Release Date: October 2019
In the automotive jungle these days, sedans aren’t quite the 800-pound gorilla they once were. SUVs have taken their spot as the mass-market family vehicles of choice for a giant chunk of new car-buying Americans. But millions of us every year still wander into dealerships and drive off in familiar three-box four-doors, just like our parents and their parents before them. Clearly, there’s still a market there.
As a result, while some automakers have either opted to kill off their car lineups (looking at you, Ford) or simply neglected them to the point of obsolescence (that’s you, Chrysler), others have chosen to continue advancing the state of the sedan. Luxury brand Genesis is one of them; since its first arrived on the scene four years ago, it’s concentrated on nothing but traditional four-door cars. Late last year, the carmaker introduced its cheapest, most exciting one yet: the G70. We took the 2020 model for a spin around New York and New England to see how it holds up one year after its debut, and to find out why you should still care.
What exactly is it?
The Genesis brand’s third model, a compact luxury sedan with sporty pretentions.
It’s a four-door car with a comfortable ride, a luxurious interior and a whole bunch of high-tech driver assistance and convenience features. Like the other Genesis models, the G70 offers a choice of rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, as well as two different engines — a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 making 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. The former is peppy, but the latter hauls ass; Genesis claims a 0-60 mph run of 4.5 seconds, and it feels very believable from behind the wheel.
What’s special about it?
Well, most notably, there’s that strange multidirectional lever sticking up between the driver and passenger’s knees in some models. The Genesis G70 2.0T Sport is one of just a handful of sedans left to offer a manual transmission. Better yet, Genesis pairs the stick shift with an array of options tailor-made for driving enthusiasts: it comes with a limited-slip differential to help put the power down more effectively, Brembo performance brakes, a sport exhaust system for better sound and LED headlamps for better visibility, as well as comfort features like heated and cooled leather seats and a 15-speaker Lexicon stereo. All that comes for less than $40,000; considering the average new car price nowadays sits around $37,400, that practically makes it a bargain.
Even if you’re not a fan of the manual, though, there’s plenty to like here. Forget any deep-seated reservations about Hyundai building bad cars; according to J.D. Power, Genesis boasts the best initial quality in the industry in 2019. The interior is every bit as luxurious as any car in the $50,000-and-below price range, especially if you opt for one of the pricier trims that offer quilted Nappa leather. The infotainment system and controls are a model of efficiency, one that other companies should emulate.
Plus, it looks great from the outside, too. After seeing my test car being dropped off in front of the office, one GP team member genuinely thought it was a Bentley. (To be fair, the bewinged badge bears more than a passing resemblance to the one on the Continental GT.)
Who is Genesis, by the way?
Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury brand. The moniker first showed up in Hyundai parlance back in 2008, when it was used as the model name for the company’s new rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan, the Hyundai Genesis. Perhaps realizing this expensive, V8-powered Cadillac competitor seemed a little out of place wearing the same badge as the $14K Accent, the company pivoted in 2015 and made Genesis the name of the company’s equivalent of Toyota’s Lexus or Honda’s Acura: a spinoff brand devoted to luxury cars.
Since then, parent company Hyundai has spent big to create high-quality products, in part by bringing notable talent with European pedigrees to Genesis, such as former Lamborghini director of brand and design Manfred Fitzgerald, former Bentley/Audi/Lamborghini design director Luc Donckerwolke, and former BMW M division head Albert Biermann. Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, presumably, were too expensive.
What does the G70 compete against?
It sits smack dab in the heart of the compact sport/luxury sedan segment, so as with pretty much every other car in the class not wearing a roundel on its nose, the BMW 3 Series is the benchmark. The Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class also square off nicely against it; on the Japanese side, there’s the Acura TLX, Infiniti Q50 and Lexus IS; the Jaguar XE represents Great Britain’s sole entry, while here in America, there’s the new Cadillac CT5 and the aging Lincoln MKZ.
Then there’s the slightly more unorthodox competitors. Volkswagen’s Arteon is there for those who value style and substance over speed, while the Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack is there for those who prefer to flip those attributes. And you can’t forget about the Kia Stinger GT, which is based on the same bones as the G70 but offers different styling and a softer suspension.
That all sounds good. Any downsides?
Brand snobs who have trouble with the little-known name or South Korean provenance should probably look elsewhere (or, better yet, reevaluate their biases). Still, the commonalities with Hyundais and Kias are subtle, but they’re there; anyone climbing from a $19K Veloster into a $50K G70 3.3T Prestige will find the touchscreen display on the dash awfully similar, which may leave them feeling a tad underwhelmed.
Genesis has done a great job making its cars more distinctive than they used to be — the first Hyundai Genesis looked like the generic badgeless cars you’d see in a bank commercial — but as the Bentley example above demonstrates, they’re still a ways from having a distinctive, universally-recognized appearance. If you buy one, be prepared to explain it.
True manual transmission enthusiasts may complain that the six-speed stick’s action is a little rubbery and long, lacking in the tight, well-oiled precision of BMWs of yore. Then again, how many stick-shift versions of the new 3 Series does BMW offer in the U.S.? That’s right: zilch. Beggars can’t be choosers.
So why exactly should I care?
In a nutshell: The Genesis G70 is proof that carmakers haven’t given up on making fun-to-drive four-doors at reasonable prices. Six-figure super-sedans like the BMW M5 and Cadillac CTS-V will always have a place in the world; the Porsche Taycan Turbo is proof they’ll endure well into the era when electrons replace gasoline. But poke around below $50K, and the number of well-balanced, fun-to-drive cars with four doors seems smaller than ever.
That’s something you don’t have to be an autocross geek to care about. If you’ve ever found a bit of glee in wheeling around a cloverleaf or punching the gas at a green light, you should be glad to hear that an upstart carmaker still values baking fun into its products. Genesis could have launched a fancy version of the Kia Telluride as one of its first cars and made a mint. The fact that they chose instead to make a delightful compact sedan designed by people who’d done Lamborghinis and Audis and engineered by someone who cut his teeth at BMW’s sports division should give us all faith that the era of fun sedans you can actually afford hasn’t ended yet.
Genesis hosted us and provided this product for review.
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