Since its debut as a 2010 model, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe has been in an odd place. Fashioned as a stylish performance car, the Genesis Coupe has been hobbled by its mechanical relation to the big, wide Genesis full-size luxury sedan. It offers the characteristically lacking comfort and versatility of a small sports coupe without a small sports coupe’s wonderfully engaging handling.
That said, the Genesis Coupe is a rare powerful rear-wheel-drive coupe priced from the mid $20,000s, or $29,625 as tested with the available V6 engine. There’s not a huge amount of competition there, leaving plenty of room for even flawed vehicles to make a name for themselves. And comprehensive upgrades for the 2013 model year have upped the car’s performance, fuel economy and interior ambiance, and – some will say – its style.
There’s a hole in the market for a car that’s smaller and lighter than a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro yet more powerful and luxurious than the more recently launched Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ identical twins. The Genesis Coupe would have been a good candidate to fill it, but at more than 3,400 pounds it’s actually heavier than the longer, wider Ford.
Think of this Hyundai instead as more like a Mustang for someone who strongly prefers a modern appearance – a decidedly smaller niche, especially considering the improvements that have been heaped on the Mustang in recent years.
With a choice of a 274-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the richer-sounding 348-horsepower 3.8-liter V6, the Genesis Coupe isn’t exactly a car you should feel like you’re settling for. But it’s fundamentally compromised by its size and weight. The 2013 update certainly adds to the car’s experience, but it doesn’t change the experience. And to achieve greatness, the Genesis Coupe either needs to become a more comfortable and useful premium cruising car or a lighter, more focused sporty one. With any luck, Hyundai will make up its mind the next time the car is fully redesigned.
Power is key
Aside from perhaps its svelte shape, the clear highlight to the Genesis Coupe is either of its two engines. Each is offered with a choice between a six-speed manual and a new eight-speed automatic, whose extra ratios help boost the car’s fuel economy, especially on the highway.
The four-cylinder and V6 engines don’t align precisely with the V6 and V8 engines in the Mustang and Camaro – the 2.0-liter turbo offers less zip than the V6s, the Hyundai wins a V6 vs. V6 matchup, and the American retro pair offer absurdly powerful V8s.
The Genesis Coupe tested for this review, an R-Spec 3.8 model, came with the V6 engine and manual transmission. The engine sounds rich and provides the thrust promised by the impressive horsepower rating. A touchy clutch and sensitive throttle mean it’s not always easy to enjoy the acceleration, though, and the car can stumble when you’re trying to drive at low speeds.
Also, the manual transmission’s gearing doesn’t let the Genesis Coupe cruise comfortably on the highway. Though the engine is large and the transmission has six speeds, the engine is still left turning at more than 2,000 rpm at 60 miles per hour. There’s no need for the resulting level of extra engine noise and reduced fuel economy on the highway.
The shifter itself feels good, though, with short throws and a precise feel. One issue: The shifter lacks a true lockout of reverse, which is located to the left of first gear. You merely pull harder to get there, and the car chimes each time you succeed. When this reviewer sampled the then-new 2010 Genesis Coupe, it felt like something that was rushed at the last minute; it’s a shame that it wasn’t addressed for 2011, much less as part of 2013’s comprehensive update.
The tested Genesis Coupe is rated for an EPA-estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway, or 21 mpg overall, with premium fuel recommended for best performance. This reviewer observed 21.8 miles per gallon in a weeklong test. The four-cylinder Genesis Coupe is rated for 24 mpg in mixed driving, and up to 31 mpg on the highway.
Less impressive than the car’s strong acceleration and decent fuel economy is its handling. There are a few tricks to making a big car feel small, but easier still is to build a smaller car.
But Hyundai has but one rear-wheel-drive platform, and it’s one that underpins the full-size Genesis sedan – a higher-volume model. The Genesis Coupe isn’t nearly as long as the sedan – more than a foot shorter, in fact – but it’s merely an inch narrower. And unlike a dedicated sporty car, the Genesis sedan wasn’t optimized for minimal weight; the Genesis Coupe comes in at more than 3,400 pounds as tested.
The tested R-Spec model comes with a track-tuned suspension, and cuts out features like a navigation system and even – oddly – cruise control to reduce weight and cost. While it may make a difference on the track, it mainly leads to a pounding ride on the street. (Ride quality isn’t a strength on other Genesis Coupe models, either.) It’s clearly competent at tight corners and has high limits, but it offers few rewards when you don’t approach them. And the steering, which should have been a key distinction from a Mustang or Camaro, could feel more dialed in.
To be sure, the car’s rear-wheel-drive architecture and firmly tuned suspension reportedly help it on a closed course, where drivers can play with the car at its high limits. But it won’t deliver crisp responses on the street. Further, Car and Driver magazine warns that there isn’t enough head room for a tall driver to comfortably wear a track helmet.
Hyundai also markets the Genesis Coupe as an affordable alternative to the Infiniti G37 two-door. But the Infiniti is a smooth luxury car; the Genesis Coupe’s sporty intentions take it too far from the G37’s everyday comfort for it to be a true competitor.
The 2010 Genesis Coupe had middling interior quality and old-tech dashboard displays for a car whose prices can surpass $30,000. Those have been upgraded for 2013, and the interior features more soft-touch materials and a shapelier center stack. It’s still not luxurious or slick, especially because the competition has also upped the pace in those three years, but it’s less of a weak point than before.
A strong point continues to be the attractive and comfortable low-slung seats, which give an excellent first impression of the car’s sportiness. On the tested car, red leather bolsters surround cloth seat trim. The cabin is wide, with the front area bisected by a high center console.
The redesigned dashboard layout is mostly user-friendly, but the manual climate controls show a warm-versus-cold temperature selection on a small screen atop the dash. One more ergonomic foible: The car’s lone two cupholders, in the center console, can interfere with shifting when they’re in use by anything but a very squat bottle or cup.
The Genesis Coupe’s two-person rear seat is tight even for a sporty coupe. Adults can fit in an emergency, and the seat cushions themselves are nicely shaped, but they’ll have their heads bowed and knees wedged against the front seatbacks. A large and clearly visible handle slides the front seat up and out of the way. There’s just 10 cubic feet of cargo space in the Genesis Coupe’s shallow trunk, but the rear seat can be folded to expand that volume.
The Genesis Coupe may not be perfect, but for a performance car it certainly provides significant feature content for the price, which starts at $24,250 for a four-cylinder 2.0T model. Every Genesis Coupe includes alloy wheels, a Bluetooth cellphone connection and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, in addition to the more typical power windows, locks and mirrors. All but R-Spec models include cruise control.
Stepping up to the 2.0T Premium, $28,750, brings a standard automatic transmission along with seats trimmed in a mix of cloth and leather, a navigation system, a sunroof, keyless entry and starting, a power driver’s seat and automatic climate control. The V6 3.8 Grand Touring, $32,000, adds full leather and seat heaters, plus a rear-obstacle detection system.
Separately, there are R-Spec versions of either the four-cylinder Genesis Coupe ($26,500) and V6 ($28,750) that delete cruise control from the base 2.0T but add leather seat bolsters, a stiffer suspension, upgraded brakes and a limited slip differential. The cruise control is a strange deletion that compromises the R-Specs’ everyday use, which isn’t helped by the bumpy ride.
There’s also a V6 Track model, $33,000, that combines the R-Spec’s performance upgrades with the Grand Touring’s luxury features. But buyers seeking a lightly optioned V6 or a fully loaded four-cylinder will be out of luck.
These prices roughly align with the Mustang and Camaro, which themselves are impressive performance bargains. They’re even in line with such models as the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima front-wheel-drive coupes, which have smoother rides but less power and agility.
As with other Hyundais, the Genesis Coupe offers extra-long warranty coverage: 10 years or 100,000 miles for the engine and transmission, and five years or 60,000 miles for other components.
Just too big
There just isn’t any getting around it: Hyundai’s need to share mechanical components between a sporty coupe and a full-size luxury car left the Genesis Coupe too wide and too heavy to provide the zippy fun its sleek, low-slung shape promises.
Powerful engines complement the styling nicely. And shoppers drawn to these traits also get a sporty interior ambiance with upgraded quality, along with respectable fuel economy, reasonable pricing, and a long warranty.
But a car that rides as stiffly as the Genesis Coupe, has as little interior space as the Genesis Coupe, and looks as sporty as the Genesis Coupe really ought to be more pleasurable to drive. It’s worth shopping the car against its relatively few competitors, especially if straight-line performance is a priority, but it’s short of greatness.
More photos of the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
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Vehicle tested: 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $24,250
Version tested: 3.8 R-Spec
Version base price (MSRP): $28,750
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $29,625
Estimated transaction price as tested*: $28,819
Test vehicle provided by: Hyundai Motor America
Key specifications: Length: 182.3 inches
Width: 73.4 inches
Height: 54.5 inches
Wheelbase: 111.0 inches
Weight: 3,433 pounds
Trunk volume: 10.0 cubic feet
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Engine (as tested): 3.8-liter V8 with 348 horsepower
Transmission (as tested): 6-speed manual
EPA city mileage: 18 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 27 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 21 miles per gallon
Observed mileage during test: 21.8 miles per gallon
Assembly location: South Korea
For more information: Hyundai website
*Estimated transaction prices are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.