First Drive: The Genesis GV80 is an excellent left-field alternative in the premium SUV market

·5-min read

What is it?

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

In the world of premium cars, there are two things we know well. The first is that SUVs are big business, and the second is that the big German three of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz dominate sales.

Traditionally, breaking into that trio has proved incredibly tough, with only Volvo and Lexus making a good go of it in recent memory. But now there’s a newcomer: Genesis.

The brand has actually been around since 2015 when it launched in its home market of South Korea, and has sold in various markets since, shifting 130,000 units globally last year. It has now set its sights on Europe with the G80 saloon and this, the GV80 SUV.

What’s new?

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

This is a huge SUV that gets the brand’s new ‘Athletic Elegance’ design language, which will be used for all its SUVs going forward. It has undergone extensive development in Europe, including many miles on the Nurburgring circuit in Germany, and has a choice of five- or seven-seat layouts.

New active noise cancellation technology has been introduced to provide a more serene driving experience, there are petrol and diesel engine choices, a four-wheel-drive system and advanced driver assistance technology that has contributed to a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

As a brand, Genesis also wants to do sales differently, with ‘studios’ rather than dealerships, online sales with no haggling, and each owner will get a ‘personal assistant’ who will help them navigate ownership, such as servicing and maintenance.

What’s under the bonnet?

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

The petrol engine is a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder unit making 300bhp and 422Nm of torque. It has a 0-60mph time of 7.5 seconds, returns up to 26.1mpg and registers CO2 emissions up to 288g/km.

The diesel, meanwhile, is a 3.0-litre, in-line six-cylinder unit making 274bhp and 588Nm of torque, with a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds, fuel economy up to 33.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 231g/km.

Both are only offered with all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic.

What’s it like to drive?

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

The first thing that hits you when you climb aboard the GV80 is just how big it is. You sit incredibly high and can see the bonnet stretching out ahead of you, which can make it quite intimidating on smaller UK roads.

But once you’re tuned into its size it’s an incredibly comfortable thing to eat up miles in. It’s definitely happier on more wide open roads, where the comfort-focused suspension can work its magic and make even British roads feel carpet-smooth.

Clever tech can prepare the suspension for potholes and harsher bumps, so despite its size it would also be a comfortable companion for an urban commute. The flip side of this is that it doesn’t like to be thrown into a corner, but nothing about its character compels you to do so anyway.

How does it look?

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

While the G80 saloon could be politely described as ‘aesthetically challenged’, the GV80 wears the Genesis design language much better. For a start, its size means it doesn’t look like it’s being swallowed by its own grille, instead having an imposing presence, with the twin headlight design working well to give it a blocky appearance.

It’s a similar story at the back, where the subtle wedge above and below the rear lights blends better into its surroundings than on the saloon, where it gives the car bizarre proportions. But the subtlety works well here, having just about enough interest to stand out without being too controversial.

What’s it like inside?

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

Much like the saloon, it’s the cabin that really impresses. Genesis is part of the Hyundai family, and too often when mainstream manufacturers try to break into the premium segment, half of their failure comes from an interior that’s just not up to scratch.

Genesis has come in with a clean, modern design using an excellent blend of modern technology, touchscreens and physical buttons – the climate controls with digital displays within aluminium dials are great, while the scroll wheel that controls the high-definition infotainment screen is a unique, well-designed bit of kit.

It’s comfortable, too, with high quality materials throughout, and more space than you could ever ask for.

What’s the spec like?

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

One of Genesis’ selling points is the fact that it wants to enter the premium segment but for a lower price than the established names. There are two trim levels called Premium Line and Luxury Line, with prices starting at £54,000 for the petrol five-seater and £54,000 for the diesel. You pay an extra £500 for a seven-seater and £5,600 to upgrade to the Luxury Line.

Standard equipment includes extensive safety kit, LED headlights and taillights, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, digital instrument display and a 14.5-inch main infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Upgrading to Luxury Line adds 22-inch alloy wheels, quilted leather seats, real wood trim, heated steering wheel and rear air conditioning.

Verdict

Genesis GV80
(Genesis)

On first impressions, Genesis’ first foray into the European market appears to be more impressive than others who’ve tried. The GV80 in particular looks great, has a lovely cabin and is great to drive – though its size will put off just as many people as it attracts.

What’s more, the impressive five-year aftercare package will be a mighty appealing prospect to buyers in this segment, who’d expect to pay a premium for such a service from some rivals.

Only time will tell if it’s successful, but its starting point is a strong one.

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