Hyundai's luxury brand Genesis has now been launched in the UK and selected markets in Europe, but will probably only come to Ireland in 2022 when the range expands. We've driven its latest saloon, the G80 and come away fairly impressed with its style and value in a tough segment. However, to be successful if has to be able to beat not just Lexus, but the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and that could be a very tough ask given how good the A6, 5 Series, E-Class and ES are, to name but a few.
In the Metal:
Genesis had to do something to look a bit different and it's done so under the banner of 'Athletic Elegance." That's the overall idea, but within that it has what it calls a "two lines" design language, simply because at the front, along the side and at the rear there are, you guessed it, two distinct lines. Things aren't going to be complicated here it seems.
Actually, that's very much the point because Genesis wants to keep things simple. It won't have lots of dealerships, just what it calls "studios" (though what's going to happen in Ireland, we don't yet know). There you'll be able to relax, look at the cars, have a coffee and, if you feel like it, chat to a personal assistant who isn't going to try to sell you a car. If you want to drive one, then a model will be delivered to your home or office, as will the car you actually buy. If you need to have it serviced, then it'll be picked up and a similar specification courtesy car will be left with you. It's all about making the whole experience as relaxing as possible.
So too is the interior, which is very spacious with a high level of quality and some great materials. It's not surprising that when we stopped to chat to the owner of a classic car, he looked inside and asked which Bentley we were driving. Granted Bentley might not appreciate that, but Genesis certainly will. There are acres of leatherette or even full Nappa leather. Open-pore wood further adds to the luxury feel and the bits that look like knurled metal really are metal, rather than plastic designed to fool you.
It's all very posh without the need to pay posh car money, which is probably the point.
There is a 2.2-litre diesel version of the Genesis G80, but we drove the 2.5 turbo petrol version with its 300hp and 422Nm of torque. It's definitely not about the numbers though; the power is just to haul this limo around in relaxed comfort without the engine making much noise. It does that very well indeed, keeping most of the sounds of the engine and outside world at bay while you relax and enjoy the optional 18-speaker Lexicon Premium sound system.
The G80 has a great driving position with plenty of adjustment and good visibility, although the rear parcel shelf does seem a little high. The steering is a pleasure with reasonable feedback if you drive enthusiastically and the acceleration is responsive and brisk when you want it to be. Be warned though: it can be thirsty, and we saw an economy figure as low as 11.4mpg, although Genesis quotes an official combined figure under WLTP of 31.2mpg.
While this car can be hustled, it is at its best cruising along and allowing occupants to enjoy the electronically controlled suspension soaking up the bumps. The G80 can even predict those bumps thanks to what Genesis calls Road Preview, similar to the Mercedes Magic Ride system. A camera scans the road ahead and then adjusts the suspension to smooth out the bumps and potholes as best it can.
What you get for your Money:
Value for money is one of the main things Genesis wants to do to set itself apart from rivals. So, this is where there's a temptation to include a link to the spec list on the Genesis website rather than try to tell you all that's in it, simply because there is so much, but here are some highlights. There's a great digital instrument cluster that even provides a video feed of your outside blind spots when you indicate. The 14.5-inch infotainment display includes augmented reality and the whole system is easy to use via a centre console dial, voice control or buttons on the steering wheel.
Talking of buttons, there are lots. This is not a car for those people who think everything should be in a touchscreen these days. However, they are all very well laid out and easy to use. Standard audio is a nine-speaker set-up.
There are only two trim lines - Premium and Luxury. We drove the latter, which included an Innovation Pack, Comfort Pack and the Nappa leather seats. There's also an Executive Pack with things like rear seat entertainment screens. So basically, you choose the trim line that has the luxury or gadgets you want and you're all done, barring a few options like the audio.
Value is also apparent in the five-year care plan. This includes the warranty, servicing, courtesy car service, roadside assistance, navigation maps and over-the-air-updates, for five years.
Genesis first launched in its home market of South Korea in 2015 and today is the number one premium seller there. In Europe it is at the beginning of its journey, but with the G80 it is off to a good start. Not only is it something different, but it ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to luxury, technology and value for money. It's not just Hyundai's premium brand, it's a premium brand period. There's more to come too, with the G70 saloon and shooting brake, GV70 SUV and a couple of electric models on the way, all of which are likely to be the main sellers if, or when, Genesis launches in Ireland.