The seemingly saturated market that is the entry-level luxury sport sedan has seen a number of players come and go, but all seem to be gunning for one particular player: the BMW 3-Series. The bread-and-butter of every aspirational brand starts at their 3-Series competitor, and the new upstart that is Genesis is no exception. The new luxury brand under the Hyundai Motor Company has been biding its time, paying close attention to what works, avoiding what doesn’t work, and they have the advantage of utilizing the extreme vertical integration its parent already employs. The Genesis G70 is set to carry the enthusiast torch, Korean style. We spent a week with the 2019 Genesis G70 2.0T Prestige (painted Himalayan Grey) to see where it all fits in.
As Genesis figures out its own identity (something that can only come with time), styling is one of those things that Genesis is doing in a somewhat interesting way. The brand has Peter Schreyer heading up the design department, and he’s come up with some seriously sharp products within both the Hyundai and Kia families. The Genesis G70 is a taut and sharp-looking sport sedan, but is interesting in how it seems to “borrow” certain successful design cues from elsewhere in the industry.
The side profile, especially the contour of the window-line around the C-pillar, seems to borrow a little bit from the Acura TLX (reviewed here), and the rear taillight shape isn’t too dissimilar to that on the Mercedes-Benz C Class. The front-grille is unique to the Genesis brand, but it unfortunately suffers from the dreaded Ontario “front license plate” syndrome. This is a car that would look considerably better without a front license plate in the front grille. I particularly like the ten-spoke 19-inch wheels, fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 (not the 4S) summer-only tires. They’re also staggered: 225-section tires up front, and 255-section in the rear.
Inside, the Genesis G70 provides that unique Korean-take on ergonomics: you can tell there’s quite a bit of parts-bin sharing of certain components, such as the eight-inch touchscreen and main user interface that comes from Hyundai – which is actually a good thing. You get Hyundai’s refined and well-engineered software, as well as seamless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, which some competitors are still not offering. I especially liked the “Star” button under the screen which is customizable – I had it set to Phone Projection, which brings up Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, regardless of what screen you’re looking at.
The partial-LCD instrument cluster also borrows the user interface from Hyundai, which is easy to navigate and offers the driver a ton of informational readouts, even readouts for windshield wiper status, but no turbo boost pressure (which you can get on the Kia Stinger GT). This particular tester, the 2.0T “Prestige” trim, means you get all the goodies, except for the big engine. You get some snazzy quilted-leather seats, with both heating and ventilation, a heated steering wheel, as well as Lexicon audio (complete with laser-cut speaker grilles, very fashionable nowadays). Rear seat accommodations are a little tight – those needing enhanced knee and space for feet may feel a little squeezed.
Genesis has been making big news amongst the media and enthusiast community: a lot of it has to do with their powertrains and the options available to drivers. This G70 in particular comes with two engine options: a turbocharged (a twin-scroll unit) and direct-injected 2.0L gasoline inline-four, good for 252 horsepower at 6,200RPM, and 260lb-ft. of torque from a handy 1,400RPM to 4,000RPM. Power is managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission, designed and built in-house in Korea – this isn’t a ZF-sourced transmission here. Most G70s sold in Canada will feature all-wheel drive, though if you opt for the 2.0T Sport package, rear-wheel drive (with a limited-slip differential!) and a six-speed manual transmission are sure to be interesting to the dwindling numbers of three-pedal enthusiasts.
In the (very adjustable) driver’s seat, finding an optimal driving position is easy, and the powered thigh support extension certainly helps. Visibility out the front and to the sides is acceptable, and the mono-stable gear selector is one of the better implementations, thanks to it being a fairly simple forward-and-back operation. The G70, especially with the four-cylinder engine, isn’t really a raucous sport sedan, but it launches smartly from a stop, thanks to the torque peak coming on at just 1,400RPM.
In terms of the good types of noise: the G70 is fairly well-insulated, but like many of its peers in the industry, synthetic engine sounds are a fact of life, but Genesis allows you to either leave them at a suggested “Normal” level, accentuate the sounds, minimize them, or disable the synthetic engine sounds altogether. It’s a rare concession and a welcome option for purists. For what it’s worth: I kept the synthetic engine sounds set to “Minimized”.
The smaller G70 doesn’t have the same double A-arm suspension configuration as the G80 and G90, but the reduced overall weight and dimensions allows it to be more nimble, and more in-line with competitors like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class (reviewed here). Like its peers, the 2.0L engine is mounted longitudinally, with the majority of the weight located behind the front axle, which improves weight distribution. The different drive mode customizations give the driver some additional control over inputs and responses, but the important setting for me was the adjustable steering weight, which I had set to “heavy”. This doesn’t necessarily increase feedback felt through the wheel, but rather just firms up the effort required.
I especially liked the programming of the eight-speed automatic transmission, with its quick shifts and smart logic to either make use of the turbocharged torque, or high-rev horsepower. Torque converter lockup seems to occur fairly early on in the rev range, and it provides a very direct feel to the driver. Considering this longitudinal-mount transmission is currently used only within the Hyundai Motor Company group (which encompasses Hyundai, Genesis, as well as Kia), they’ve done a great job. The long-time specialists in Germany (read: ZF) make for a good understudy.
The summer-only Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires do an excellent job increasing the amount of mechanical grip the G70 delivers to the driver. Overall handling feel from the driver’s seat doesn’t quite make the G70 feel like a focused sports car, but body roll remains controlled, with the fixed dampers matched to an appropriate spring rate, balancing body control and ride comfort.
Genesis Canada rates the G70 2.0T Prestige at 11.5L/100km in the city, 8.7L/100km on the highway, and 10.3L/100km in a combined cycle. I ended my week of mixed city and highway driving with an indicated average of 10.9L/100km. Premium 91-octane fuel is recommended, and the tank will hold 60L of it. The fuel efficiency estimates are somewhat higher than the estimates for BMW’s 330i xDrive, Audi’s A4 Quattro, and Mercedes-Benz’s C 300 4MATIC, but better than Lexus’ V6-powered IS 300 AWD sedan, for example.
The Genesis G70 starts at $42,000 for the base 2.0T Advanced trim. You still get standard all-wheel drive, that excellent eight-speed automatic transmission, active and passive safety systems, 18-inch wheels (with all-season tires, not performance rubber), push-button start, heated steering wheel, Android Auto/CarPlay smartphone integration, the partial-LCD instrument cluster, and the list goes on. The 2.0T Sport trim ($45,500) is the unique one in the four-cylinder range, with rear-drive, limited-slip differential, and big Brembo brakes rounding out the performance upgrades.
The mid-range 2.0T Elite adds full-LED headlights, genuine leather seating surfaces, power tilt/telescope steering column, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, satellite navigation, upgraded Lexicon audio, and quite a bit more, impressively enough. The 2.0T Prestige ($52,000) sits at the top of the four-cylinder lineup and upgrades you to that snazzy quilted leather, 19-inch wheels with summer tires, adaptive headlights, heads-up display for the driver, wireless phone charging, and the power-adjustable thigh extension. There are no additional options: you just pick the trim you want and go from there – the as-tested MSRP of this particular G70 is $52,000.
BMW’s 330i xDrive sedan is one of the most natural competitors (and still serves as the benchmark), but equipping one similarly to the G70 Prestige sees the pricing jump to just over $60,000. The next 3-Series is just around the corner, so that may change things up some more. Audi’s A4 Quattro is similarly priced, though it offers a dual-clutch transmission which gives the A4 its own unique feel – including the low-speed quirks associated with dual-clutch automatics. The Lexus IS series has also been a long-time value player, but that polarizing styling and dated interior may be a turn-off for some. Then there’s Kia’s own Stinger GT (reviewed here), which gives you that nifty hatchback utility and Korean ergonomics, but also comes with increased overall size and heft.
I’m not totally sure if the G70 2.0T Prestige would be the trim that I would opt for. The 2.0T Sport is probably worth the most consideration in my books; but the twin-turbocharged 3.3L V6 really turns the G70 into a rocket, with its seemingly underrated 365 horsepower figure. The 2019 Genesis G70 2.0T Prestige is priced to offer more goodies and luxuries to the consumer than many of the established marques. The keyword here is “established” – Genesis is still in the process of building up awareness and brand cachet, so they have to compete in ways that don’t necessarily just involve the badge on the hood (see the Genesis at Home program). However, they’re not just competing on price alone, they’re the new brand that happens to be producing great products, full stop.