The Genesis Coupe has all the right bits: sleek styling, relatively compact size, DOHC engines, rear-wheel-drive, $22,750 starting price. Yet the Hyundai’s sales are a fraction of those for the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. Why aren’t enthusiasts more enthused?
To begin with, there’s the name. The coupe shares its name—but little else—with the Genesis sedan. The two cars don’t look alike. They don’t drive alike. They’re much different in size and price. So, “Genesis” is bound to be associated with the characteristics of one or the other, or neither, but certainly not both. In this case, the sedan arrived first and so got dibs. If people happen to hear that there is a Genesis coupe, they’re likely to assume it’s larger, more luxurious, and more expensive than it actually is. At the very least Hyundai should—and I cannot believe I’m suggesting this—append an alphanumeric. C20T and C38 would be preferable to “Coupe.”
Like the Genesis sedan, the Genesis Coupe has an attractive but derivative exterior. Where the sedan cribs from Lexus (which in turn cribbed from the Germans), the coupe cribs from Infiniti. In both cases, the Hyundai has a premium appearance and is arguably more attractive than the cars that inspired it. The problem: with one exception the coupe’s design is not itself an original. Even people who don’t know cars can identify a Camaro, Mustang, or Z on sight. The Genesis Coupe’s styling provides no such basis for a clear, unique visual identity.
The exception: an odd beltline that dips downward after the B-pillar. According to one Hyundai employee, this novel detail was added to counter criticism that the company was simply borrowing from the designs of more established competitors. Viewed from the front or rear quarter, this detail doesn’t look bad, and some people might even find it appealing. Viewed directly from the side it doesn’t work well with the character line below it. For some reason, the rear window opening doesn’t extend any further down than the front window. The dipping beltline merely results in extra blacked-out glass–there’s no functional benefit.
Inside, the Genesis Coupe is, if anything, overly conventional, with none of the bizarre details that afflict many recent car interiors. While the exterior and specs suggests an Infiniti competitor, aside from the soft-touch IP upper the materials and switches are those of a decent $25,000 car. Most notable: the silver center stack trim just doesn’t look “premium.” Hyundai is aware of this shortcoming, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a revised center stack in two or three years. More upscale detailing would also be welcome.
As sport coupe cockpits go, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe’s is airy and open. The cowl is fairly low, the windshield header is above your sightline, and the pillars aren’t too thick. You don’t feel like you’re sitting in a bunker peering through a slit, the way you can feel in some competitors.
The Genesis Coupe’s front seats are comfortable and provide such good lateral support that larger drivers might find the nonadjustable bolsters too tightly spaced. A very welcome but increasingly rare feature: the headrests have a fore-aft adjustment. All is not perfect on the seating front, though. Despite the shared name, the Genesis Coupe is aimed at a much lower price point than the Genesis Sedan, and this translates to a much shorter features list. The steering wheel only tilts–it does not telescope–and this adjustment is manual. The seat heaters are simply on-off, without multiple levels. No power recliner is available for the driver seat, even though this feature isn’t rare at this price. No power adjustments are available for the passenger seat. Only the driver gets a lumbar adjustment, and it is again manual. Finally, no surprise given the limited number of power adjustments, no memory is available to store your settings.
Back seats in 182-inch-long coupes tend to be short on space, and this one is no exception. Passengers over five-foot-six will have to scunch down to avoid hitting their heads on the hatch glass. Knee room is similarly scarce. The rear seat does fold in a single piece to expand a trunk that, at ten cubic feet, is already among the largest in the segment.
The Genesis Coupe is available with two engines, a 210-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four and a 306-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. Since the latter has been reviewed here already, by Capt. Mike, I’ll only note that the sound it emits is all throaty exhaust and, while powerful, at no point does it quite “come alive” and rush for the redline. The sound and feel of the Nissan Altima Coupe’s V6 proved more addictive.
The best that can be said for the turbo four in stock form is that you only hear it much over 4,500 rpm, and even then it doesn’t make much noise or sound bad for a four. The not so good: though boost lag isn’t excessive, power delivery surges and lulls a bit in casual driving–a common turbo trait. Unlike with some turbo fours, this one has little punch at lower rpm, and is only adequate in the midrange. Let’s face it—210 horsepower isn’t much for a 3,300-pound car. Luckily the aftermarket loves to offer power enhancements for turbo fours. If you don’t plan to mod the engine, though, the V6 is a better choice.
The six-speed manual has moderate throws, and isn’t the most precise. A few times it took an extra moment to find the desired gear. The clutch requires a moderate amount of effort, and engages a little too abruptly just above the floor.
In terms of agility and feedback, the Genesis coupe is no sports car. But the same is true of every competitor save the Mazda RX-8. Considered as a grand tourer, the Genesis coupe handles well. The steering, neither too light nor too heavy, firms up naturally as the wheel is turned. The car doesn’t feel too large or sloppy with the base suspension, and lean is further reduced with the Track Package’s sport suspension. There’s a bit of initial understeer, and oversteer isn’t too easy to come by even with the otherwise overly assertive stability control turned off.
The 2.0T feels significantly more agile than the V6, with quicker, more communicative steering. Supposedly the only difference is that the turbo four has about 100 fewer pounds over the front wheels. If so, it’s amazing how much difference this makes.
With the best cars, the drivers forms a close connection and driving them quickly becomes almost intuitive. This connection doesn’t quite happen with the Genesis Coupe. The chassis generally does what it’s asked to do, but doesn’t communicate the way the best ones do. In general the car is short on character. While thoroughly competent, it’s not an engaging thrill to drive. The Mustang and especially the Camaro do not handle as well, but driving either is a more memorable experience.
On the flip side, the Genesis is smoother, quieter, and more refined than a true sports car. Need to drive long distances without becoming fatigued? No problem. In this respect it does feel like a car with a higher price tag.
Some reviews have criticized the ride quality with the Track Package. Even repeatedly driving a regular and a Track car back to back I didn’t notice a large difference, as might be expected since Track’s spring rates are only 7 to 11 percent firmer. On the other hand, the 2.0T with Track Package did have a significantly busier, almost nervous ride compared to the 3.8 Track. Even in this case, though, the ride isn’t harsh or irritating. Expansion joints don’t effect a rhythmic bouncing the way they do with some firmly sprung cars.
So, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe has many strengths and no glaring weaknesses. As Hyundai’s first attempt to create a rear-wheel-drive sport coupe, it’s quite an achievement. It comes close to matching an Infiniti G37 in those areas enthusiasts most care about, for considerably less money. But this is the end of it, and the sales figures suggest it’s not enough. As a new entrant, the Genesis Coupe needs to be outstanding in some way. It needs to deeply engage the driver. It needs a clear, distinctive identity. A sedan can get by without these things. But a coupe, a much more emotional purchase, cannot.
Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review
Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online provider of auto pricing and reliability data