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2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe first look

The question is, has Hyundai hit a home run with the new Genesis Coupe 2.0T and 3.8?

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T
The Genesis Coupe attacks the corkscrew. Corinne Schulze/CNET

The 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe is finally available on North American roads. However, this is not just any old stretch of asphalt down which we find ourselves piloting the bright red Genesis Coupe 2.0T. This is legendary Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and on this road, there are no speed limits.

We were given access to both the 2.0T Track and the more powerful 3.8 Track model. Both vehicles featured a good list of standard cabin tech such as Bluetooth hands-free, a 10-speaker Infinity audio system, and keyless entry with push-button start. USB and auxiliary ports are also standard on the Genesis Coupe, but a $30 cable is necessary to use your iPod with the stock stereo. Missing from the option list is a GPS navigation system, but we already knew that wouldn't be available until late 2009.

As much as we love tech, the raceway beckoned. We decided that it would be best to first hop behind the wheel of the lesser of the two Geneses: the 2.0T.

Standard on the Genesis Coupe is an electronic stability control system that, while of merit on the street, was a hassle on the track. The system was so sensitive that even touching the rumble strips that marked the course's edge caused the system to dramatically cut power in an effort to save the driver. For the majority of our track session, stability control remained off because of this annoyance. Thankfully, the Genesis Coupe offered good amounts of grip and predictable handling over the dry, smooth track.

Genesis Coupe 2.0T on the track
The Genesis 2.0T is really the only small, inexpensive RWD coupe on the market right now. Corinne Schulze/CNET

Rolling onto the track just past turn two, we get our first taste of the 210 horsepower, turbocharged 2-liter's acceleration. At first there's the slightest hint of lag, but the turbo spins up quickly, along with the speedometer. The acceleration isn't exactly life changing, and actually feels about on par with the Honda Civic Si. However, while the two cars are closely matched in horsepower, the Genesis has much more torque (223 pound-feet) that is available at a lower RPM than that of the Honda.

The Genesis 2.0T has many more advantages over the Si. For example, the rear-wheel drive configuration gives the Genesis Coupe a different character on the track. Drivers are able to get onto the power much earlier without inducing understeer and can, to a degree, control the vehicle's attitude in a corner using the throttle to help rotate the vehicle.

Consider the extra goodies that the Track package brings to the Genesis Coupe (a Torsen limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, bigger 19-inch wheels with stickier summer tires, and an upgraded suspension) and you have yourself a vehicle that steps right out of the Civic's league and edges cautiously toward the BMW 1-series'.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8
The Genesis Coupe 3.8 adds about 100 extra ponies, which really changes the coupe's character. Corinne Schulze/CNET

Drivers who want a good deal more power should look to the Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track, which chucks the 2-liter four-banger for a 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V-6. Power is rated at 306 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, just shy of the Nissan 370Z on both measures. The Genesis Coupe also weighs slightly more than the 370Z. That, along with the Hyundai's slightly longer wheelbase, most likely contributes to the Coupe being not quite as willing to rotate through the corners as the Z. However, the Genesis has better all-around visibility, making the driver feel confident behind the wheel that goes a long way toward fast lap times.

The Z-car with the Sport package would definitely be a second or so faster around the track than the Genesis 3.8 Track, but at more than $6,000 more, it should be. Consider also that the Z lacks a backseat and a real trunk and the Genesis 3.8 starts looking pretty appetizing. However, the Genesis is also no slouch and should not be discounted in the performance department.

So the question is has Hyundai hit a homerun with the new Genesis Coupe 2.0T and 3.8? We'd say the Korean automaker has come quite close. The 2.0T feels a bit down on power, but its good handling and turbocharged engine will prove to be excellent starting points for the tuner crowd. Comparing it with the Honda Civic Si may not have been fair, but there really is no other cheap, rear-wheel drive coupe on the market to which the Genesis Coupe 2.0T can be stacked against.

The 3.8-liter V-6 provides what feels like the right amount of power for the Genesis' chassis and will serve most drivers' needs on public roads without much tweaking.

We'll have to wait and see what Hyundai's navigation option looks like before we can give the Genesis Coupe the Car Tech seal of approval, but it's looking good so far.