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In the beginning… There was Lexus, the luxury offshoot of Japanese mainstream brand, Toyota; its success creating a blueprint for any who dare to follow.
Hyundai has dared, taking the leap into luxury car territory with its own take on the premium segment. Introducing Genesis, the Korean brand’s entrant into premium territory.
Australia is late to the party with Genesis, which launched globally as a standalone brand in 2015. Sure, we had the Hyundai Genesis (aka G80) lob locally in 2014, but that attempt at taking on Merc’s E-Class and Bimmer’s 5 Series still carried Hyundai badges, although it could be optioned without them. Still, a rose by any other name...
Fast-forward to 2019 and Genesis is doing it differently this time as it seeks to take on the Europeans and the Japanese (okay, Lexus) in the luxury car segment. There are no hints of Hyundai, certainly not on the outside (more on that later), and the new models won’t take up space in Hyundai dealerships around the country.
Instead, as has already been reported, Genesis is banking on a different sales model, with high-end, high street storefronts right in the heart of our major CBDs. So far, there’s just the one, in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall, but others will follow in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Customers who enter that Pitt Street Mall shop will have just two models to choose from: the Genesis G70, the Korean brand’s entrant into the highly competitive premium mid-sized segment; and the refreshed G80 large sedan, back after a two-year hiatus.
For now, though, we have the Genesis G70 to find out if the second coming of Hyundai’s luxo brand can indeed take it to rivals in a segment previously out of reach.
The Genesis G70 range encompasses six variants: three trim levels, each featuring either a 2.0-litre turbo four or 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6. Things get underway with the G70 2.0T priced at $59,300 plus on-road costs and top out with the 3.3T Ultimate Sport ($79,950).
Our test car sits at the top of the two-litre tree, the 2019 Genesis G70 2.0T Ultimate priced at $69,300 (plus ORCs). That places it squarely in the frame of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS. Strong competition, then, from established players in an established segment.
The G70 2.0T Ultimate takes on the competition with 179kW and 353Nm of torque from its four-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbo petrol. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission sending drive to the rear wheels, the G70 in this spec can complete the dash from 0–100km/h in a claimed 5.9 seconds. That’s plenty fast for what is, essentially, a medium sedan with no sporting pretensions. For context only, BMW’s 330i with slightly more power (190kW) and superior torque (400Nm) from its 2.0-litre turbo four is only 0.1sec faster to triple figures (5.8sec). Genesis has dialled in some pace, then.
Perhaps more importantly, Genesis has also dialled in plenty of refinement. There’s a level of premium to the drive experience. Around town, the G70 behaves exactly as you would expect of a luxury sedan. It’s quiet on the move, with seamless gear changes and just an inherent, well, niceness. Sure, the G70 is no angry growler, but neither is it sedate. It is, in a word, comfortable.
Dialling the drive-mode selector to ‘Sport’ adds a little zing and just a hint of mongrel to the engine note – not much, mind you, but enough to add some pep.
On the highway, the G70 cruises effortlessly, sitting on around 1650rpm at 100km/h. And thanks to its very usable torque band, where peak newton-metres can be had from just 1400rpm, overtaking is a breeze, the G70 leaping forward without breaking a sweat. Frugal on fuel, too. Against a claim of 9.0L per 100km on the combined cycle, we saw an indicated 8.5L per 100km of mixed driving including the daily peak-hour grind, a couple of longer highway stints and some spirited driving. Not bhed.
The local suspension tune (developed by Hyundai in Australia) – and we’re almost sick of saying it – is on the money, striking a harmonious balance between around-town comfort and dynamism when the time is right.
The G70, in this trim, sits on 19-inch alloys shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber, 255/35ZR19 at the rear and 235/40ZR19 up front. Ventilated 320mm discs up front and 314mm discs at the rear, with single-piston calipers all ’round, provide stopping power.
Dynamically, the G70 is a delight. It’s beautifully supple around town, providing a quiet and serene drive. Get it out into the country, though, and the G70 continues to impress with its poise and balance. The steering is lovely and direct, and suitably weighted (including some added heft when in Sport mode) while also providing ample feedback.
Sling it at some corners, and the Genesis responds with a willingness that belies its softly spoken demeanour. That demeanour changes little on long highway runs, too. Set the adaptive cruise control to your desired speed, and let the Ultimate do the hard work of maintaining speed while absorbing the worst of our highways with ease. Think Hyundai can’t do premium? Think again.
That flows through to the interior, where at first glance the Genesis presents every bit as premium as its established rivals.
Right off the bat, the attention to detail is evident. From the quilted diamond-pattern Nappa leather seats to the contrasting plush leather trim throughout. There are soft-touch materials everywhere, while the brushed-aluminium accents are as good as any we’ve seen. It’s clear the folk at Genesis have gone to great lengths to distinguish this range from that of its cross-town siblings at Hyundai.
The front seats, electrically adjustable, heated and cooled, are comfortable and supportive, and even more so when ‘Sport’ mode is selected; the bolsters tightening around you to hold you snugly in place. It’s reassuring, like a hug from your grandma.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel (again, heated) feels lovely in hand, with carefully placed thumb grips a nice touch. The wheel frames the analogue dials that hug a 7.0-inch colour driver display. Not content with that, there’s also a colour head-up display that is one of the better ones we’ve experienced recently for its clarity and wealth of information, such as displaying when there is a car in your blind spot.
The Genesis’s interior, as lovely as it is, is let down by the aesthetic of the infotainment system. If you’ve sat in a Hyundai, you’ll be familiar with the system in the G70. There’s an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen sprouting from the dashtop with an interface straight from the Hyundai playbook. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, as both the depth and ease of its functionality are beyond reproach. But, surely, designing a new look to the system wouldn’t present either a big challenge or a huge cost? Just make it look different.
That said, it works effortlessly and has all the features you’d expect of a modern car. Native satellite navigation? Tick. DAB radio? Tick. Smartphone mirroring? Tick. A 360-degree camera that’s as good as any we’ve seen? Tick. Premium 15-speaker Lexicon by Harman sound system? Yep. There’s even a neat voice memo recording function for when those moments of inspiration strike while on the move.
The tactility of the switchgear is a boon, too; a lovely damping that just feels nice and solid. From the large and easy to use HVAC controls to the multitude of switches and dials on the steering wheel, it all feels premium to touch and use. Conveniences abound inside the cabin. There’s wireless charging, a couple of USB points up front, as well as a 12V outlet.
Move to the back, and that same level of plushness continues. The back row is comfortable and spacious enough, although a hefty transmission tunnel hump impinges on any comfort a middle-pew passenger might enjoy. There are separate air vents in the back row but no climate control, and there’s a single USB point for back seat passengers to squabble over.
A fold-down armrest reveals two cupholders, and even here the attention to detail is good, the holders themselves ringed in a nicely milled aluminium finish.
Those rear seats fold down in a 60:40 split fashion to free up some load space in the boot, which isn’t overly generous at 330L with the back seats in play. Genesis doesn’t quote a figure with the back row folded. A space-saver spare hides under the boot floor.
There are some nice premium touches in the boot, though, including a first aid kit and a roadside assistance kit, both secured by velcro to the boot floor to stop them sliding around.
The Genesis G70 wears a five-star ANCAP rating awarded in 2018. There’s a suite of driver-assistance systems and active safety tech, including blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and auto high-beam headlights.
The cost of ownership is good news for those willing to take the Genesis plunge. The first five years or 50,000km of servicing are complimentary, and Genesis will pick up your car for its check-up, provided you live within 70km of the CBD. So, most Australians then. Genesis will also provide a loan car while your car is away for its health check. There’s also a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with five years’ roadside assistance.
The downside to the costs of getting into a Genesis is that the Korean brand is insisting it will not discount its purchase price. That's a move at odds with the wider market at the moment, where generous reductions can be had across the spectrum.
It’s an interesting strategy from the Korean manufacturer as it looks to challenge the established players. Whether that strategy pays off remains to be seen, but for now there’s no question Genesis has run on to the field with a genuine contender.
While it might not have the brand cachet of the Germans or even of Japanese rival Lexus, Genesis makes up for that with a well resolved and clearly premium medium sedan. From the general ambience of the interior (infotainment notwithstanding) to how the G70 behaves on the road, Genesis has entered the premium fray with aplomb, but without the brand cachet. Yet.