In 2009, Hyundai launched a sedan/coupe duo deemed to be so revolutionary as to be called “Genesis.” They took the establishment by storm by undercutting top competitors on price and value for money while delivering similar, if not better, performance. The Genesis Coupe, in particular, upended the rule that inexpensive, sporty, compact coupes came solely from North America and Japan. Four years later, has it aged well?
I spent a week driving the retooled Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec, which packs a punch as the most visually and mechanically powerful trim level. The 3.8 designates the larger of the two Genesis Coupe engines: a 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 344 horsepower on regular fuel (348 on premium), mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. R-Spec is the most basic of the three trim levels available on the Genesis Coupe equipped with the larger engine.
It Still Looks the Part
From a distance, subtle exterior styling revisions to the Genesis Coupe evince details befitting a Nissan GT-R. Up close, it won’t be confused with a Chevrolet Camaro or a Ford Mustang. It’s a real powerhouse of a design. The new front fascia is brash, but perhaps too similar to that of the 2013 Veloster, which I coincidentally drove during the same week as I tested the Genesis Coupe.
The interior tells the story of a much different Hyundai — prior to the brand’s recent upgrade in quality and styling across the lineup. That’s not to say the Genesis Coupe isn’t a pleasant place to while away time. The seats are comfortable, but flat, and are covered in red cloth/leather seats in R-Spec trim. Understated they are not.
The seating position is ideal for the driver: low and planted. Over a 400-mile trip to coastal Rhode Island, passengers in front and back hardly complained for lack of headroom or legroom. However, material quality varies throughout the cabin, from easy-to-read gauges to plastics that are not up to par with the Genesis Coupe’s competition.
The Magic Is Within
But potential buyers will likely be swayed by the Genesis Coupe’s mechanical bits, rather than the stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
As a performer, the rear-wheel-drive Genesis Coupe put on an aggressively powerful show. Those who opt for the Genesis Coupe with the rorty V-6 will do so for the sake of performance. The engine has the note of a BMW-grade six-cylinder, and the pulling power to match. The clutch is a heavy ordeal, and seems to have such a fungible disengagement point. Light engagement resulted (unfortunately often) in stalling — even from well-practiced drivers. Get it right, though, and the engine note is amazing. And for track days, it’s possible to fully disengage stability control.
Steering is sharp, precise, and nicely weighted. The brakes are superb. Big, fat Brembo brakes are painted red for everyone to see, and offer excellent modulation. The Genesis Coupe rocketed along the backroads of coastal Rhode Island with aplomb. Unlike a Camaro of similar size and grunt, the Genesis Coupe feels smaller than it is, though the heavy engagement of its major controls drives home the fact that this is not a Tiburon.
On a sliding scale, where ride quality and fuel economy are of low importance and driver engagement is key, the Genesis Coupe shines. It acts like an everyday track car. This means that passengers in both rows of seating soak up each imperfection in the pavement, thanks to a stiff suspension and large, 19-inch wheels. My grandparents, who occupied the rear seats for the 400-mile journey, disagreed, and claimed that the ride was smooth and rather comfortable. I trust them wholly, though my own teeth rattled over certain expansion joints. Fuel economy, by the way, is in the low-to-mid 20s.
The Genesis Coupe lags in creature comforts and technology options, as compared to its more updated competitors. The cabin is also noisier than, say, a Camaro’s, although rear visibility is significantly better in the Genesis. But it’s a relative bargain for a base price close to $28,000 — and the four-cylinder Genesis Coupe is less expensive still — which purchases a track-ready package that’s equally fun on public roads.
You’ll Love It for the Impression It Leaves
The Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is a rambunctious, purposely under-refined interpretation of the sport compact coupe. It may not have the brand history of a ponycar, or the cachet associated with an upmarket brand, but the Genesis Coupe is a fantastic package in its own right. You can toss it around all day, and still run to the office the next day (and the garage attendants will be glad that you did).
Four years on, the Genesis Coupe faces new and different competition. It remains, however, a tastefully executed machine that nails the fundamentals and is a blast to drive.
For more of Autosavant’s thoughts on the Genesis Coupe, check out this video by our own Kevin Gordon.
Hyundai provided the Genesis Coupe, insurance and a full tank of gas for the purposes of this review.