Review: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh

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

Michael Karesh
Michael Karesh

Michael Karesh lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with his wife and three children. In 2003 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago he worked at the National Opinion Research Center, a leader in the field of survey research. For his doctoral thesis, he spent a year-and-a-half inside an automaker studying how and how well it understood consumers when developing new products. While pursuing the degree he taught consumer behavior and product development at Oakland University. Since 1999, he has contributed auto reviews to Epinions, where he is currently one of two people in charge of the autos section. Since earning the degree he has continued to care for his children (school, gymnastics, tae-kwan-do...) and write reviews for Epinions and, more recently, The Truth About Cars while developing TrueDelta, a vehicle reliability and price comparison site.

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  • Rod Rod on Mar 04, 2010

    I've owned many cars. Some of my fondest memories are of the handling while driving S curves in a Toyota Supra. The Genesis coupe track model reminds me of that. Different, but close. And the GC is faster and more stable at higher speeds. I've have it up to 130 and there was far more car than road left. I traded an '08 Accord Coupe for the Genesis. The Accord's leather was better but the GC's seats are more comfortable. As far as looks, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I like it and get thumbs ups and comments all the time. I think the front on the Accord looked better. The rest of the GC wins. Car sales are all about marketing and the economy. Many of the comments here are just. The GC will eventually find it's own market. It is not a pony car! But it can move. I have the 3.8 V6, get decent gas mileage and have a smile on my face each day I drive it. If you haven't spent any time in the car then you don't really know what the experience involves.

  • Albewolf Albewolf on Aug 10, 2011

    OK, here we go! The 2010 Genesis Coupe is a pure BLAST to drive. Responsive to the nth degree; it continually gets appreciative stares from all who see it! Granted, mine is red (My wife and I named her "RED"), but the lines on her are classic! I'm 54 years old (today!!) so I have seen a LOT of cars-and when I tell you she is 'all that and a bag of chips', I'm not kidding! Now, my model was tricked out by the dealer (Brembo brakes, LCD ligts, 18 inch wheels...), but this car under any circumstance is HOT! Now, I would like it if the steering wheel was more adjustable; and as my wife is 7 inches taller there is a WHOLE lot of moving of the drivers seat (so I'd love those memory settings), but the interior is plum, the sound system rocks and the car handles like a dream. You want to move around that slow poke in the left lane? Hey, down shift brother! Want to keep pace with that corvette or camaro or lexus up front? Don't worry-they have to keep up with you! Enjoy this car guys and gals-Enjoy!

  • Wjtinfwb I'd like to see a Ford/Mazda relationship restarted. Both companies have some car guys keeping the flame alive and could develop a sports car slightly bigger than a Miata and pick and choose from each other's parts bin to put together some attractive powertrain combo's. Even a Mazda 3 AWD with the 300HP EcoBoost 2.3L, manual and AWD from the Focus RS would be welcome. Even better, a factory Miata V8 with the 480 HP Coyote (i know it wont fit...) and a manual gearbox. And how about a CX-5 with a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with AWD and an chassis tuned for sport. Lots of possibilities.
  • Blueice Patient 28, sorry, but it is Oktoberfest. Bring a kegof Kraut beer and we will 50% you.
  • Bd2 Probably Toyota, Hyundai is killing them these days.
  • Bd2 Japan is evil, stop buying their vehicles. I hope TTAC has a holiday for PEARL HARBOR.
  • Wolfwagen If Isuzu could update this truck and keep the cost between $25K - $30K they would sell like ice pops on dollar day in a heat wave.