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2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Options: Carpeted floor mats ($95), iPod cable ($30). Price as tested (including $750 destination charge): $27,625.

Price as tested: ($26,750)

Pros: It looks and drives exactly like an expensive sports coupe, only it's not expensive. It starts at just $22,000, a downright steal.

Cons: You can't get it with a huge dose of V8 power like in the Genesis Sedan, and its interior materials don't have quite the luster of the rest of this near-perfect vehicle.

About 10 years ago, there were only two reasons you'd ever mention the word "Hyundai."One is that you knew nothing about cars and were actually thinking about buying one of these disposable junkers. The other is that you were telling a joke.

Things can change, though, and that's certainly been the case with this Korean company. Over the past decade, Hyundai has made tremendous leaps in quality while designing low-cost cars that can match -- and in some cases beat -- their American and Japanese competitors.

The numbers don't lie. If you look at the J.D. Power and Associates quality survey results that were released last week, Hyundai finished fourth overall, ahead of Honda, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz. In fact, the only three brands to beat it sell far more expensive cars (Lexus, Porsche and Cadillac).

What does that mean? If you're looking for the best quality per dollar, Hyundai blows everything else off the road.

As part of its steady march toward the top of the automotive world, Hyundai has not only built its cars with improved quality. It's also made them far more appealing in terms of style, luxury and performance.

The new Hyundai is epitomized by its range-topping Genesis models, which come in two flavors: the luxurious sedan and the sporty coupe. While the sedan has drawn a lot of attention for comparing favorably with pricier cars from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, it's the coupe we're interested in today. And it's just as tasty.

It looks stunning, for starters. This should come as no surprise considering the old Hyundai Tiburon's looks were compared with a Ferrari, but the new Genesis takes it a step further. It's not a truly original design -- it looks like an Infiniti G37 clone -- but it's executed beautifully, almost like it came from an exclusive Italian design studio.

This is an aggressive car, and you can tell that just by looking at it. It has angry eyebrows, flexed muscles and sexy, swept-back lines. It's a flashy car, especially when it comes in the bright "arrest me" red of my tester, but it's still not wild enough to be antisocial. From the driver's seat, the Genesis feels like a true sports coupe, which is a rare treat. So many mid-size coupes -- the two-door versions of the Accord, Camry and Altima, for example -- don't place nearly enough emphasis on performance driving. They're just family cars that are missing a couple of doors.

The Genesis, though, feels very different from a normal sedan. It has rear-wheel drive, giving you the ability to easily steer it with the throttle through fast corners, and a firm suspension that sucks into onto the pavement with vacuum-like force.

Its engines are likewise tuned for sporty performance. The base engine, a 210-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, offers thrilling, ready-to-use power. It's a willing engine, one that revs freely and seems to enjoy being run through the gears at full throttle. You can also get it with a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 306 horsepower for plenty of tire-burning fun.

On the downside, the Genesis Sedan's delicious 4.6-liter V8 isn't available. Having 375 horses on tap sure would be nice, even if the added weight made it more of a grand tourer than a sports coupe. Maybe if enough people say "pretty please," Hyundai might make a V8 available in the future.

While its styling and performance are on par with an expensive luxury coupe, its interior materials aren't quite up to the same level. They're very close, though, lacking only a tiny bit of luster to match the rich opulence of a Lexus or the high-tech precision of an Infiniti.

Fortunately, there's one area the Genesis Coupe doesn't match its rivals, and that's on the price tag. It starts at just $22,000, making it an outright steal compared to the $30,000+ luxury coupes it competes with. The Infiniti G37 Coupe -- the car I kept thinking it resembled during my test drive -- has a base price that's $11,250 more than the Hyundai.

That, alone, explains the meteoric rise we've seen from this once-derided Korean car company.

The jokes are over. This is for real.

Style: 10
Performance: 9
Price: 10
Handling: 9
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 8
Overall: 10