– Ride and handling
– Very good power
– Value for money
– Limited rear legroom
– Some ergonomics issues
– Credibility as premium brand
It’s not easy to build a luxury car brand when you don’t have a century of heritage backing it up. Just ask Lexus and Infiniti when they started just under 30 years ago. It’s even harder today, when even a Hyundai Elantra can be had with adaptive cruise and cooled seats. So Hyundai has an uphill battle as they attempt to establish Genesis as a standalone premium brand. While the G90 hasn’t caused any waves, and the G80 is a remnant of the Hyundai-badged days, the G70 is the first proper product from the upstart brand that brings something interesting to the table. We were still sceptical about this car though, but we got a message from the General Manager of Genesis Middle East, Altar Yilmaz, to come check out his personal car, and later we got another cherry-red one for a couple of days.
In photos, the G70 looks cluttered from the front and derivative from every other angle. In person however, the car looks suitably premium, and is a bit of a head-turner as people try to figure out what it is. It looks especially good in this top-spec 3.3T Sport trim with its 19-inch smoked wheels, dark chrome trim and dual exhaust cutouts in the rear bumper, although we’ve yet to see a 2.0T base model, which probably looks largely the same but with slightly smaller wheels and a single-side exhaust outlet.
Inside, the dash styling isn’t particularly ground-breaking, and even looks a bit odd due to the void below the a/c controls, but it’s easy to appreciate thanks to the use of premium trim materials. There is red-stitched leather, soft-touch surfaces and aluminium pieces all over the upper half of the cabin, as well as little details such as burled metal trim around the cup-holders, even in the back. However, the cup-holders do not have covers, although the other cubby in the centre-console void does. Hard plastics are relegated to the door pockets and the sides of the gear-shifter console.
The top-spec model gets sporty seats with good bolstering and quilted Nappa leather upholstery. Space up front is great, while headroom is good both front and back. However, rear-passenger space is severely limited by lack of foot room, which makes entry-exit tight as well, even for average-sized folks. Rear knee-room is fine though, while room can be made for the toes by raising the front seats, assuming the front passengers agree. The rear middle seat is compromised by a raised transmission tunnel.
The boot is pretty big though, even with a full-size spare wheel underneath, with split-folding rear seats that makes it a practical cargo hauler.
Tech features shore up well among other offerings in the entry-level premium class, with the 3.3T coming with LED headlights and tails, a heads-up display, 7-inch LCD screen between the physical gauges, standard cooled memory front seats with bottom extensions and electrically-adjusted side bolsters that tighten up in “sport” mode, smart keyless entry and start, pretty decent dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, electric parking brake, 15-speaker Lexicon stereo with Bluetooth/USB/Apply Carplay, and an 8-inch navigation/multimedia touchscreen. Most other premium brands offer less standard features at the same price-point.
There are a couple of ergonomics issues. The central touchscreen is sat on the top of the dash, but has no separate controller, so reaching the furthest part of the screen requires stretching your arm a bit. Also, the automatic gear-selector functions through Reverse, Neutral and Drive in the traditional way, but Park is a separate button next to the shifter, so we’ve inadvertently shifted to R when we wanted to choose P quite a few times. Luckily we’re always alert enough to see the P-R-N-D readout in the gauge cluster.
Aside from 7 airbags, all-round parking sensors with around-view cameras, ABS and ESP, the top G70 also comes with a full suite of active safety features, such as forward collision avoidance assist, smart cruise control and stop, driver attention warning and blind-spot warning. There is also lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, where the steering wheel vibrates as a warning and tugs itself back into lane if you get too close to the lane markings without indicating.
Powered by a 3.3-litre turbocharged direct-injected V6, the G70 3.3T makes 365 hp at 6000 rpm and 510 Nm of torque from 1300 to 4500 rpm. That’s good enough to launch the car from zero to 100 kph in 5.5 seconds during our April test. It’s not the quickest or most powerful in its class, but it’s plenty quick for a street vehicle.
The V6’s fuel consumption is about as expected, at 13.5 litres/100 km. For economy-minded folks, there is also a 249 hp 2.0T rear-wheel-drive model positioned below the all-wheel-drive Sport model we tested.
The G70 3.3T drives like a sport sedan should. With several driving modes from economical to sporty, the G70 offers responsive controls and a smooth 8-speed automatic that picks all the right gears, unlike Hyundai’s previously-awful 8-speed gearboxes. Even the paddle-shifters respond well, and there’s very little turbo lag to speak of.
Pushing its limits is actually quite enjoyable, with a well-weighted variable-ratio steering that actually offers some feedback. There’s great grip from the front and rear tyres, with very high limits. On corners, it offers neutral handling for the most part, going into mild understeer on sharper curves, but it can be coaxed into mild oversteer mid-way in the turn, with the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system allowing for such adjustability better than any Audi Quattro sedan.
The Brembo brakes offer fairly good stopping power, with a linear and meaty pedal feel.
As for the ride, the 3.3T version comes with adaptive suspension, and while it’s slightly firm due to the low-profile tyres, it takes severe bumps very well, with no floatiness over uneven surfaces. It’s also fairly quiet, with a constant hush at 120 kph and minimal road noise. There is a muffled grunty engine note played through the speakers when the throttle is applied.
The Genesis G70 turned out to be good value for money and a surprisingly entertaining sports sedan to drive, better-resolved than any of the other upstart premium brands from Japan as well as the second-tier Europeans, but maybe falling slightly short of the German stalwarts from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but none of it related to the driving part of the equation. As Hyundai as publicly stated, they have former BMW M engineers on board, and it shows. Regional Genesis boss Mr. Yilmaz himself is formerly from Porsche. Whether Genesis succeeds as a luxury brand is purely down to how they portray themselves, and selling alongside Accents under huge “Hyundai” signage is probably not the best way to poach potential buyers, but standalone showrooms are surely next on their plans.
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