Finding an affordable sports car with rear-wheel drive, a six-speed manual, performance aspirations and tuning potential has seemed like a Herculean task of late. The Nissan 370Z and Honda S2000 are solid sports coupes but break the $30k ceiling, making gear-heads on a budget frown. Scion has been producing fun and exciting cars that capture the tuning spirit for under $20k, but exhilaration from the driving experience there is not. It’s taken an unlikely contender, Hyundai Motors from Korea, to bring to market a sport compact at a compelling price point which also serves as a launching pad for all kinds of modification possibilities.
Hyundai didn’t just slip the Genesis Coupe into the mix as a replacement for the discontinued Tiburon, they hurled it into the product lineup while doing a power slide complete with smoking tires. You have to look no further than the press pictures taken at a track, as opposed to the typical scenic park (like ours), to see that there is no doubt that this model is aimed at 18 to 35 year old males looking to cause some havoc.
The base model, the Genesis Coupe 2.0T, starts at just $22,000 and comes with a turbocharged 2-liter inline 4-cylinder engine good for 210 hp and 223 ft-lbs of torque. Horsepower junkies may not be psyched but this engine features the same GEMA World Engine Alliance architecture from the Mitsubishi Evolution X, which we all know can be tuned up the wazoo. Just check out the superfied Hyundai Genesis Coupe models at SEMA to see what can be done on this platform.
Hyundai recognizes that this car has plenty of potential and offers their own tuning option for those looking for factory support. The Track edition sports big boy brakes front and rear from Brembo, a Torsen limited slip differential, a revised suspension system with stiffer springs and aggressive strut braces as well as front and rear anti-sway bars set at a larger diameter. It also comes with a rear spoiler, aluminum pedals, xenon headlamps and fog lights.
Taking a look at the Hyundai Genesis Coupe we couldn’t help but notice a striking resemblance to the Infinity G37. That said, this car is anything but a knockoff and has enough of its own personality and design sensibilities to stay unique. And Hyundai did an excellent job of making it plainly obvious that this is a sports car without going over the top. The fascia is strong but still demur and the rear wing is functional and not overstated. It has an aggressive posture with a wide gait. Our model sported 19-inch wheels with summer tires.
Once inside the car via key-less entry (a small button on the handle deactivates the lock), the cockpit is quite welcoming. There are plenty of contrasting colors and enough spunk to make your grandpa feel young again. The center stack, steering wheel cover and door armrest trim are finished in silver-painted plastic which was the only blemish in a cabin with above-average fit and finish. And the sunroof is big enough to offer plenty of rays. At night, a very cool vibrant blue color adorns all of the instruments and displays.
The steering wheel is comfortably contoured and on the smaller side, making it a joy to handle except for the low-quality of the leather used on the wrapping. It can be tilted for adjustment but doesn’t telescope, which could be a problem if you happen to be a portly fellow. The usual host of accessories including AC, cruise control and trip computer are all present and accounted for with some additional niceties such as a tire pressure monitoring system. Slightly odd are the power windows, locks and mirror controls which are unconventionally flush mounted sideways along the swooping door panels. The Bluetooth setup is very easy, accomplished through voice commands with answer and hang-up buttons integrated into the left side of the steering wheel.
The car stereo features a CD-Changer/MP3 player with USB/iPod connectivity, XM Satellite Radio, a 10-speaker system and steering-wheel mounted controls. It’s easy to work and laden with features but the sound quality was underwhelming. We had high expectations based on the fact that our model was outfitted with an Infinity 360 watt system with subwoofer.
Some of the nice-to-have features include Homelink and an overhead sunglasses compartment as well as the ability to either manually control the lights or set them to auto. In addition, there is a switch for the fog lights. The dual, vertically set cup-holders between the front seats are also an added convenience.
The seats in our vehicle sport Black bolster with contrasting red stitching and red cloth mesh-like surfaces. They handle the dual-purpose of providing enough support and comfort for both spirited driving and road trips surprisingly well. And driving position is spot-on with more than enough visibility from the low-slung buckets. Chalk up the rear-seats for use only with very small children, groceries or adults you hate. These actually fold flat and extend the large 10-cubic foot trunk to make room for expensive sporting goods to rest between use. Our model also comes equipped with the optional carpeted floor mats and included an iPod cable.
Hyundai recognizes that with delusions of race-car-driving-grandeur rampant comes the responsibility of protecting us from ourselves. The Genesis Coupe 2.0T features the following safety precautions standard: electronic stability control, ABS with brake assist, front seat airbags and full-length side curtail airbags along with “Active” front headrests.
So, what’s it like to drive you ask? Well, just looking at the stats – 3,294 pounds with 0-60 mph times in the 7 second range – you’d think not so hot. But the Genesis Coupe 2.0T Track is more than what you see on paper and supplies a surprisingly exciting ride. The combination of six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive and rev-happy engine makes you feel like you are way faster than you really are, which is not a bad thing, because at the end of the day, for most consumers, the fun factor makes all the difference in the world. That’s not to say that acceleration is poor because it’s totally adequate for typical city driving. It just doesn’t have the chutzpah one would expect from a car set up with Brembo brakes, a stiff suspension and sleek sporty looks.
The Engine Start Stop button is a nice touch. Depress the clutch pedal, hit the button and the car purrs to life. The handling is crisp (albeit the power-steering feedback is a little vague from a slight case of over-boost) with very little body roll. The ride quality is particularly good for such a tight suspension but could get old fast if you live in a cold-weather climate with ubiquitous potholes. Understeer and oversteer are a non-issue and the car is particularly well balanced. And the Electronic Stability Control can be turned on and off with a large button left of the steering wheel if you really want to carve some curves.
Throttle response meets expectations but falters during shifts at the upper and lower ends of the rpm spectrum. Like most cars built with small-cylinder turbos, staying in the 3,000 to 5,000 range is required to maintain adequate power delivery. The manual transmission is a little disappointing with the high-strung clutch taking focus away from driving, providing a somewhat temperamental feel when slotting. It’s neither particularly smooth nor precise.
In addition, during quick up-shifts, the revs don’t drop down fast enough to compensate which can be somewhat jarring. And during downshifts, there is very little engine braking, which can be disconcerting. Both of these factors, however, are most likely due to an attempt by Hyundai to provide better fuel economy and are probably just ECU settings. Overall, it’s best to take your time as this car doesn’t like to be rushed, which is a bit strange for a sports car.
Reverse is accessed by pushing past a resistant point to the far left and sliding the shifter up to lock it home. A little beep sounds just in case you happen to think you are in first. This is a nice feature as today’s distracted drivers – who like to simultaneously text, drink lattes and tweeze their eyebrows in the mirror – are often distracted and could easily hurl their sports coupe into the car behind if not notified of their present gear.
The fuel economy was spot on with the manufacturer’s listed specs of 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. The car runs just fine on regular so there really isn’t a need to go to premium petrol unless you start tweaking the engine.
The 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T Track is no doubt a serious contender in the budget sports compact class. In fact, it almost holds an uncontested title belt, with no real competition from any rear-wheel drive sports coupes at this price point. The Nissan 370Z ($29,930) and Honda S2000 ($34,995) enter as much more expensive options. Other sports cars costing about the same, such as the front-wheel drive Mazdaspeed3 ($23,945) and Mistsubishi Eclipse GS Sport ($25,018) or AWD Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart ($27,190), just don’t have the classy sports coupe vibe or rear-wheel drive potential of the Genesis Coupe. The latest resurgence of American muscles cars – the new 306 hp 2011 Ford Mustang ($22,145) and 305 hp 2010 Chevy Camaro ($23,530) – somehow seem to be its biggest competitors… That said, Hyundai has an answer in the form of the Genesis Coupe 3.8 with its 306 hp engine and sub 6-second sprints from 0-60 mph.
So, to bring it home, Hyundai definitely had to make some sacrifices to bring the 2010 Genesis Coupe 2.0T Track (MSRP $27,675) to market at an affordable price. But even with its quirks, this car has the perfect mix of cost, performance, looks and tuning potential. If you want a sports coupe to bop around town in and thoroughly enjoy the driving experience, the Genesis Coupe in stock form will fit the bill. But if you want a platform to build off of, this car can be looked at as a blank canvas to work into a tire-vaporizing beast. Just check out Rhys Millen’s 500hp Genesis Coupe from SEMA for inspiration.
(Here’s a hint to get you started… The ECU is made by Siemens with software that can rather easily be reflashed to immediately increase output and Greddy has a full complement of aero tweaks to hit the street or track in style. Just make sure that if you do add some serious boost, you upgrade the gearbox accordingly. DISCLAIMER: Tuning your vehicle may void your warranty, so check with the dealer first before attempting any mods.)