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  1. Analysis
January 20, 2022

Genesis G80 – better than BMW?

Genesis seeks to stand out with cars that handle like the best German ones, have an instantly recognisable look, are rear- or all-wheel drive and come with powerful propulsion systems, be that pistons or motors. Has Hyundai created a Korean BMW?

By Glenn Brooks

Some take note of the parallels with the brand from Bavaria whereas others look at a G80 and see something else entirely. “Is that a Bentley?” quizzed a passer-by on a street in Waterloo as I climbed out of the big sedan.

That single question from a man who walked around the car eyeing it from all angles will thrill Genesis. The woman with him gave it an admiring glance, declared it “beautiful” but neither knew what it was.

Curious to see if the brand’s advertising and social media presence has cut through to Londoners who look at cars, I asked if the word picked out in large letters across the bootlid meant anything. They both took a second look. Blank faces.

If there’s still work to be done in the UK to land Genesis on premium shoppers’ lists of brands, at least the cars are turning heads.

A modest start in the UK…

Will many people purchase one of these new-to-Britain saloons? I too love how the looks so it’s hard to say this, but I doubt that Genesis will sell many of the ICE-powered versions at least.

The price of petrol and continued general anti-diesel public sentiment aren’t why I say that; it’s more the lack of even partial electrification for either of the G80’s engine options. That’s right, not even mild hybrid systems featuring, which seems a very strange oversight in the context of all the money being spent to launch the brand in our region where a low CO2 average is an essential. But an electric version will surely find far more favour when it lands here later in ’22.

It’s still early days for the brand in the UK as well as the two other European markets selected for the regional roll-out. Compare the tiny volume (127 cars and SUVs sold during the final months of ’21) to the USA (CY21: 54,921) or even more dramatically to South Korea and it’s quite the contrast.

…but becoming ever bigger in Korea

Genesis will never command 8.1 per cent of the British market but that’s the share it rose to last year in the country where all vehicles are built. That was more than enough to secure third position behind the mighty Kia and Hyundai. And the best seller, with almost 60,000 deliveries to eager Korean owners? The G80, including the electric one.

Aside from the beauty which many seem to see in it, what’s so great about this 5 m long sedan that made it account for almost half of Genesis’ volume in South Korea in 2021?

High quality impression

After the eyes take in the elegant appearance and the marque’s distinctive dual-lines theme for the lights front and rear, gently tugging on any of the door handles immediately suggests solidity and precision.

Inside, there are tasteful applications of leather and wood, elegant stitching, thick carpets, plush headlining, minimalist vents, soft lighting and seats to sink into. Only you don’t sink – they hold you well, for the G80 isn’t a big limo which then disappoints in the first corner. Instead, it turns, rides and grips almost like a 5 Series BMW.

Torquey but a tad rattly

The car I was given to try out came with Hyundai-Kia-Genesis’ 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel. It’s economical and has lots of pull yet perhaps not ideally suited to this car.

The G80 is so quiet and refined that when the engine comes to life, a bit of momentary shaking under the bonnet can be sensed. Although I do wonder if we’re all being spoiled by super-quiet electric and petrol cars these days?

The start-stop system’s shudder or the diesel being fired from cold are about the only thing which stands in the way of the G80 having a first class aura about it.

This really does feel like Lexus-meets-Audi. Or Jaguar. In fact, apart the BMW 5er, the car which the Genesis most reminded me of is the XF. Because it doesn’t sell very well, we can forget just how superb that big sedan is.

In the diesel, drive goes to the back axle and like all other ICE-powered versions, the gearbox is HMG’s own eight-speed torque converter automatic. It’s as good as ZF’s 8HP series and Mercedes-Benz’s nine-speed alternatives, which are just about the best in the business.

A bit of history

The is the second generation G80. Released in South Korea in April 2020, it came to Europe in the second half of 2021. As regards engines, a 2,151 cc four-cylinder diesel has been mainly for these two markets only. Stated outputs are 154 kW (210 PS) and 441 Nm (325 lb ft).

The petrol alternatives are either HMG’s Theta 3, which has four cylinders, or the Lambda V6. Each has two turbochargers.

The smaller of the pair of petrols has a capacity of 2,497 cc and produces 224 kW (304 PS) and 421 Nm (311 lb ft), with the 3,470 cc six putting out 280 kW (380 PS) and 530 Nm (391 lb ft). HMG’s SmartStream 3.0-litre straight-six will likely be added to the line-up at the time of a facelift in the second half of 2023.

In the UK, we can choose from either the diesel with rear-wheel drive or the 2.5-litre biturbo petrol, this coming with standard all-wheel drive.

Electric from 2025

As mentioned above, the ‘Electrified G80’ arrives later in the year, part of the brand’s pledge to launch only EVs from 2025 onwards. The eG80 is AWD-only and has an 87.2 kWh SK Innovation battery. Two motors put out a combined 272 kW (370 PS) and 700 Nm. The claimed maximum range for the Korean market car is 430 km (268 miles).

Conclusion

I remember driving – not in the UK – both the previous ‘DH’ G80, which started life as the Genesis Sedan in late 2013 as the replacement for the 2007-2013 Hyundai Genesis (BH). Each was a step up over previous big Hyundais and the new RG3 model is almost a leap, it’s that good.

Hyundai Motor seems deadly serious about taking on the Germans and Lexus, as well as others such as Volvo, Acura, Hongqi, Cadillac, Lincoln, Infiniti and even tiny Jaguar. Will it succeed? Without doubt. China, another new market, will likely take some time, and the same applies to the UK, Switzerland and Germany. But the cars, especially the G80, are more than up to the task.

The G80 diesel is priced from GBP37,460 in Premium model grade, with Luxury trim costing GBP42,260. Petrol cars are GBP43,150 and GBP47,950 before options.

Hyundai targets 10% rise in Genesis sales in 2022

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