It has been fascinating to watch the progression of the Korean car industry—these days all under the umbrella of Hyundai Group—over the past decade. Not too long ago, Kia and Hyundai were known for cheap and potentially unreliable cars that felt a generation behind the competition from Japan. Today, the brands top annual surveys for…
It has been fascinating to watch the progression of the Korean car industry—these days all under the umbrella of Hyundai Group—over the past decade. Not too long ago, Kia and Hyundai were known for cheap and potentially unreliable cars that felt a generation behind the competition from Japan. Today, the brands top annual surveys for reliability, and some of their products are among the best in class; we’ve 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 in the luxury end of the market. At first, Genesis was a name for a particular Hyundai model, but in 2015 a decision was made to set up a new brand of its own. Or, as an SAT question might phrase 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, badges matter. Plenty of people want an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benzbecauseit’s an Audi, a BMW, or a Mercedes-Benz and because of the way other people perceive those marques.
But Genesis’ new G70 is a really important car for the brand, because it’s 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’s built on the same platform as the wonderful Kia Stinger, but it’s a bit smaller and, crucially, a good deal lighter than the bigger fastback GT. (A fully loaded Stinger GT is the wrong side of 4,000lbs, whereas a similarly specced G70 is 3,887lbs/1,763kg.)
With the usual caveats about beauty, eyes, and beholders, I think that Luc Donckerwolke and the Genesis design team did a pretty good job with the G70. It has the muscular and sporty design cues you expect for a car in this class, without looking fussy or overstyled. Things are equally good on the inside, with diamond-stitched leather seats that remind you of the fact that Donckerwolke headed up design at Bentley before moving to Genesis.
As with the Stinger, there’s 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), 376lb-ft (510Nm) twin-turbo V6 starting at $43,750. And a choice of two drivetrains—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 engine and driven wheels is via Hyundai Group’s in-house eight-speed automatic transmission, but for $37,900 you can get a G70 2.0T Sport, which is only RWD and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. (A BMW 330i has three more horsepower but starts at $40,200, for comparison.)
After driving the RWD and AWD Stingers back to back, I was convinced that RWD was the way to go thanks to less mass over 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 a rear-driven model—the aforementioned 2.0T Sport. But this one—a preproduction model, most likely—came with the eight-speed auto.
Honestly, I wish I’d asked for a V6 instead. As with the Stinger, the four-cylinder engine and eight-speed gearbox combo feels sluggish on the move, despite having those 252 horses to call upon. And the eight-speed is definitely not as polished as the almighty ZF 8HP (I promise, the feature article on that is coming soon). More than once, the car gave an odd little hesitation while on the move. But it was a nimble-enough thing to drive, with what passes for good steering feel in this day and age, and a mechanical limited-slip differential that I’m sure was helping things along.
But let’s be honest—most of these kinds of luxury sedans don’t get bought to go canyon carving. They’re used on the daily commute. So 0-60mph is less important than how it makes you feel in traffic, and as I already mentioned, the interior is a fine place to sit if you’re going nowhere in a hurry. The infotainment system is similar to what you’ll 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, pre-OS X. You interact with it solely via the 8-inch touchscreen, and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are present and correct.
G70s get plenty of other gadgets, too. A full ADAS package comes as standard, with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, blind-spot monitoring, high-beam assist, and a driver attention warning system. Add-on packages vary in price and spec depending on whether you go for the four- or six-cylinder, but these will add LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a heads-up display, Qi wireless charging (which more of us care about now that Apple added it to the iPhone), and 360˚ parking cameras.
All in all, the G70 gives a solid performance and shows that Genesis is hitting its stride as a new car brand. But will it be enough to tempt badge-conscious buyers away from zee Germans?
<p><em>Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin</em></p>