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Craig Duff road tests and reviews the new Hyundai Genesis sedan in South Korea.
Hyundai has beaten the Japanese at their own game by building solid cars with decent features and sharp pricing, a strategy that has lifted the South Korean juggernaut to No. 2 passenger car maker in Australia to date this year.
Now the company that made its name with the too-cheap-to-resist Getz is tackling the prestige car world with a $60,000 Euro-fighter, the Genesis.
It heralds the arrival of a new player in the mid-sized luxury segment. It is loaded with the hi-tech driver aids and luxury materials buyers in this class expect, yet will be about $18,000 cheaper than a comparable BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The car isn't due in Australia until late this year and Hyundai Australia has yet to finalise specifications or even the model range. Funnily enough, that means the company is a bit coy on pricing.
Carsguide believes there will be an entry-level model about $62,000 and a fully loaded version nearer $75,000 — the entry price of the European marques against which the Genesis was benchmarked.
Those base models are fitted with four-cylinder engines that lack the power of the Genesis's V6 mill, though they don't use nearly as much fuel.
As far as features go, if it exists in a Benz or Beemer it's available on the Genesis. There's even an analog clock mounted in the dash — it resembles a traditional timepiece but stays true with satellite synchronicity.
The techno-toy list runs from a head-up display to adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind-spot warning and adaptive suspension damping.
Hyundai has even fitted a carbon dioxide sensor in the cabin. If CO2 levels rise beyond a set threshold the aircon adjusts the mix of fresh and recirculated air to stop the occupants feeling drowsy.
Other smart touches include an auto-opening boot. Stand behind the Genesis for three seconds and it will pop the latch, along with a warning flash of the lights. Unlike rivals, there's no foot waving required.
Who'd have thought we'd see perforated nappa leather and matt-finished timber trim as standard in a Hyundai? There are features of the cabin that are mightily impressive and overall fit and finish are a step up on the company's already high standing.
Big picture stuff apart, it is the little, nuanced items, such as the way the buttons and dials feel under the fingers, that subjectively resonate as true luxury. On that basis, the Genesis isn't quite there yet. It comes close though and there's no other prestige brand with this much bling for the bucks.
Interior space is impressive front or back and the car is generally well thought out. The one criticism came when the sun shone on the South Korean test drive — and reflected glare from the chrome air vent surrounds all but obscured the side mirrors.
The exterior isn't radical. Few executive sedans are, but the sharp crease that runs the length of the big car at door handle height, the wide, tapering hexagonal grille and bejewelled LED headlamp surrounds give it a well-balanced look with the presence needed to make others take a second look.
ANCAP hasn't smashed one yet but it's safe to assume Hyundai hasn't built a luxury limo that can't achieve the five-star rating earned by its regular vehicles.
The US safety authority, NHTSA, gave it a five-star result and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Genesis its top ranking, though that car was fitted with the automatic emergency braking software that's an option there. Hyundai Australia can't yet say whether it will follow suit here.
Nine airbags are standard and there's an active bonnet to stop pedestrians trying to imprint their cranium on the engine or vice versa.
The priority in developing the new Genesis has been poise rather than outright pace. The emphasis is on ride luxury to satisfy US and Middle-East buyers who want a pillowy ride. That doesn't work Down Under and the local engineers are already working on a revised suspension tune to give the car more bite through the corners and less body roll.
The 3.8-litre V6 punches along nicely but in the absence of a turbocharger giving it instant torque it needs a few seconds to wind up. External sounds are subdued — there's virtually no wind noise — and it is only when the right foot is planted to the firewall that the engine emits enough bark to be really heard.
Some coarse-chip surfaces caused a decent amount of tyre rumble but we'll reserve judgment until we see what rubber the Australian-spec cars will have. An expected fuel use of about 11.0L/100km isn't great but it will take decades for the extra fuel to eat into the savings from the purchase price.
The most frightening aspect of the car is that it's already good, if not yet great. Experience shows Hyundais dramatically improve with each successive generation. That means the Genesis will start attracting attention from the top end of town.
Mechanical precision and interior refinement merit the Hyundai being spoken of in the same sentence as the established prestige players. If the price and features are close to Carsguide's predictions, this car will find no shortage of new homes.
|(base)||3.8L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$17,900 – 24,860||2015 Hyundai Genesis 2015 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|(Sensory Pack)||3.8L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$19,400 – 27,060||2015 Hyundai Genesis 2015 (Sensory Pack) Pricing and Specs|
|(Ultimate Pack)||3.8L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$27,000 – 35,750||2015 Hyundai Genesis 2015 (Ultimate Pack) Pricing and Specs|