As more and more automakers clamour to compete in the prestige market, the end result for buyers means more freedom of choice as the range of options expand.
Genesis is the latest brand to pop-up in the prestige market, operating as the upmarket arm of Hyundai, and has just launched its rival for the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class in Korea this week.
The market the G70 enters into is already busy. Along with Benz and BMW, Genesis will have to tackle cars like the Jaguar XE, Audi A4, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50 adding a Korean flavour to a luxury market that already hails from Germany, Britain, and Japan.
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium sedan
Price: from $55,000 (estimated)
Engine/trans: 90kW/353Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol, 272kW/510Nm 3.3-litre 6cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.6-11.1 l/100km
The task ahead of Genesis is, to put it lightly, gargantuan. As well as attempting to establish itself as a fledgling luxury brand from an almost unknown basis the G70 enters into one of the most fiercely contested global segments.
The good news though (certainly for Hyundai, but also potentially for brave buyers willing to take a punt) is that the Genesis G70 appears to be a decent vehicle, based on first impressions.
Under the unique sheetmetal the G70 has been developed alongside the all-new Kia Stinger that’s ready to roll out of Australian showrooms this month. The two have been devised with different targets though, with the Stinger positioned as a mainstream sports sedan while the G70 is more luxury focussed.
Despite styling and tuning differences, the two share key chassis components, and crucially utilise the same turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 engines, and in-house developed eight-speed automatic transmissions.
The cabin of the Genesis G70 delivers premium refinement first up, with excellent noise insulation setting the right tone as a prestige player.
The sophisticated cabin design incorporates high quality materials with an extensive use of genuine leather and real metal components designed to help distance Genesis from Hyundai’s mainstream models.
Using Korean specifications as a basis, the seats are comfortable, and front and rear headroom are decent. In the rear there’s decent kneeroom, but the rear bench (like its competitive set) is really best with two passengers, but will accept three at a pinch.
ON THE ROAD
Under the bonnet Australian buyers will have access to either a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 190kW and 353Nm or a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 with a more authoritative 272kW and 510Nm.
TMR’s first drive experience occurred in a Korean-specification V6 with all-wheel drive, a configuration that won't come to Australia, with rear wheel drive being the only layout offered locally.
There’s also going to be changes made to the G70’s steering and suspension tune for Australia with the Genesis sedan to be put through the same kind of local adaptation program as the rest of Hyundai’s range.
While the final setting may differ, this early test revealed the fundamentals of the G70 are solid.
In V6 guise the G70 puts forward a strong set of numbers to challenge something like a 240kW/450Nm BMW 340i, however official fuel consumption figures trail the Euro opposition, with the G70’s official 11.1 l/100km fuel use a long way off BMW’s claimed 6.8 l/100km - though neither figure is representative of real world consumption.
Genesis has also elected to use a digitised engine simulation pumped through the speakers, rather than relying on the engine and exhaust’s natural sound signatures - depending on your view that can be good or bad, allowing the volume to be adjusted via the Comfort, Eco, Sport, Smart and Custom drive modes, without disrupting the peace outside the vehicle.
The G70 also adopts a more comfort-biased handling tuned, compared to the dynamic prowess of Jaguar or BMW. A brief blast around the undulating Inje Speedium circuit highlighted the shortcomings of the G70’s native Korean-spec suspension, but local changes may see that issue tuned out.
In its current form the G70 exhibited dull steering and plentiful body roll, but the progressive handling and impressive bump absorption at least provide a good basis for the local suspension team to start from.
American buyers will be offered a ‘Dynamic’ model - again different to that coming to Australia, but with firmer suspension, rear wheel drive and the same Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres that Aussie models will roll on.
We were given a very brief turn behind the wheel of this variation, which feels different to the Korean model and indicates what’s possible for the Australian model thanks to flatter cornering and more direct steering.
Australia will have to wait until closer to the local launch of the G70 to find out the exact line-up and specifications, but Hyundai Australia has confirmed that both four-cylinder and V6 models will be offered locally.
Unofficially it seems like that the range will also incorporate a three-tier selection with an entry-level specification, one with a sporting flavour, and a premium luxury range-topper.
As Lexus and Infiniti have proven in the past, launching a new luxury brand is no easy feat. While both can claim success in the North American market, elsewhere in the world it’s taken time for both brands to sway buyers away from the pedigree of Germany’s best.
Genesis is sure to face the same battle - entering an established market and trying to build brand recognition and awareness is going to take time. Right now though, Genesis is starting off on the right foot with a competitive product, which may not frighten off the dominant Mercedes-Benz C-Class just yet, but could give those Japanese competitors something to worry about.
Though it’s too early to be certain, the impressive job that Hyundai has done crafting its first bespoke luxury car, getting the balance of power, comfort, and luxury right. Although brand caché isn't something Genesis can launch with, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz will no doubt be keeping a careful eye on the trajectory of this new prestige upstart.