EXPERT REVIEW

Star-Telegram.com's view


Fans of sporty two-door cars just might find a lot to like in the all-new Hyundai Genesis Coupe, whose prices begin at $22,000 (plus $750 freight) for the base turbocharged four-cylinder model and $25,000 for the V-6 version.

But don’t confuse this car with the more-expensive four-door Genesis sedan that arrived last year. They’re two different cars, with completely different target customers.

While the sedan is an entry-level luxury car that could compete against a vehicle such as a Lexus ES 350, the South Korea-built Genesis Coupe is a mass-market car in the same vein as a Honda Accord or Nissan Altima coupe.

Besides the obvious differences on the outside – two doors instead of four – the Genesis Coupe has much less interior space than the sedan. The back seat is barely roomy enough for a couple of small children. You wouldn’t want to try to cram full-size adults back there; with the front seats all the way back on their tracks, there is virtually no rear legroom. In comparison, the sedan has 8.3 inches more legroom.

The people who buy sporty-looking coupes, though, generally aren’t planning to carry regular passengers in the back seat.

While Hyundai’s marketing suggests the Genesis Coupe is designed to compete in the premium class, the car isn’t equipped that way. Even with our tester, the top-of-the-line 3.8 Grand Touring model (base price $29,000), the car was lacking many of the amenities consumers expect in premium models, such as power-adjustable seats on both sides of the front. Ours had power on the driver’s bucket seat, but the passenger seat had all-manual controls.

While I haven’t had the opportunity to drive the base model with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the 3.8-liter V-6 in my tester did give the Genesis Coupe quite a kick, thanks to its 306 horsepower. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it a true sport coupe, but it did perform comparably to the Accord coupe, and its handling approached that of the Altima.

One big difference between the Genesis and those competitors is that the Hyundai has rear-wheel drive, which puts it more in the class of the Ford Mustang and new Chevrolet Camaro.

Rear drive is considered optimum for a sportier driving experience, but it’s not a good arrangement in snow country, where the Accord and Altima’s front-wheel drive come in quite handy (not a real consideration here in Texas, however).

The base Genesis Coupe’s four-cylinder engine is rated at 210-horsepower, while the normally aspirated V-6 has about the same power as the 3.6-liter V-6 in the new Camaro.

The Genesis doesn’t have quite the same feel as the Camaro, however, and while it does have nice styling, it’s certainly not the head-turner the Chevy is, attracting crowds wherever it goes.

But the good news is that it is a solid midsize coupe that’s fun to drive, and it’s certainly priced right – particularly at the lower end of the range.

The Genesis sedan is more expensive, with a starting price of $33,000 (including freight). But it has the look and feel of a large, premium European sedan, and is roomy and comfortable for four people, even five if necessary.

While the base sedan comes with a 290-horsepower version of the 3.8-liter V-6 engine, there is a V-8 model with an impressive 375 horsepower that begins at $38,000. The V-8 is not available in the coupe, however.

The Genesis rides on a new rear-wheel-drive vehicle platform that Hyundai developed specifically for a luxury car, and it has an advanced five-link suspension at all four corners to give it both the ride and handling that consumers expect in a premium vehicle.

The base coupe comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. With a five-speed automatic, it costs $23,250. The Premium 2.0T model starts at $24,250 for the manual and $25,500 for the automatic. The four-cylinder Track model is $26,750, and the four-cylinder R-Spec version is $23,750 (both of these are available only with the manual.

With the V-6, there are three trim levels, and the optional automatic transmission is a six-speed, and the base model with the automatic is $26,500. Other V-6 models are the Grand Touring ($27,500 manual, $29,000 automatic) and the Track ($29,500 manual, $31,000 automatic). The Track model comes with Brembo brakes and other performance upgrades.

The R-Spec model, for the tuner crowd, is “the ultimate upgradeable, affordable, turbocharged rear-wheel drive performance” car, Hyundai says.

Electronic stability control with traction control, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are standard on all models.

Standard safety features include active front headrests, front seat-mounted side air bags, side-curtain air bags for both rows, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Base models come with air conditioning is standard, along with remote keyless entry with alarm, driver’s lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power windows/mirrors/door locks, AM/FM/XM/MP3/CD audio system with six speakers and iPod/ USB connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, cruise control, trip computer, automatic projector-beam headlights, and Bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel controls

With the upgrade to the 2.0T Premium model, there are a power driver’s seat, upgraded 360-watt Infinity audio system with 10 speakers and CD changer (including DVC subwoofer, eight-channel external amplifier, and diversity antenna); proximity key with pushbutton start; auto-dimming rearview mirror with universal garage opener and compass; and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof.

A navigation system will be available later in the model year, Hyundai said, but was not included on our tester.

The 2.0T Track model comes with 19-inch alloy wheels with staggered high-performance summer-compound Bridgestone Potenza tires; Brembo braking system with 13.4-inch ventilated front rotors; track suspension with higher-rate coil springs and higher-control shock absorbers, front and rear stabilizer bars and a front strut brace; limited-slip differential; black leather bolstered front seats with high-friction red cloth insert; aluminum pedals; aero wipers; a rear spoiler; xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights; fog lights; and a lightweight temporary spare tire with aluminum wheel.

V-6 models come with standard leather interior, automatic climate control, premium door-sill plates, chrome front fascia accents and fog lights.

Our test vehicle, the Grand Touring V-6 with the six-speed automatic transmission, came with unique brown leather seats, the power driver’s seat, heated driver and passenger seats, the premium audio system, 18-inch wheels, and other features from the 2.0T Premium model.

Extras on our vehicle included only an iPod connection cable $30) and carpeted floor mats ($95), bringing the total sticker price to $9,875, including freight.

Fuel-economy ratings are 21 mpg city/30 highway for the four-cylinder manual models, and 20/30 for the automatics. With the V-6 engine, the ratings are 17/26 with the manual and 17/27 with the automatic.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at (210) 250-3236; chambers@star-telegram.com.

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

The package: Midsize, two-door, four-passenger, rear-wheel-drive, four-cylinder or V-6 powered coupe.

Highlights: All new for 2010, this is a coupe with the same name as Hyundai’s new premium sedan, but it’s shorter and much less expensive, with fewer amenities.

Negatives: Back seat is just barely adequate for two small children; trunk space is limited.

Engines: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder; 3.8-liter normally aspirated V-6.

Transmissions: Six-speed manual; five-speed automatic (optional, four-cylinder models); six-speed automatic (optional, V-6 models).

Power/torque: 210 HP/223 foot-pounds (2.0-liter); 306 HP./266 foot-pounds (3.8-liter).

Length: 182.3 inches.

Curb weight: 3,294-3,389 pounds

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side curtain for both rows.

Trunk volume: 10 cubic feet.

EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/30 highway (2.0 manual); 20 city/30 highway (2.0 automatic); 17/26 (3.8 manual); 17/27 (3.8 automatic).

Fuel capacity/type: 17.2 gallons/unleaded regular.

Major competitors: Honda Accord coupe, Nissan Altima coupe, Scion tC, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro.

Base price range: $22,000-$31,000 plus $750 freight.

Price as tested: $29,875 including freight and options (3.8 Grand Touring, automatic).

On the Road rating: 7.7 (of a possible 10).

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