I really had mixed feelings about the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

Car ReviewHere’s a beautifully and very distinctively styled car, equipped with an eager 3.8 liter V-6 engine that puts out a V-8-like growl, six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters pushing power to the rear wheels, big brakes and sticky tires that keep the car on the road. Inside is a beautiful leather interior, comfortable seats and all kinds of creature comforts expected in higher-priced cars but included here.

My problems were most likely because I’m 6-1. The tested version of this low-slung coupe had a sunroof and was the Track edition. I like sunroofs, but they generally lower the ceiling by an inch or more. The Track trim level, available only with the 3.8 liter engine, has a suspension tuned for cornering and handling with stiffer springs and shocks plus extra goodies. Brakes are by Brembo and feature rotors almost an inch in diameter bigger than stock, as well as larger calipers.

Hyundai GenesisThe tight suspension meant every bump was felt. Around town, the cracks and potholes weren’t that big a deal, as I generally had time to react and I know where most of the crummy spots are on roads I regularly travel.

But the freeway was another story. Most of our freeways around San Diego are in pretty good shape. It was the dips on and off of bridges that nailed me every time. Dip, bridge, clunk… I hit the roof. I lowered the power drivers’ seat all the way, leaned reclined the backrest a bit more (not quite to the Italian Driving Position), but no good. It did make me a more alert driver to make sure I ducked before going on or off a bridge or change in the pavement.

This car’s been out for a couple of years and, in checking other reviews, I saw discussions of the small back-seat accommodations, but nothing on my front seat headroom issue. So maybe I’m the weird one.

So would I buy a Genesis Coupe? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recommend it. The Track edition was really a treat to drive. All that stiff suspension and the 3.6 liter V-6 makes for a lot of fun on twisty, curving roads. I drove this car over Santiago and Trabuco canyon roads in Orange County for my Weekend Driver column, and it was a blast. The car sticks to the road, pick up your foot and you’ll get engine braking in the manual mode and the quick, responsive steering lets the driver keep the car pointed in the right direction.

Hyundai does have other versions of the Genesis Coupe. The Grand Touring edition has a softer suspension but reportedly still offers great handling that will probably get you through canyon roads just fine. There’s also the tuner-ready R-Spec, which also comes with the base four-cylinder 2.0 liter turbo, as well as Base and Premium versions with the four. Prices run from $22-32k, plus options.

Exterior styling is aggressive and serious, with all the contemporary curves and folds. Rear visibility is compromised as in most cars in its class, so keep those side mirrors adjusted. The 19-inch alloy wheels have a gunmetal finish that show off the Brembo brakes. The Track model comes with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires with “summer compound,” which means they’re extra sticky. The aggressive stance is emphasized by the larger 245/50YR19 tires on the rear, with 225/40YR19 on the front.

There is a family resemblance to the last-generation Tiburon, Hyundai’s subcompact-based sport coupe that was a very different car. I happened to pull up next to one of the last generation (production ended in 2008) and they are very different cars. The Genesis puts some sport back in Hyundai’s lineup but at a different price and target buyer.

It’s been compared to the Infiniti G37, as the size and packaging are very similar. With the somewhat serviceable back seat, it’s also been compared to the US musclecars, Camaro and Mustang. But the Genesis is lighter and trimmer than its American cousins and has a different feel; although Camaro and Mustang are great handlers, it’s just different. One thing the Hyundai engineers have done is given the V-6 a great exhaust note; step on the gas and it growls almost like a V-8. What car is right for you depends on what you define as cool and your available funds.

Then there’s the value. My tested car, loaded with GPS, satellite radio and almost everything in the Hyundai parts bin, came to about $37,000, comparable with the Camaro and Mustang. The G37 would be in the mid-40s.

Good package at a good price, if that’s what you’re looking for. And if you do opt for the sunroof, make sure you check for headroom.

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