You really have to hand it to Hyundai. After spending the better part of the past three decades painstakingly building its brand on an international scale, it’s now arguably one of the greatest automotive success stories in history. Korean cars have come a long way, having gone from being viewed as disposable commuter cars to award-winning sponsors of the NFL in the past 10 years alone.
While its sister company, Kia, offers a more rambunctious approach to automaking and marketing, Hyundai has formed a niche for itself with strong sedans, feisty hatchbacks, and component crossovers. Of late, it’s even begun targeting European luxury brands; first with the Equus and Genesis luxury sedans, then by spinning the Genesis off into its own brand. While the cars offer standard amenities that would cost nearly double in a comparable European sedan, it remains to be seen if the new brand can earn itself a seat at the big kids table.
Hyundai is starting to focus on performance. | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
Hyundai has even begun to flirt with serious performance. First there was the Genesis Coupe, a rear-wheel drive sports car with its R-Spec V6 engine and track-tuned suspension, which were honed at the Nürburgring motorsports complex. Hyundai even went as far as permanently setting up shop at the “Green Hell” in order to make sure its research and development department had ample access to both track time and dedicated engineering facilities. Unfortunately, the car failed to catch on, and it was recently retired without a replacement.
But Hyundai refuses to give up on raw power. Instead, it’s unleashing a fresh lineup of automobiles that are equal parts potent and finely tuned. While none of them can compete with an Audi R8 or a Ford Focus RS yet, they all have more gumption than one might expect.
Based on their speed from zero to 60 miles per hour, here are Hyundai’s 10 fastest vehicles.
10. Sonata PHEV
The days of hybrids being labeled as slow are officially over. Electricity equals instantaneous performance — a fact that’s emphasized by the plug-in version of the Sonata, which receives 202 horsepower courtesy of a 2.0-liter GDI engine that works alongside a permanent-magnet synchronous motor. Together, these two powertrains send the Sonata PHEV to 60 miles per hour in 7.7 seconds, making it land in 10th place.
9. Santa Fe Sport
This was a vehicle that left us thoroughly impressed over our week-long review. The Santa Fe Sport not only looks sharp, but its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is also quite potent, especially in Sport mode. Hitting 60 miles per hour, this crossover utility vehicle comes in at 7.6 seconds. And while that may not sound all that impressive on paper, in real life, it offers one of the most engaging driving experiences in its segment.
8. Sonata Sport 2.0T
Although the Sonata remains Hyundai’s most popular model, the Sonata Sport 2.0T is the one to get if sportiness is your game. The sprint to 60 miles per hour comes in at 7.2 seconds, thanks in large part to its turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine, which generates 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It may not be quick enough to rearrange your face, but it’s still enough to earn a spot on our list.
7. Santa Fe
It may be more at home taking teens to choir practice, but the 290 horsepower V6 engine in the full-size Santa Fe has enough brawn to take soccer moms from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds. While the 3.3-liter dual-overhead cam engine may only generate 252 pound-feet of torque, it’s still enough to make interstate overtakes plenty easy, and makes on-ramp ascents all the more enjoyable.
6. Veloster Turbo
Bubbly to the point where it borders on bizarre, the Veloster Turbo is one of those cars that everyone seems to have an opinion on. But where its appearance may leave some people wanting, the turbo version delivers on performance going from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds.
5. Veloster Rally Edition
The Veloster Rally Edition takes the fun and quirky turbo model and gives it steering, suspension, appearance, and wheel upgrades. While the internal mechanics of the force-fed 1.6-liter GDI motor keep it at 201 horsepower, the use of a custom B&M short-throw shifter allows this version to hit 60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds. Can’t find a Veloster Rally Edition, or don’t like the fact that it doesn’t come with heated leather seats? This same shifter unit is available as an add-on at dealerships for the regular Veloster Turbo as well.
4. Genesis G80 (3.8-liter)
With a naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V6 engine beneath its bonnet, the Hyundai’s luxury offshoot (known as the Genesis G80) can hit 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds. Although its 311 horsepower motor yields 293 pound-feet of torque, and it also has the ability to put power to the pavement via all four wheels, its 2.5-ton curb weight keeps it from cracking the top three.
3. Elantra Sport
You typically wouldn’t expect to see an Elantra make it anywhere near the winner’s circle for straight-line speed. Yet here it is — a testament to the importance of turbo technologies and performance tuning. In the Sport model, zero to 60 miles per hour is achieved in 6.4 seconds. By attaching the B&M short-throw shifter from the Veloster Turbo to the standard manual gearbox, chances are you could get there even quicker.
As unassuming as it may appear, Hyundai’s Azera delivered consistent 6.2 second zero to 60 miles per hour speed times when we tested it. This outcome was surprising, considering that its 3.3-liter V6 engine isn’t exactly known for performance prowess. Luxurious and unassumingly styled, the Azera takes the number two spot on our list, thanks to its low curb weight.
1. Genesis G90
Regardless of whether you opt for the twin-turbo V6 engine version or the silky smooth 5.0-liter V8 one, the Genesis G90 luxury sedan from Hyundai will hit 60 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds. While we wish that the R-Spec coupe that bore the same badge had been kept around in order to sport big engines, we’re hoping that the Genesis will someday branch out into building fast luxury coupes to make the most of powertrains. Until then, buyers will have to make due with two extremely well-equipped luxury sedans.