Hyundai moves from one Genesis to the next

Forget for a moment that the Hyundai Genesis is an affordable luxury sedan that won the North American Car of the Year Award in January.

The 2010 Hyundai Genesis that’s already in dealerships is a different animal — a fun, four-person, sporty coupe that starts at just $22,750.

Don’t worry. The first and impressive Genesis — the leather-trimmed sedan that debuted for the 2009 model year with a $33,000 starting price and won numerous awards — hasn’t disappeared. It’s being sold alongside the new, two-door Genesis.

It turns out the Genesis name is simply how Hyundai officials label both of their rear-wheel drive cars. Never mind that the Genesis Coupe is definitely not a two-door version of the Genesis sedan.

Indeed, the Coupe even looks different from the sedan — some might say its exterior is similar to that of the 2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe. The Genesis Coupe also uses only certain parts — rear suspension, rear subframe and automatic transmission — from the Genesis sedan.

Best of all, the Genesis Coupe’s starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, makes it the second lowest-priced, rear-drive coupe on the U.S. market. Only the Ford Mustang Coupe has a lower starting price — $21,845 for a 2010 model.

Other rear-drive coupes, such as the 2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe that starts at $36,765 and the 2009 Mazda RX-8 that starts at $27,105 are higher priced. Even Chevrolet’s upcoming 2010 Camaro starts higher, at $23,040.

The new Genesis Coupe looks best from the side, where a sporty, tight body looks ready to spring into motion. Only the rear styling of the Genesis Coupe cheapens the initial impression. There’s something in the rear that’s reminiscent of Hyundai’s previous coupe, the front-wheel drive Tiburon. But the Tiburon similarity ends there, thank goodness.

The new car comes with either a turbocharged, 2-liter, inline four cylinder that produces a commendable 210 horsepower and 223 foot-pounds of torque at a low 2,000 rpm or a 3.8-liter V-6 producing 306 horses and 266 foot-pounds of torque at 4,700 rpm.

The test car moved quickly but not abruptly or in a scary way in its acceleration into traffic. The power was well-managed overall.

Both engines require only regular fuel. Hyundai officials say the turbo, which comes from Japanese automaker Mitsubishi, provides up to 15 pounds per square inch of boost and is set for the lower octane level or regular gasoline, so there’s no need for pricey premium.

And both engines are available with six-speed manual transmission as well as smooth-shifting automatics. The test car, a Premium trim model with automatic and turbo four cylinder and regular tires, not the summer performance rubber, rode so comfortably and with minimal noise that a passenger took a short snooze. Even wind noise was at a minimum.

The Genesis Coupe held its line confidently in twists and turns, only plowing around corners when I pushed too hard. The car felt well-balanced and easy to maneuver. The steering gave a bit too much feedback from the road but was certainly responsive. And engine sounds were fine.

Inside the silver-painted Genesis Coupe, the black-and-gray cloth upholstery and black curved dashboard with nice plastic textures provided a pleasant environment.

There was a good amount of height adjustment for the driver’s seat, so I could position myself comfortably for optimal views. But I still sat lower than people in sport utility vehicles and trucks. A 6-foot-plus front passenger also found the power sunroof cut into his head space but he was still able to adjust seat height for comfort. The tilt/slide sunroof is standard equipment on the Genesis Coupe in Premium trim.

Other standard amenities include leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter lever, Infinity 10-speaker audio system with XM satellite radio, no-hands entry and push-button engine start as well as automatic headlights and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

As in all Hyundais, all Genesis Coupe models come with all safety features standard, including electronic stability control, antilock brakes and curtain air bags.

The car’s back seat is for two people only, and the rear parcel shelf in the test car was covered by an old-style furry material.

Other money-saving touches: No pulldown spot for fingers inside the liftback, a less-than-ritzy-looking cargo cover and two front-console cupholders that didn’t have any sliding door or cover.

Note that early 2010 Genesis Coupes don’t offer a built-in navigation system, but one will be available this summer.

There is a sizable rear-seat hump in the floor and back-seat passengers had best be short in stature because the seat cushion back there is higher than that for front-seat passengers, resulting in headroom of 34.6 inches. This is about the same amount of headroom as in the back seat of the G37 Coupe. The Genesis Coupe’s 30.3 inches of rear-seat legroom also is near the 29.8 inches in the back seat of the G37.

At 15.2 feet long, bumper to bumper, the Genesis Coupe is about the same length as the Infiniti G37. The Genesis is just a tad shorter in height at 54.5 inches.

Cargo space is limited to flatter items, not ones that need some height to stand up. In total, cargo volume is 10 cubic feet.


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