable and comfortable at normal speeds, but it also screams when you want it to. The six-speed manual transmission is fun to shift, the location of the shift lever made me bump my elbow on the center armrest. After a few days I decided that the automatic transmission may sacrifice some performance, but it would be infinitely more comfortable for daily use.

Welcome features, such as an Infinity 10-speaker audio system, has Bluetooth for wireless use of MP3 players. Bluetooth also streams music from cell phones. The XM satellite radio option is integrated into the navigation system and has real-time traffic alerts.

Front, side and side-curtain airbags are standard. So are anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control.

Hyundai has an impressive 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Price

The base price of the test car was $27,500. Options included an iPod cable for the audio system and floor mats. The sticker price was $28,375.

Warranty

Five years or 60,000 miles with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8

Engine: 3.8-liter, 306-hp V-6

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Rear-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 111 inches

Curb weight: 3,389 lbs.

Base price: $27,500

As driven: $28,375

MPG ratings: 17city, 26 hwy.

Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is tom@tomstrongman.com.