– Inoffensive styling
– Cabin space and features
– Comfortable ride
– Could be sportier
– Could be quicker
– Could be more offensive
Hyundai is the company of the moment. For the past few years, they’ve been churning out only positive news, being possibly the only carmaker in the world to be profitable in the middle of the worst recession ever. People may not have food on their table, but they’re still buying Hyundais. Of course, the car we’re testing here was created just before the recession hit, so it is a little bit out of the price range for typical Hyundai buyers. The rear-wheel-drive Hyundai Genesis was Hyundai’s first attempt at an entry-level luxury car to take on the established greats.
Externally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Genesis sedan’s styling. Not even one thing. And that’s the problem really. When you’re paying “luxury” money for a car, you actually want it to be controversial so that it turns heads. The Genesis doesn’t even look angry, like most cars do nowadays. With its sharp grille, dual exhaust tips and mirror-mounted indicators, the Genesis just seems content with being non-descriptly handsome. Keep in mind that this car came out in 2008, long before Hyundai went all ape-shit and started churning out mind-blowing designs like the 2010 Sonata.
The interior has been done up nicely, even if a bit dull in design. It makes perfect use of premium materials, with a stitched-leatherette dash area, soft-touch door and dash panels, beige leather door inserts and supple leather seats, with some wood thrown in on the centre-console for good measure. The only obvious hard-plastic bits that shouldn’t be there are on the console around the shifter, but then again, Lexus does the same thing on their entry-level cars, so Hyundai needn’t be flustered.
Space in this full-sizer is expectedly good, both front and back. The power-adjustable ventilated front seats have minor side-bolstering, hinting at their bias towards comfort. The rear is spacious enough, with room for three and slightly more legroom than a typical midsize sedan. The luggage trunk is freaking massive. The boot lid uses cheaper “goose-neck” hinges instead of hydraulic struts, but they are integrated very cleanly and there is no danger of crushed luggage.
In terms of tech, there is nothing ground-breaking, but all the good stuff is there. There is the multimedia screen, surprisingly easy to use with the BMW-style rotary dial and short-cut buttons. There is the good 17-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with 6-DVD changer as well as USB and iPod support. There is a properly-working Bluetooth phone. There is the automatic a/c that worked fairly good in our July test, with rear. There are also the obligatory keyless start, rear camera with sensors, cruise control, sunroof and turning HID headlights. There is a full set of front-side airbags, rare for a GCC-spec Hyundai. There were even two cameras on the nose for viewing cross-traffic when peaking into junctions. We suspect further features, such as navigation, adaptive cruise and such, are all available options.
However, there were some omissions. The rear camera did not have guiding lines, the rear a/c did not have separate controls, and there is no panoramic glass roof option. Also, our tester had a weird problem where the screen display stopped working for an entire day, even after restarting the car, only to start working the next day by itself. Of course, our car was a beaten-to-hell tester from late 2008, but it looks to have held up well except for this issue.
Under the bonnet is a 3.8-litre V6, generating 290 hp at 6200 rpm and 358 Nm of torque at 4500 rpm, mated to a smooth 6-speed manually-shiftable automatic. It is a respectable motor, with good power on the street, but in our 0-100 kph runs, it managed 8.1 seconds, not particularly impressive. But then again, our fuel economy average was 12.6 litres/100 km, which is very respectable for a car of its 1700-kg weight.
One reason why we couldn’t launch it harder was because traction control cannot be turned off. However, for a car not trying to be sporty, the Genesis offers decent handling, with moderate body roll at most on the tightest corners, quickly quelled once the turn is over. The suspension is electronically adjustable for both height and firmness, although the latter makes very little difference. The ABS-assisted brakes do their job fine, while the slightly-weighted steering offers very little feedback. Grip from the 235/50 tyres on 18-inch wheels is pretty good, although the stability control keeps the rubber from being stressed too much.
Thanks to those meaty rubbers, the ride quality is pretty smooth, likely aided by the computer-controlled suspension. Road and wind noise is kept to a minimum. The Genesis lives up to its luxury-car aspirations.
That last line pretty much sums up what the Genesis sedan is all about. Even though this platform also supports the Genesis Coupe — a car that is among the best sports cars ever made — the four-door sedan isn’t chasing BMW and is content being a Lexus contender, and a good one at that. About the only thing missing is a premium badge on the hood.