To be taken seriously in their respective fields, French chefs need to master a soufflé and fashion designers need to create a definitive little black dress.
When mainstream car companies want to enter the world of luxury, they build a limousine, followed soon after by a sports sedan, before filling out the rest of the range.
Toyota did it when creating Lexus 30 years ago, and now it’s the turn of Hyundai with its luxury division Genesis.
It’s been years in the making – and held back locally by numerous delays – but now it’s finally here. Hyundai's luxury arm will initially start with two models: the compact 2019 Genesis G70 sports sedan and 2019 Genesis G80 limousine.
The G80, a favourite among hire car drivers, is back after a two-year absence, although it will likely be a brief appearance. It’s due to be replaced by an all-new model, early next year.
The Genesis range will also expand in the next few years to include two SUVs (a full-size seven-seater similar in size to an Audi Q7 and a compact five-seater similar in size to the Porsche Macan), a top-end sports car and – eventually – a choice of hybrid, electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
For now, the big play from Genesis is the G70 sedan – a car aimed at the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Lexus IS. You can see some of the inspiration in its flanks: an Audi-like grille, a Mercedes side profile, and a rear end that blends the best of the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series.
There’s a choice of 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder power (179kW/353Nm) or a twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 (272kW/510Nm), both backed by an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive.
Each engine is available in three grades. Prices range from $59,000 to $69,000 plus on-road costs for the four-cylinder, and $72,500 to $80,000 plus on-roads for the V6. As this article was published the Genesis website showed costs ranged from $64,100 drive-away for the cheapest model to $93,800 drive-away for the dearest model.
The prices may be a touch high, but they include free servicing for the first five years – plus a five-year warranty, the longest coverage in the luxury-car class.
The interior is a conventional design: a digital dash display, a relatively small tablet-style touchscreen, push-button start, and sports leather seats. A choice of patterns on the leather upholstery and a suede-like roof lining on top-end models help give the G70 a lift.
When it comes to advanced safety tech, the G70 has most bases covered, with radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, blind-zone warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.
But there are a couple of things it’s missing for a luxury car. The speed sign warnings are based on navigation data rather than camera detection. And the infotainment and digital displays are the same as those found in Kia and Hyundai cars. Rivals have more upmarket interiors and higher-resolution screens.
The interior door handles, electric park brake tab and air-conditioning dials don’t feel very premium, the wireless phone charger can’t accommodate a large phone in a case, and the door pockets and back seat space are comparatively small.
The G70 has the smallest boot among its peers. The official VDA rating of 330 litres means it's 30 per cent smaller than the 480 litre cargo space for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Lexus IS sedans.
The Genesis G70 arrives amid weakening demand for prestige sedans in one of the most competitive new-car markets in the world. But the company wanted to launch with a pair of sedans because those vehicles still better define luxury than do a pair of new SUVs.
There are other challenges, aside from persuading buyers to pay top dollar for a relatively unknown luxury car brand with obvious links to Hyundai and Kia.
For now, there is only one dealership, in the Sydney CBD, which can’t be accessed by car, making it difficult for potential buyers to come in and browse. Customers must ring for an appointment if they want to take a test drive. Genesis will bring the car to them, provided it’s within a 70km radius of the dealership. Showrooms in Brisbane and Melbourne will follow next year.
Genesis also claims it won’t negotiate with customers on price. Given that each showroom will be owned by the factory, rather than an independent dealer, it will be able to put a stop to discounts. That could, of course, change if buyers don’t take the bait. Especially when German rivals are discreetly offering massive savings to move metal.
On the road
All the challenges facing Genesis are quickly forgotten once you find the right bit of road.
Armed with grippy Michelin tyres and big Brembo brakes, the G70 twin-turbo V6 feels secure in corners, the steering is sharp and precise, and the power under your right foot is impressive.
The twin-turbo V6 is the same as the one in the Kia Stinger, but Genesis claims it’s a touch quicker 0–100km/h – 4.7 seconds – even though there’s no extra power. Although it does insist on 95RON premium unleaded, whereas the Kia Stinger can run on regular.
On our precision timing equipment, we did the 0–100km/h dash in 4.9 seconds – 0.2sec slower than the claim, but 0.2sec faster than what I’ve recorded for a Kia Stinger.
Translation: the Genesis G70 is properly quick, and an impressive effort for the company’s first global sports sedan.
Stickier tyres, better rear suspension, and a slightly lighter body weight help trim the G70’s acceleration time compared to the Kia Stinger. It also feels more planted in corners and recovers better from bumps and when covering ground on patchwork roads.
Engineers tested the G70 on local roads for more than six months, exploring dozens of suspension options. Their work has paid dividends.
The G70 is easily up there with the best from Germany when it comes to rivals with similar outputs and price tags. This is presumably why the company has the confidence to charge a premium and not negotiate on price.
It’s not a tactic I would take, however. I’d rather get more people to experience the G70 by making it more affordable, but I guess there is a reason I’m operating a keyboard rather than running a car company.
Downsides? The awesome Michelin tyres are a bit noisy on our coarse-chip surfaces, and gearshifts in the eight-speed auto are not as intuitive in sports mode as rivals from Germany.
And compared to the V6, the four-cylinder version is a little less refined and a little less fun to drive due to its power deficit, although it does develop a rather appealing synthesised growl when pushed harder than normal.
If you're a fuel miser it could be the better option, although the average consumption rating for both the turbo four-cylinder (8.7L/100km) and the twin-turbo V6 (10.2L/100km) are not exactly class-leading.
The Genesis G70 is a solid first effort and a decent drive. The biggest challenge will be persuading people to pay full price for one of these over its German equivalent. In the meantime, buyers in the prestige market will continue to be spoiled for choice.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling