For the last 20 years, the offerings for affordable fun were limited: hatchbacks, thirsty Americans, or a Mazda Miata. Hatchbacks are fine, but FWD limits your smile. V8s weren’t good for the wallet, and that Miata-as amazing as it is-isn’t for everyone. And it’s small.
But a revolution is coming from the East. Toyota/Subaru’s FR-S/BRZ has taken the world by storm, showing everyone that performance isn’t all about power. Hyundai broke into the sports coupe class in 2010 with the Genesis Coupe. It was good-looking and meant well but ultimately, under-delivered. But now there’s a new one, and it’s much better.
Both these cars offer cheap, efficient fun. They’re both rear wheel drive, advertise 30MPG highway, and cost about $25,000. But don’t think they’re interchangeable. Though they have the same mission, I promise they’re quite different.
2013 Hyundai Genesis 2.0T R-Spec
When the Genesis Coupe 2.0T came out it made 200HP and 223ft-lbs of torque. Turbo systems have come a long way: it’s up 74HP and 52ft-bs of torque, delivering 274/275 (at only 2,000RPM!), respectively. Good power, good MPG, good things. Yet despite the horsepower advantage over the BRZ (74 to be exact), due to its weight the Hyundai is only half a second faster to 60 and the ¼ mile.
The R-Spec comes with a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, upgraded suspension, and summer tires. The only transmission for the R-Spec is a 6-speed manual. The pedals are placed well for heel-toe, though the shifter is a little vague compared to the BRZ’s. All these fast goodies make the car a very fun and capable track car, just watch for brake fade (the fault of its 3,400lbs). Grip is high thanks to the tires, but it still doesn’t feel as planted or eager to change directions as the Subie.
The inside looks nice, but the plastics department was clearly on a budget. Comfortable seats and a great steering wheel distract you from the hard plastics that (probably) won’t age well. But if I owned this car, I wouldn’t complain. It’s quieter than the BRZ on the road and looks a teeny bit more expensive.
2013 Subaru BRZ
Now, the 2013 Subaru BRZ. It’s sibling, the FR-S, was voted Car of the Year by Top Gear Magazine, and for good reason. If you love driving; apexes, road feel, pay attention to steering weight and pedal placement, you will love this car. Its springs are only slightly softer than the FR-S, so it’s more comfortable on the highway and less prone to power-slides. Sitting on economy tires (Same as a Prius) you’d think it wouldn’t corner, but my-oh-my can this car carry speed. The joy of this car lies in the turns, and how well it talks to you. Cars aspire to be this engaging.
The BRZ’s ability to go, stop, and turn is owed to it’s 2,700lb curb weight. The 2.0L boxer motor only makes 200HP and 151ft-lbs of torque, requiring lots of revs, but even so I managed 25MPG city, 31hwy. Weak? Not for this car.
Inside, everything you touch-wheel, pedals, shifter, seats, door sills-feels perfect in shape, function, even quality. The center stack looks a little nicer than that in the FR-S, a big part of that due to the DIN stereo. The plastics elsewhere are cheap, but Subaru shaped them well. Besides, your eyes are on the road in this car. Who cares what the glove box looks like?
Both of these cars offer RWD fun without living at a gas station. The 2013 Hyundai Genesis handles great, its only real shortcoming being brake fade and a slightly vague shifter. It plays the role of respectable commuter and GT car, and holds its own at the track.
But if you want a car that feels like a hard-wire between you and the road, with brakes that never give up, the BRZ is it.