It has been interesting to see the progress of the Korean car industry—these days all under the umbrella of the Hyundai Group—over the past decade. Not so long ago, Kia and Hyundai were known for cheap and unreliable cars that thought a generation behind the competition from Japan. Today, top brands in annual surveys for reliability, and some of their products are among the best in class; we have been particular fans of the Kia Niro hybrids, and the Hyundai Nexo fuel cell EV even made me forget about my hydrogen skepticism while I was driving it.
Perhaps the hardest hill to climb is at the luxury end of the market. Originally, Genesis was a name for a specific Hyundai model, but in 2015 we decided to set a new logo of its own. Or, as one SAT question might put it, Genesis is to Hyundai as Lexus is to Toyota.
But the luxury market is a tough nut to crack; Sales of sedans are in freefall, they tell us, and with these cars, special brands. Most people prefer Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz because it is Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz and because of the way other people perceive the brands.
But Genesis’ new G70 is a very important car for the brand, because it is aimed at the entry-level executive-sedan segment, where the default choice for many remains the BMW 3 Series. That sounds like a tough ask, but the G70 has a lot going for it. It is built on the same platform as the amazing Kia Stinger, but it is a bit smaller and, crucially, a good deal lighter than the big fastback GT. (A fully loaded Stinger GT is the wrong side of 4,000lbs, while the G70 spec is 3,887lbs/1,763kg.)
With constant comments about aesthetics, eyes, and viewers, I think Luc Donckerwolke and the Genesis design team did a very good job with the G70. It has the muscular and sporty design cues you expect for a car in this class, without looking confusing or overdone. Things are equally good inside, with diamond-studded leather seats reminiscent of the fact that Donckerwolke developed the design at Bentley before moving to the Genesis.
Like the Stinger, there is a choice of two engines: a 2.0L 252hp (188kW), 260lb-ft (353Nm) turbocharged four-cylinder starting at $34,900, or a 3.3L 365hp (272kW), 375lb-Nm -turbo V6 starting at $ 43,750. And a choice of two wheels—by default, the G70 is rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive adding another $2,000 to the sticker. Most of the time, the link between the engine and the driven wheels is through the Hyundai Group’s in-house eight-speed automatic transmission, but for $37,900 you can get the G70 2.0T Sport, which is RWD only and comes with six-speed manual gearbox. . (A BMW 330i has three more horsepower but starts at $40,200, for comparison.)
After driving RWD and AWD Stingers back to back, I’m convinced that RWD has a way to go thanks to less mass on the front axle making for a more nimble vehicle. With that in mind, I asked Genesis for a RWD G70 when the time came. When the G70 arrived at our door, it was indeed the model with the aforementioned 2.0T sportback. But this one—an earlier model, probably—came with an eight-speed automatic.
Honestly, I wish I’d asked for the V6 instead. Like the Stinger, the four-cylinder engine and eight-speed gearbox combo feels sluggish on the move, despite having those 252 horses to call for. And the eight speed is definitely not as smooth as the ZF 8HP Almighty (I promise, feature article on that is coming soon). More than once, the car gives a little hesitation while moving. But it’s nimble-enough to drive, with what passes for good steering feel in this day and age, and a limited slip differential that I’m sure helps things along.
But let’s be honest—most of these luxury sedans aren’t bought to go gardening. They use it on a daily basis. So 0-60mph is less important than how it makes you feel in traffic, and as I said before, the interior is a good place to sit if you’re not going anywhere fast. The infotainment system is similar to what you would find in a Kia or Hyundai, and it’s pretty darn good. I’ve said this before, but the UI reminds me of a Macintosh, before OS X. You interact with it only through the 8-inch touch screen, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available and correct.
The G70s accommodate many other applications, too. The full ADAS package comes as standard, including automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, cruise control, lane keeping, blind spot monitoring, high beam assist, and a driver alert warning system. Additional packages vary in price and specification depending on whether you go for the four- or six-cylinder, but these will add LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display, Qi wireless charging (which is a few more has been taken care of now that Apple has added it to the iPhone), and 360˚ component cameras.
All in all, the G70 delivers solid performance and shows that Genesis is hitting its stride as a new car brand. But will it be enough to lure badge-conscious buyers away from the zee Germans?
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin