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2019 Genesis G70 long-term review

By Ash Westerman, 21 Nov 2020 Reviews

Genesis G70 long-term review

Korea’s luxo-sport mid-sizer is out to take on the world. First stop, the Wheels garage.

Month 1: Genesis and revelation?

Price as tested: $79,950

This month: 363km @ 10.2L/100km

The driver of the white Kia Stinger pulled alongside me in the cafe car park, an expensive racing bicycle fastened to racks on his roof. I noticed his eyes drinking in the profile of the Genesis G70, admiring the luscious, tri-coat metallic Havana Red paint and stylish, black-chrome 19-inch wheels. “Nice car, mate; the V6?” he asked. I nodded. Then came the kicker: “So you bought the one in the dinner jacket, eh?”

There was no malice in his quip; more just a joking observation that he knew his Stinger and my new long-term G70 were cuddling Korean cousins.

But hopefully this bloke is in a minority, because if you’re a company like Hyundai, embarking on the monumental task of establishing a global premium brand, you could probably do without people associating your debut sports sedan with the circa-$20K cheaper offering from sister company Kia.

Genesis badge

But did the pedal-pushing Stinger driver have a point? This G70, which I’ll be running for the next six months, and priced at $79,950 in top-spec Ultimate Sport guise, does share a platform, engine, gearbox and plenty of other hardware and systems with the two upper-spec Stingers, priced at $50,190 and $60,790 respectively. So yes, part of my mission will be to establish just how successfully the G70 distinguishes itself from its group stablemate. Of greater relevance, though, given Genesis’s brand positioning, is how the G70 rates as an ownership/value proposition compared to a BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, or the local segment king, the Mercedes C-Class.

So how does the Genesis stand up to the showroom-browser test against the established Euros? My first impressions are positive, with a couple of caveats. The front seats are brilliant, with fantastic adjustable under-thigh support, and their perforated leather, with red diamond-pattern stitching, feels premium, as do the generous splashes of aluminium trim around the logically laid-out cabin.

Less impressive is the dinky 8.0-inch multimedia screen and its basic-looking graphics. There’s nothing wrong with the system’s functionality, but given how important this feature is to buyers, especially those in the premium segment, I’m mystified how Genesis thought such a budget-looking installation was going to cut it.

REVIEW Genesis G70 at its international launch

In terms of equipment, I’m yet to notice anything missing that I’d consider of real value. There’s no auto-parking function, which I’d never use, nor any kind of pilot-assist self-driving system, which would likewise be a mere novelty item. The stuff I do really care about – a legible head-up display with speed-sign recognition, heated and cooled front seats, and a belter of an audio system from Lexicon, with 660w of amplification and subwoofers (mounted here in the floor under the front seats) – is all present. The only option for lesser G70 models is a sunroof; in this spec it’s standard, meaning there’s nothing for buyers to consider adding.

Genesis G70 interior

First driving impression is how well the refinement brief has been nailed. At idle, the seat cooling fans are more audible than the engine, and on the move in normal driving, it remains silken and super hushed. The calibration of the eight-speed auto is nicely intuitive in Comfort mode, and there’s a shedload of torque – the V6 feels stronger than the figure of 510Nm suggests. I’m also cheering that the low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber doesn’t incessantly convey every surface imperfection into the cabin. The ride has real compliance and isolation.

I’m looking forward to a full exploration of the G70’s sporting cred in a few weeks on a drive up to Forster, about 3.5 hours north of Sydney, which will take in the blissfully bendy Lakes Way. I’m excited not just to have a proper pedal, but also because I’ll be collecting a very precious bit of cargo. Actually, if Jake and Elwood Blues had a dyslexic brother, he may have even paused to observe, “We’re on a mission from dog…”

Month 2: We got sold a pup

Genesis excels as we see a (wo)man about a dog

This month: 1896km @ 11.1L/100km

I felt a green flush of envy when the email pinged in my inbox. ‘Fido Fridays!’ said the subject line. The note from Wheels’ publisher went on to say that the last day of the working week would now be a dog-friendly one, acknowledging the benefits to staff morale when there’s a couple of happy woofers waggling around the workplace. (Plus the endless humour, surely, from discreetly tipping a glass of water next to a pot plant then suggesting to the dog’s owner that they should mop that up.)

My jealousy of this new initiative was two-fold. Firstly, it was for the Melbourne head office, whereas I’m the Sydney-based solo operative. Further, I didn’t own a ‘Friday Fido’, nor a dog for any other day of the week, as it happens.

But the second part of this problem was easily fixed. A friend’s pair of Staffordshire terriers had recently produced a litter of pups, and a quick Facetime call to the family on the NSW mid-north coast introduced me to a tiny brindle female who stared at me with beseeching doe eyes down the video phone. No idea what she was thinking, but it was love at first sight from my end.

Ash Westerman's dog Zoe

Fast-forward several weeks and the Genesis was packed for a there-and-back dash in a day, meaning an enlightening seven hours behind the wheel. My lanky 17-year-old daughter eyed up the kiddie-sized rear legroom and decided to ride side-saddle, propping herself up with pillows and stretching lengthways across the back seat. Clearly she was sufficiently comfortable to fall straight to sleep; no surprise given the ungodly (for a Gen Z, remember) departure time of 7:00am.

Up front, it was a chance to enjoy the G70’s polished expressway manners. Tyre noise from the 19-inch Michelins is not too intrusive; wind noise pretty well suppressed, and the engine is virtually inaudible at 1700rpm in eighth gear at an indicated 115km/h cruise. Fuel consumption, in the low-13s around the suburbs, fell away to a more palatable low-8s, giving us a cruising range of over 700km (about three hours’ more driving than my bladder can handle these days).

It was all very serene and peaceful, till I went and destroyed all that as we hit the Lakes Way just past Bulahdelah. My girls are nothing if not understanding, and held on grimly but uncomplainingly as your correspondent conducted some deeply scientific dynamic assessment.

ADVICE Driving with dogs in the car

Genesis G70 family and dogs

The upshot? This is a really engaging, enjoyable car to hustle hard, at least until fast, bumpy sweepers implore you to dial it back a notch. It’s only then, with the adaptive dampers in Sport mode, that the top part of the stroke gets a bit flustered. On smoother surfaces, the slick steering, ample traction and LSD help make this a wholly convincing sports sedan.

As for Fido Fridays, Zoe is currently small enough to be smuggled in a tote bag, so for now, every day’s a Friday.

Month 3: Twist in the tail

The battle for COTY’s best oversteerer award

This month: 647km @ 11.8L/100km

It was only Day One of COTY, and already my inner 13-year-old was bouncing around my head and trying to escape via my mouth. Andy Enright was delivering his presentation of the Genesis G70 pair to the judging panel, and there was lots of detail to absorb as to how the Korean sedans stacked up against the criteria.

If you’ve arrived at this page having made your way via our COTY coverage, you’ll know that the G70’s packaging wasn’t celebrated (rear legroom tight; boot aperture small), nor was the efficiency of the V6. Curiously, the G70 doesn’t even have an idle-stop system, much less any mild-hybrid tech to try and pull the consumption number down.

All of which is entirely relevant when putting a car under the COTY microscope, so we were all there dutifully penning our pre-testing notes, but my inner adolescent was screaming, “Yeah, but it does beaut skids!”

Genesis G70 skids

Last time I checked, this was not part of the COTY criteria, but the classic rear-drive dynamics inherent in the G70’s layout is a pointer to the broader character of the car, and in terms of driver involvement, that counts for plenty.

In other global markets, the G70 is offered with all-wheel drive, and while I haven’t driven the 3.3 in this layout, I’m not sure it would bring a whole lot of real-world benefit in Australia. It’d almost certainly curb some of the car’s enjoyable wriggly-bum charm, and then there’s the other fact that in the current rear-drive layout, the steering remains uncorrupted by torque flow, and retains the sole job of handling directional changes.

 

The other interesting thing COTY burped up was some directly comparable data for the G70 and BMW’s 340i xDrive, the latter surely a closer mechanical match-up for my G70 than the 330i we pitched against a 3.3T Sport (Wheels, Oct ’19) based on price proximity.

In terms of dry stopping from 100km/h, there’s barely anything between them: the BMW manages it with just a 20cm advantage (38.8m vs 39m). The German car is marginally quieter on coarse-chip, though: 71.2dB versus the G70’s 72dB.

So while the G70 didn’t land any meaningful scoring shots under the harsh glare of the COTY spotlight, it was telling that when the photographers wanted a couple of cars to get some slides on, it was the G70 and the Porsche 911 that were the natural choices. As the G70 was flung around the wet skid pan, full counter-steer lock applied and the rear Michelins creating their own micro climate of finely atomised spray, I had to resist the urge to cheer like a proud dad watching a favourite son plant a screamer in the back of the net.

Genesis G70 dirt track

Did I mention that it does beaut skids?

MORE G70 at Wheels COTY 2020

Month 4: Pack Hacks

Sedan constraints mean getting loaded in the G70 isn’t as simple as it could be

This month: 624km @ 11.6L/100km

Ignore the automotive application of the term ‘parcel shelf’ and it sounds like a terrific thing; the place you come home to and find the courier has left you the cool stuff you forgot you ordered after a boozy night on eBay, like that Porsche 911 barbecue apron and the nose-hair trimmer.

But really, in a car, who puts anything on the parcel shelf? Unless you’re a Camry-owning Uber driver with a tissue box dressed up with a decorative doily back there, or you actively want to be hit in the back of the skull with a six-pack while under heavy braking, I’d say no-one.

I’ll go a step further and declare the parcel shelf the work of Packaging Satan. It’s a mostly useless impediment to making full use of folding rear seats, sitting there virtually mocking you as you attempt to load and then later access large items in the boot.

At least, that’s how I’ve come to see the parcel shelf in the G70. Okay, it may justify its existence on the basis of structural rigidity and a place to house the rear audio speakers, but mostly it just sits there getting in the way.

Genesis G70 parcel shelf

I’m sure the Genesis product-planning gurus considered a sportback design at some point for the G70, but no doubt it was torpedoed by a clinic of Chinese customers who inexplicably think that a bootlid and fixed rear glass are automotive status symbols that show the world they’ve really made it.

MORE Popular sedan boot sizes

Working as the parcel shelf’s evil offsider in this dastardly double-act is the G70’s small boot aperture. Recently I gave a friend a lift to the airport, and loading her full-sized suitcase required a technique usually reserved for a postman trying to stuff a parcel into a mailbox slot. First, get one end in, then shove, swear a little, then open the passenger door and drag the thing in over the folded rear-seat backrest. Similarly, transporting my bike requires removal of the front wheel, and even then, surgical precision is needed to find the specific angle at which the frame and seat post can clear the rear inner wheelarches.

But the real kicking came the weekend I needed to drive to the other side of Sydney to save a few hundred bucks on a discounted washing machine. My partner saw the transportational outcome of this a mile away, and lit up brightly as she tossed me the keys to her Honda HR-V, saying, “Oooh, cool; car-swap day!”

Ash Westerman G70 luggage

Here’s my final gripe (I promise)regarding packaging. Genesis wants to be taken seriously as a premium brand, and I think we can all agree that one key element to being perceived as ‘premium’ lies with attention to detail. A car needs to imbue that feeling that the designers have considered every small aspect of how you use the vehicle, and have ensured that mantra of ‘a place for everything, and everything in its place’ has been resolutely applied. So it’s disappointing – perplexing, actually – to first open the boot of the G70 and see that no specific cubby has been created for the first-aid and roadside-assistance kits, nor the warning triangle. All three appear as a complete afterthought, as if someone has gone, “Huh? I didn’t know we needed to include this stuff! Um, throw me the Velcro...”

Seriously, these items really are attached with that magical micro hook-and-loop fastening system that adheres them to the boot carpet, meaning they sit right in the spot where you may want to load, I dunno, a suitcase or a bicycle…          

Cool it, pal: G70’s remote HVAC settings

After a bit of faffing around with the registration process, I now have the G70 synched to the Genesis Connected Services app on my phone, and had a chance to assess its usefulness. Most handy for me is the remote start and ‘cabin condition’ function.

When the car has been parked in the summer sun, the ability to hit the Engine Start button on the screen, and automatically set the HVAC to full Arctic Chill mode for five minutes before I actually return to the car, is great for making me (marginally) less sweaty than James Brown’s jockstrap. Just a shame the G70’s black dash acts as a major heat sink, and takes so long to cool after the car has been parked in the sun.

MORE Extreme HVAC in the Bugatti Chiron

Month 5: Let’s sweat the details

Small stuff counts at the big end of town

This month: 1345km @ 11.4L/100km

In what was an unsettling epiphany recently, I was alerted by a reader’s letter to the possibility that some of you are not nearly as fascinated by the minutiae of my motoring life as I am. You come to this section for car facts, dammit. Lots of pithy, irrefutable facts.

So, as I pointed the G70 west towards Bathurst for a media event at Mount Panorama recently, I made a vow: I would concentrate on nothing but the finer details of the Genesis owner/driver experience, and leave out all the fascinating bits about dogs, girlfriends, bicycles and ’90s rock.

Let’s start with the radar cruise. It’s mostly very good, and holds the prescribed speed within a couple of km/h even in hilly terrain. If I was calibrating it, I’d make the acceleration phase a bit quicker once a slower car in front has moved aside, but overall it’s supremely intuitive to set, adjusts in single-kay increments, and works about as well as you could reasonably expect from a camera and binary code.

Genesis G70 through trees

I’m less enamoured with the lane-keep assist though. For starters, it’s not infallible, and I do what I do with every car: automatically hit the button to disable it, because phantom tugging at the wheel to admonish me creeps me out.

Let’s talk cabin liveability. The fundamentals of seat comfort, driving position, visibility, instrument clarity and HUD are all great. I’m less crazy about the too-small bottleholders in the front doors, while the centre console box is adequate, not generous. Overall, the cabin design feels utterly conventional, and leaves plenty of room for a bit more thoughtfulness and design flair in further iterations.

HARD FACTS The Genesis G70's tested performance figures

Of the five drive modes, I really only use two: Comfort, for 90 percent of my driving; and Custom, into which I’ve mapped the firm damper setting, aggressive engine and trans calibration, but retained the lighter, more nuanced steering weight.

That leaves me wishing for a manual hold mode for the transmission, which only retains a paddle-selected gear for 20 or so seconds.

Genesis G70 interior

Then there’s the aural performance in Sports mode. It’s pleasant, but just too tame. Given Comfort is so hushed and refined, surely there’s scope to calibrate Sports mode for louder, more invigorating aural fireworks?

Okay, now I’m nit-picking. To slap myself out of it, I rolled onto the Mount Panorama circuit as a soft twilight embraced the mountain, disabled the ESC and had a few runs up and down from Skyline to the Elbow. Oooh yeah.

Details count for plenty, but they lose relevance if the fundamentals don’t shine. The G70 has got this side of its game well sorted.

Month 6: That’s a rap

Far from perfect, but deeply likeable G70 leaves its mark as a pivot point for Korea

This month: 1345km @ 11.4L/100km

Overall: 4756km @ 11.7L/100km

My local barista Ricky rates himself as a bit of a car guy, and relishes the fact that his cafe’s service window faces out onto a quiet street that sees a diverse and often interesting range of metal pulling up as owners arrive for their fix.

“So what’s Genius like, then?” he asked a while ago as he brewed my double shot. We had a slightly awkward moment as I had to point out that it’s Genesis, and explain that the G70 is part of Hyundai’s premium brand. I also had to add that if it had been called a Genius, that would have been stretching the truth just a fraction.

But I’m unsure if Ricky’s lack of brand awareness is a symptom of Genesis not doing enough to promote itself in Australia, or just that he’s not as much of a car guy as he thinks he is. I suspect it’s the former, because very few people who took a passing interest in the car during my six-month tenure knew what it was, where it came from, or what segment it was targeting.

Genesis G70 engine

Perhaps even more concerning, from Genesis’s point of view, is how little attention the car attracted generally. Is the styling not sufficiently distinctive? Or is it largely invisible to Aussies because it’s not an SUV or an EV?

Personally, it was both those facts that endeared me to the G70. As much as we talk about modern SUVs driving as adroitly as high-riding hot hatches, the truth is they just don’t deliver the flat, pointy, responsive handling that comes with the lower CoG of a well-sorted sedan (or wagon). It was this dynamic engagement that made the G70 so satisfying on every drive, whether just touring around or having a bit of a back-road blast.

Yes, the downside is the slightly more cumbersome entry and egress, as well as the extra care needed over deep gutters and some speed humps. And I’ve already moaned enough about the compromised packaging of a small-booted sedan compared to the cargo-friendly attributes we take for granted in a mid-size SUV. But I was able to overlook these issues every time an opportunity presented itself to lean on that eager, grippy front end, enjoy the slick steering, the fine roll control, and the brilliant power-down from the LSD-equipped rear end.

As for the powertrain, there was never a moment where I felt the extra expense of the twin-turbo V6 over the 2.0-litre turbo four was an unnecessary indulgence. The premium is a bit over $10K, depending on which of the three spec levels you choose, so easy for me to say when it’s not my money, right? You may also opine, “Oh, with such draconian speeding laws, there’s no point; when would I be able to use the extra power?”

Genesis G70 Ash Westerman

But to use an audio expression, it’s all about ‘headroom’ – you don’t buy a 500-watt amplifier because you want to listen to music at ear-bleed volumes, you buy it because of the smooth, effortless way it reproduces sound at normal listening levels. The G70 is a perfect automotive example of this: I reckon I had the thing pegged up against the limiter for 60 seconds or so in the entire time I had it, but the grunty, effortless shove was something I appreciated on every drive. Never underestimate how enjoyable it is to feel a strong engine whipping you along at only middling revs, minimal NVH, and zero mechanical stress.

It does like a drink, though – my overall of 11.7L/100km was 15 percent above the official combined figure of 10.2. The transmission features a decoupling ‘coasting’ function, but that’s it for dedicated efficiency measures, so ample room for improvement.

Which sums up a few other areas of the G70. In many ways, this feels like a ‘nearly there’ effort, where the final layer of polish and detail – like multimedia, touch points and interior design flourish – have been overlooked.

For conclusive proof of this, just take a close look at the presentation of the GX80 SUV due late this year. This, folks, will be the model that will really establish Genesis as a bona fide player, and grab your (and Ricky’s) attention.