You’ll have likely forgotten the last time Hyundai’s ‘Genesis‘ name was here in the UK. Then, it was a model rather than a brand in its own right, and a short-lived one at that. The Genesis was sold on these shores for only two years, and little evidence remains of its brief spell in British Hyundai dealerships – just 50 were sold. There are limited-run supercars that aren’t as rare.
For 2021, Genesis is back not just in the UK, but across Europe. It’s now a proper sub-brand, hoping to succeed where Infiniti failed. Nissan’s luxury arm departed the continent a few years ago having failed to make much of an impact, and Toyota‘s Lexus is dwarfed by its traditional German luxury car rivals here. Success, then, is far from guaranteed, but a good start would be bringing some decent product. Which is why we recently found ourselves with the keys to a G80, to see if buying one over something more obvious like a BMW 5-series makes any sort of sense.
It certainly has presence, with notable features including a vast grille, unusual headlamps consisting of four slimline LED bands, and massive side repeaters which carry on the theme. The imposing front gives way to a rear that’s a little awkward-looking in places, but it’s a nicely clean design in the face of some needlessly aggressive, over-styled hot messes we’ve seen from the likes of BMW and Audi. It’s just not quite as pretty as the bigger G90 Genesis revealed a few weeks back.
The news is even better on the inside. In contrast to some of those more obvious German options, which have been getting increasingly nasty bits of cabin trim (don’t get me started on scratchy, creaky piano black trim), I can’t find a single thing to moan about behind the wheel of the G80. And whinging about modern car interiors is my speciality.
The minimalist dashboard has a lovely chunk of open-pore wood running across it, with the climate controls contained below in a need unit combining physical knobs and buttons with touchscreen controls. Above is a very wide touchscreen you can also use with a rotary controller on the centre console which feels – dare I say it – even more satisfying to twiddle BMW iDrive’s. The infotainment system itself is clear, well laid out and offers a crisp display.
On the move, the 2.2-litre inline-four diesel engine in this one doesn’t exactly make for blistering straight-line performance, since 202bhp ain’t much for a two-tonne car. In most situations, it offers perfectly acceptable levels of go, and it’s smooth and refined. If you want to go faster, the all-wheel drive 2.5-litre inline-four petrol provides 300bhp and a six-second 0-62mph time – two seconds faster than the derv.
There is a 375bhp 3.5-litre turbo V6 version sold in some countries, but Genesis doesn’t offer it in the European market. And sadly, the Tau 5.0-litre V8 died off with the previous generation G80. A fully electric version is planned, but for now, the limited engine line-up doesn’t exactly look stellar compared to the myriad options Audi, BMW and Merc offers, particularly when the Genesis oil burner isn’t the MPG hero you might expect it to be.
At motorway speeds, the G80 could do with being a little quieter, but it’s not excessively noisy either. It’s softly sprung and rides well most of the time, if not as smoothly as a Mercedes E-Class. The G80 can also get flustered but imperfections in the road, bouncing around uncomfortably rather than ironing out the rough stuff.
Get it on a twisty road, and it’s clear Genesis is aiming for a more Mercedes rather than BMW kind of driving experience, which is just fine. Back roads are not its natural habitat, but it corners confidently enough, pushing on into some amusingly gentle oversteer when taxed, or in tighter stuff, a little understeer.
The steering’s nicely weighted and consistent through the lock, and although there’s a decent helping of body roll, it’s nothing to worry about. I just wish the suspension was better at tackling imperfections, which on our tragically underfunded British B-roads are a common issue.
All in, it’s a hugely impressive car, just one that doesn’t quite tick all the boxes as successfully as an A6, 5-series or E-Class. It’s close enough, though, that eschewing those options wouldn’t be a bonkers decision. And it’s one you might well be tempted to make, given Genesis’ refreshingly different take on the luxury car remit. If the G80 is anything to go by, the G90 should be mega.