There’s only a single H logo on the whole car, but that’s enough to confirm the brand behind the Hyundai Genesis is feeling sufficiently bold about its new flagship model.
Forget a Lexus-like spin-off brand; Hyundai is playing the range-halo card with the Genesis that it describes as its most advanced and most luxurious car yet.
Make that most ambitious as well. Genesis is chasing a slice of the large executive car market occupied by the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. You can throw in the Jaguar XF, Lexus GS and the locally built Holden Caprice for good measure.
The segment totalled about 5400 sales in 2013, with Hyundai hoping for Genesis sales of “anywhere up to 1000 vehicles”.
If luxury car buyers thought only about value and no other factors such as status, you could almost say the company was underselling things.
The Hyundai Genesis is a large luxury car that not only dodges the luxury car tax threshold by being priced from $60,000 exactly, but also sets a new benchmark for the level and type of standard equipment.
Autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control that can drive the car automatically in rush-hour traffic, headlights that will dip high beams at night if oncoming traffic is detected, a warning system for wandering out of your lane, a boot that will open automatically if you approach it with the key in your pocket, a large, 9.2-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, a Lexicon audio system that pipes music through 17 speakers… There’s more, but you get the gist.
Hyundai has offered great value ever since the Excel became the first Korean car to be imported to Australia in 1986. The Genesis has to do far more, however, if it is truly to accelerate the elevation of the brand’s image as it is setting out to do.
Inside first: the cabin design could be accused of looking a bit generic and over-simplified, though equally it looks more than just a highly specced or more luxuriously furnished i40.
A lot of thought and effort has clearly been put into the interior’s selection of materials, the fit and finish, and details such as the nicely damped compartment lids, dash buttons and steering wheel stalks.
The all-round one-touch up/down window operation is also a classy affair, with the glass slowing for the last part of the opening/closing process.
The touchscreen has sharp graphics and, even if we think rotary controllers help minimise eye-time away from the road, the menu system is logical.
A couple of ergonomic issues are the side mirror that can block visibility when making a right-hand turn, and the front seat cushion that feels on the short side. (The $11,000 Sensory Pack includes an extendable seat base that provides better under-thigh support.)
The seats in the back are great from the off, though. A five-metre length and three-metre-plus wheelbase ensure a commodious rear passenger area. The backrest and cushion of the outer rear seats feel perfectly angled, and even passengers who might buy clothes from a shop called Big and Tall are highly unlikely to complain about a lack of headroom or legroom.
Again, though, the Hyundai Genesis needs to impress beyond just offering lots of cabin space. While Audis, BMWs and Benzes have vast appeal as status symbols, they are also purchased for the driving refinement and pleasure they can offer (with varying degrees of success, of course).
Hyundai says a 5 Series, E-Class and Caprice were key models among a number of rivals it benchmarked. It devoted a year of testing to local suspension development.
And first impressions on the launch roads chosen around Canberra are that the Genesis is a step-change for the brand when it comes to ride and steering - especially in the base and mid-spec cars that sit on 18-inch wheels.
On a country loop that threw up bumps both on entry to and in the middle of corners, the Genesis remained unruffled. It doesn’t mind being hustled along, and the damping has been well judged for country roads – settling the car fairly quickly over sizeable dips and bumps.
The Genesis isn’t pitched as a sporty sedan, and it neither surprises nor disappoints on this front. It weighs up to nearly two tonnes and, while that aids a solid feeling on the road, the car can’t disguise its size or mass on a winding road.
You encounter some slightly lazy turn-in and notable body roll when first changing direction, there's understeer if pushed hard, though the rear end is nicely poised and predictable once you get into a corner.
There are pros and cons to going with the 18-inch wheels of the base and Sensory models or the 19-inch wheels of the top-shelf Ultimate.
The electric steering seemed to be smoother, though not entirely notch-free, on the Genesis Ultimate, though the ride gets bumpier on the bigger wheels.
Importantly, though, the steering on all models feels settled around the straight-ahead so you can drive along the freeway or a country road without having to constantly feed in little inputs to prevent lane wandering.
Excellent noise isolation also plays a big part in allowing a relaxed drive.
Even if you’re not driving the Ultimate version with its specially layered, noise-reduction glass, tyre noise is never intrusive even on coarse-chip bitumen, while the car’s slippery aerodynamics help restrict wind noise to some rustle around the side mirrors.
Count engine noise, too, because the Genesis’s V6 never sounds anything but pleasant – and even emits a satisfying snarl if you rev it out.
Performance is respectable, with a 0-100km/h claim of 6.5 seconds, though the V6 doesn’t feel effortless when you’re looking to increase your speed incrementally with light to medium throttle pushes.
Hyundai’s in-house eight-speed automatic would help it were quicker to drop a gear when needed, otherwise the gearbox brings impressively smooth shifts and there’s a pseudo-manual mode with paddleshift levers if you literally want to take gearchanges into your own hands.
Official consumption of 11.2 litres per 100km is on the high side and not helped by the omission of stop-start technology. Trip computers during the launch varied between 11.3 and 13.4L/100km, though we’ll assess real world economy when we get the Genesis through the CarAdvice garage.
The Hyundai Genesis makes its strongest case in base, sub-LCT form (and the model our 8.5 rating applies to here).
The Sensory and Ultimate Packs are still relatively great value for money, though they aren’t small outlays and their respective lists of features mostly comprise nice-to-haves rather than must-haves.
It’s true you could have a C200 Benz for just $900 more than the base Genesis, but while that will give you a more stunningly luxurious interior you won’t get anywhere near the same kind of cabin space or equipment.
And no other luxury brand is currently offering five years of warranty and free servicing. Even on resale, the biggest single running cost, Hyundai says residual experts Glass’s Guide is predicting the Genesis will hold its value better than any rival after three years, or similar after five years.
Hyundai is also planning to introduce a guaranteed buy-back program, with further details to come once the company has finalised the set-up.
So the Genesis is simply stunning value. That might be taken for granted these days with the Korean brands, but what’s less expected is that the Genesis – while unlikely to scare the Germans – is convincing beyond its relatively low price tag.