When Hyundai discontinued the Tiburon in 2008, it created a void in the product line where the sporty coupe once stood. A new vehicle was needed, but according to Hyundai, it would not simply be a replacement for the Tiburon. Back at the drawing board, the brand looked for something fresh and exciting. The automaker wanted something that could be called a true performance coupe.
Fast forward to 2010, and Hyundai released the Genesis Coupe. The Genesis was a different breed of coupe, though. Soft-touch plastics and high-tech features pushed the Genesis Coupe up-market of the Tiburon, and enthusiasts finally had a rear-wheel drive sports car.
The 2.0T R-Spec trim, like our test car, takes that enthusiasm a step further. Motivation comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine making 210 horsepower, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The R-Spec trim also benefits from a racey track-tuned suspension, Brembo brakes and 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, all for just under $25,000.
Exterior styling of the Genesis Coupe is somewhat reminiscent of the Nissan 370Z, especially when viewed in profile. Unique to the Genesis is its sloping rear-side window, designed to aid in rear visibility and minimize blind spots. From the front, the design is curvaceous, but not fussy. Oversized chrome exhaust tips integrated into the rear diffuser and the R-Spec's beefy 19-inch" wheels give the car an aggressive look.
Inside, the Genesis has all the trappings of a considerably more expensive vehicle. Sirius/XM satellite radio, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, leather trimmed seats and navigation are all available. The quality of the sound system is good, and those who prefer their own tunes can plug in an iPod or other MP3 player. The R-Spec's black leather seats with red cloth inserts and red stitching are comfortable enough for long drives, and provide firm support even during aggressive twists and turns. The side bolsters hold the driver tightly in place and the head restraints feature a unique forward/aft adjustment for added comfort and support. Matching red inserts in the door panels complement the seats for an overall sporty look. Rear seat room is tight, but manageable for short rides with children and shorter adults.
On the road, the Genesis Coupe R-Spec is a car that wants to be driven. Push the ignition button, and you are welcomed by the bellow from the exhaust and a light and sound show from the dash. Performance from the 4-cylinder turbocharged powerplant is commendable. The car never feels underpowered and acceleration is quick with the 6-speed manual transmission. Maximum torque (223 lb-ft) is reached early with the turbo at only 2,000 rpm, and the car feels quick. Gear shifts are not as smooth as in other vehicles we've tested, especially between first, second and third gears. The jump from first to second was particularly jerky. Ride quality is firm and sometimes unforgiving, but if you're shopping for a track-tuned R-Spec model, that should be expected. However, handling is tight and grip from the 19-inch tires keeps the car firmly planted during spirited driving. The EPA's combined fuel economy rating for the Genesis Coupe 2.0T is 24 miles per gallon, but we averaged only 21.5 mpg in a mixture of city and highway driving.
The Genesis Coupe isn't short on safety features, either. Front and side curtain airbags and active front head restraints are all standard equipment. Other standard safety features include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Those shopping for comparable sporty coupes like the Honda Civic Si, Mitsubishi Eclipse, and Volkswagen GTI should definitely include the Genesis Coupe in their search. Hyundai's'' 10-year powertrain warranty, price, and long list of standard features make it an excellent value compared to many of its competitors. And its soft-touch interior and high level of available features even make it a possible substitute to more expensive coupes like the Infiniti G37.
The R-Spec trim takes the already very good Hyundai Genesis Coupe and adds a performance edge. It does without amenities like leather, power seats and navigation, but those things would just add unnecessary weight and distractions anyway. But if you're looking for a platform to tune, customize, or serve as a track-day special, the Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec is a great place to start.