Australians already enjoy access to an unusually broad range of car brands, yet more choice is rarely a bad thing. With this in mind, Hyundai’s Genesis luxury division has arrived on local shores after a few delays, giving prospective premium buyers something new to consider.
While the market is not unfamiliar with the refreshed G80 sedan, sold here in modest numbers largely to chauffeur drivers with a since-deleted Hyundai badge, its newer and smaller G70 sibling tested here hits the market as a lesser-known quantity.
Yet, it’s this model that is of tremendous strategic importance, because it competes with the iconic BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, plus the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Lexus IS, and Jaguar XE . Formidable adversaries in their own ways, all of them.
The basics – sedan body, rear-drive handling – are de rigueur. But Genesis is breaking from the norm with its online ordering process, absence of franchise dealers in favour of a growing network of factory owned stores, fixed pricing, free servicing, and a luxury-market-leading five-year warranty.
When Toyota’s equivalent, Lexus, launched in 1989, it thoroughly shook up the market by delivering a next-level customer experience, and it appears Genesis has taken a similar approach moulded to today’s context. It’s not easy building a premium brand, but this is a good place to start.
The G70 range comes in six variations: three equipment grades, two engine options. This variant tested here is called 2.0T Sport, positioned one rung above the entry model and fitted with the smaller of two powertrains. It’s priced at $63,300 before on-road costs.
The engine in question is a 2.0-litre petrol-fired twin-scroll-turbocharged four-cylinder making 179kW of peak power and 353Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with downshift rev-matching, sending torque to the rear wheels with help from a multi-plate-clutch limited-slip differential. Genesis quotes a 0–100km/h sprint time of 5.9 seconds and 95RON fuel use of 8.7L/100km.
For your background, the other engine is the 272kW/510Nm 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 familiar from the Kia Stinger, which slashes the 0–100km/h dash to 4.7sec. But we digress.
For a ‘base’ engine it’s quite lovely, with plentiful torque down low and acceptable refinement that turns to a slight growl in the car’s sports mode. The Hyundai-developed 8AT isn’t as preternaturally slick as BMW’s ZF unit, but rarely put a foot wrong. We also perfectly matched the fuel-use claim over a 400km country/urban run with some spirited driving thrown in, so while the claim is higher than some rivals, it’s an unusually accurate one.
Unique to the class, the G70 also sports a suspension tune developed in Australia and calibrated by Hyundai’s Sydney-based engineers. Genesis also makes a point that the car was developed at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany (where its parent has an R&D centre), Death Valley, and the northernmost parts of Sweden.
The local team hammered across the worst Aussie B-roads it could find, and experimented with various electric control systems, passive dampers, springs, and anti-roll bars. The layout comprises multiple linkages at both ends, and the rubber meeting the road is of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 variety. Adding to the dynamic package are ventilated Brembo four-piston front and two-piston rear brakes.
In a segment with dynamic luminaries like the 3 Series and Jag XE, the Genesis G70 makes an outstanding impression. The electric-assisted power steering provides acceptable feedback and directness, the chassis balance is suitably rear-biased, the road comfort and bump isolation are high-level, the agility through corners and under rapid directional changes is first-rate, and the stability and surety hard to question.
I can only presume the LSD works subtle magic apportioning torque across the rear axle away from the path of least resistance, because at no point did the G70 fail to turn-in with scalpel-sharpness. This is a sedan that you’ll want to take to your favourite ribbon of tarmac and get stuck into.
Standard equipment on the entry G70 is relatively extensive. It includes LED headlights, nifty logo puddle lights that illuminate the Genesis badge on the footpath, proximity key, heated leather seats with 12-way power adjustment for front occupants, an 8.0-inch screen with sat-nav and SUNA, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a Qi wireless smartphone pad.
Alongside seven airbags, driver-assistance tech includes blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking that detects cars and pedestrians, auto high-beam, active cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping aid that steers the car back between road lines – albeit not as smoothly and efficiently as some of the market’s best systems.
The extra $4000 to get into the 2.0T Sport tested here is worthwhile, since it not only adds the aforementioned Michelin tyres, LSD and Brembo brakes, but also five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels with a dark finish that really offset the red calipers, a sporty bodykit, black headlining, alloy pedals, red stitching and extra gauge menus showing turbo boost, a lap timer, and even a 300km/h speedo. Ambitious.
The car Hyundai loaned us also had the optional $2500 glass sunroof.
It’s a well made and contemporarily designed cabin, with high-quality materials on the touchpoints made from leather and aluminium, solid buttons and knurled dials, a thick-rimmed wheel, supportive seats with particularly soft headrests, and lovely headlining. It’s certainly made to a higher production standard than the Giulia or XE, though the quality of the leather and pile of the carpet falls short of the Lexus IS.
There are some other less appealing aspects. The infotainment system is the exact same user interface as a Hyundai i30’s, the key fob is far from hefty or premium, the driving mode selector feels a little flimsy, and the digital screen behind the wheel pales in comparison to the full-digital layouts in many rivals. Ditto the voice control that merely uses Siri integration to perform basic functions. It’s no MBUX or BMW OS 7.0.
As with most competitors, the back seats are fairly small, but two adults sized 180cm or less will be comfortable enough, and you get USBs and vents. The back seats fold 60:40, but the boot with them up is a tight 330L, with a class-standard temporary spare wheel under the floor.
In its bid to upsell you, Genesis has also held back some features for the $6000 more expensive again ($69,300) 2.0T Ultimate, including sumptuous Nappa leather, an electric steering column, a 360-degree camera that should be standard, a projecting head-up display, driver’s seat memory, ventilated seats, parking aid, an acoustic windscreen, aforementioned sunroof, and a 15-speaker Harmon audio set-up.
It would be hard not to jump into this version.
It’s also worth mentioning Genesis’s Connected Services, free for five years, which connects an in-car module to your smartphone via an app. It allows you to remotely start your car from your device, put on the hazard lights, sound the horn, send roadside assist your coordinates, set the climate control, geo-fence the car, perform a health check, check your driving history, and organise a service.
As foreshadowed, the Genesis ownership experience promises much. You get free servicing for five years/50,000km, a five-year warranty, free vehicle pickup/drop-off at service time so long as you’re within 70km of a Genesis Studio (the company’s name for its sales and service site/s), and 24/7 roadside assist during the warranty.
The downside is the size of Genesis’s regional Studio network. Right now, there’s just the one, in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall. Similarly lavish studios will open in Melbourne and Brisbane next year.
However, each state has a handful of Genesis models available for test drive, which a staffer can arrange to deliver. Additionally, there are a number of Hyundai dealerships with a Genesis bay and tech to handle servicing, before the national dealer rollout gets underway in earnest.
The company’s decision to flirt with fixed pricing – something it can do because it cuts out the middleman by forgoing a franchise dealer network – is also risky. It’s no secret that discounts on premium vehicles are there for the picking elsewhere. We will see how this plan goes…
So, we can clearly see that Genesis’s soft launch locally has left prospective buyers outside of Sydney somewhat in the lurch for now. But that doesn’t denude the fact that the G70 is for the most part a terrific car with agile dynamics, arresting looks, a generally excellent cabin, and unmatched running costs. Plus, it’s something different from the established pack.
That said, the 2.0T Ultimate luxury leader ($69,300) or ‘base’ 3.3T Sport with the big engine ($72,450) seem like more tempting options if you’re willing to part with just a little more dough. We can certainly say Genesis is a brand that holds a lot of promise, not least as a market agitator.