Fresh from victory in this year’s Car of the Year award with the Kia EV6, should we be taking the Hyundai/Kia/Genesis group more seriously in the electric car (EV) market? After all, the E-GMP platform (which is shared by the GV60 tested here as well as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the title-winning EV6) features advanced technology which most rivals simply don’t have.
For instance, the 800-volt electronics speed flows of charge in and out of the 479kg, 77.4kWh lithium-ion battery and make it possible to charge at 350kW DC. While there aren’t very many of these super-fast chargers in the UK at present, if you live near one that’s an 80 per cent charge in only 18 minutes, which is pretty much the answer to electric driving.
Faced with a choice of EV6 and Ioniq 5, we preferred the styling of the EV6 over the Ioniq’s admittedly striking SUV stance and we certainly liked the better ride quality of the Kia in rear-wheel-drive form, with its 328-mile range and with prices from £40,949.
But the company doesn’t want to stop there with battery electric versions of its existing marques. It revealed plans for a luxury saloon the Genesis in 2004 and in 2015 it launched the name as an all-new luxury brand in the manner of Honda’s Acura, Toyota’s Lexus, Nissan’s Infiniti and Peugeot-Citroën’s DS brands.
Designed in Germany, South Korea and the USA, and built in the Group’s massive Ulsan plant in South Korea, the first model was the Korea-only G90 followed by the G80 (a rebadged Hyundai Genesis), followed by the G90 and G70 saloons. In 2020 came the first SUV, the GV80. Last year it launched its first electric vehicle as well as an astonishing looking saloon/coupé concept, the X, which proves that, if nothing else, Genesis is unafraid to enter territory where rivals fear to tread – think Jaguar with its great-looking battery-powered XJ slaoon, which was canned before lockdown.
So the GV60 is a battery electric SUV, which at 4,515mm in length is 100mm shorter than its Hyundai and Kia alternatives, think Audi Q4 e-tron in size. Other rivals include the Volkswagen ID 4, BMW iX3 and Mercedes-Benz EQA.
Try to disregard the Seventies Day-Glo paint job on the Genesis driven here, which in photographs isn’t far off the shade of the original Lamborghini Miura. Actually, this is arguably better looking than its Hyundai and Kia sisters and combines a clever Seventies coupé look, with even a hint of Yoshihiko Matsuo’s 1969 Datsun 240Z around the window line, along with the fashionable crossover ride height.
Its shorter body gives it a foreshortened appearance, with less of the hulking broodiness that affects the opposition where the bulk squeezes out in odd places like a fat man in “budgie smuggler” swimwear. The only weak point seems to be the dead-rear view, which looks strangely upright and a bit boring.
Genesis spends a lot of time talking about luxury, but that’s a strange beast these days, often trading practicality for exclusivity; suitcases are perceived as more luxurious than wheeled bags, fabric hoods trump electric folding roofs, a mechanical timepiece over an Apple watch.
Hence the distinctive cameras that can be specified for an extra £1,240 on top models to replace the door mirrors might seem the vanguard of technical progress, but they aren’t very easy to use within the car and despite being around for some years now (on Audi e-tron models and even the diminutive Honda e electric city car) they remain quirky. Luxury is as luxury does, but Genesis needs to define its ground a bit more clearly than merely chasing gimmicky new stuff, especially if it answers questions no one has been moved to ask – Genesis remained tightlipped about the aerodynamic advantage of said door cameras.
The interior is refreshingly free of Genesis’ previous efforts at luxury, although the clotted cream-hued interior is pretty Great Gatsby and looks as though it would wear poorly. The big exception however is the crystal-sphere gearchange, which vies with Aston Martin's crystal ignition key and the Maserati dashboard clock in the pantheon of automotive kitsch.
In front of the driver is a double oblong instrument panel/touchscreen, very similar to that in the current generation of Mercedes models. The binnacle has rather too much going on, but at least the sans-serif graphics are clear and concise. It’s a similar story with the touchscreen, but at least there’s also a capstan control on the centre console for those who don’t want to be distracted stabbing fingers at the glass rather than looking at the road.
Most of the features ape those in the Hyundai and Kia equivalents, but there are a few extras such as quiet mode, along with various artificial engine noises. The heater controls are pulled out on their own with a separate screen and buttons, while the steering wheel is also laden with buttons and has a pair of paddles behind the rim to control the amount of regenerative braking.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive with electric adjustment. Top models get air pockets in the back and bolsters, which inflate when going quickly or cornering hard to support the driver and passenger. The driving position is high, but not precipitous, and views out are pretty good, although the door and rear pillars are too wide to safely conduct over-the-shoulder checks, so you have to rely on the side detectors.
In the rear, however, the accommodation isn’t over-generous. Despite the adjustable backrests, six-footers will find their heads brushing the roof, particularly if you select the sunroof option which further reduces headroom. The rear seats split 60/40 onto their bases which gives a usefully flat load bed. There is space under the boot floor for some of the charging cables (although our cars had a Velcro-secured case in the boot) and a 20-litre storage area under the bonnet.
The luggage area is 430 litres behind the rear seats and under the tonneau cover, and 1,550 litres stacked to the roof, with the rear seats folded. The Audi Q4 e-tron has an equivalent of 520/1,490 litres and the Tesla, which has no load cover, will stack 854 litres to the roof in the boot with the rear seats up and if you add all the space together it totals 2,100 litres.
On the road
The business of reducing the tendency of these tall, heavy vehicles to roll markedly during cornering while retaining at least a degree of suspension compliance for comfort is a dark art. Some managed it better than others. Hyundai, for example, has endowed the Ioniq 5 with a bone-shaking ride and a gritty vibration at high speed, where Kia’s suspension engineers have almost managed to avoid these traits with the similar EV6.
Genesis cuts a middle path and strangely the tyre size doesn’t appear to have much impact on the ride quality, but damping does. In fact, if anything, the less powerful, lighter (1,975kg) rear-wheel-drive Sport model on manual, frequency-reactive dampers, rides more stiffly despite its 19-inch wheels and tyres. Normally, we’d expect it to be among the more comfortable variants.
It's difficult to be absolutely certain about this because of the well-maintained German roads where we tested the car but the forward-seeing camera on the top model, which slackens the automatically-adjusting dampers when it detects undulations ahead, seems to work very well even if Tyrone Johnson, the European head of research and development, says the system isn’t quite as clever as it seems and they have to play some tricks to allow it to better deal with sharp-edged bumps.
On this acquaintance, the 2.1-tonne 4x4 Sport Plus model with adaptive damping feels well balanced and responsive, with huge amounts of grip from its 21-inch wheels and Michelin tyres. The steering moves accurately off the dead-ahead and while there’s no actual feedback the car is easy to place and inspires confidence.
The “drift mode” is a bit of a gimmick but, should you be inclined to drive like a hooligan, with the traction control switched off you can ease the throttle mid-bend and get the tyres howling and eventually feel the tail gently slide out.
The braking set-up is also well judged. The GV60 stops relatively seamlessly even if it does come to a halt with a bit of bump as the system throws all the braking effort into the friction linings after prioritising current capture. As well as carrying a large amount of silver buttons, the steering wheel also has a couple of paddles behind it which control the regenerative braking, which is by far the best way to do it.
The Telegraph verdict
You might reasonably wonder whether the world needs yet another “luxury brand” which trades on gimmicks and occasionally dubious technology, but Genesis offers a bit more substance than that. Its five-year package means that you get not only that timespan or 50,000 miles of warranty, but also free servicing during that period, free pick up and drop off for those services and a courtesy car of equal quality/price.
Genesis is claiming a first with this, but others have been here before, not least General Motors’ Saturn in the US and Daewoo in Europe. In those cases, however, the product was deeply lacklustre, whereas the GV60, while expensive, is up there with the best.
There’s no need to go to the dealer, in fact, as the price is set (what Saturn used to call “a no dicker sticker”), although while some will welcome the opportunity never to set foot in a car dealership again, in the past some manufacturers have highly abused fixed pricing schemes with abnormally high prices.
You pays your money and takes your choice. I’d take the rear-drive EV6 every time, but some will find the whole Genesis package irresistible.
So, order restored after a succession of EVs that work best in their cheapest, simplest form. It’s a relief to find that with the GV60 you pay more money and get a significantly better car.
Body style: five-door, five-seat family SUV coupé/crossover
On sale: now
How much? from £65,405
How fast? 155mph, 0-62mph in 4.0sec
How economical? 2.9 miles per kWh
Electric powertrain: 77.4kWh lithium-ion battery powering twin electric motors with single-speed step down gear. Four-wheel drive
Electric range: 228 miles
Maximum power/torque: 482bhp/446lb ft
CO2 emissions: zero at tailpipe
VED: zero rated
Warranty: five years/50,000 miles with free servicing and courtesy car
Audi Q4 e-tron 40 Sport, from £44,990
Front-heavy design, but a rather lovely and spacious interior which is more than large enough for two rows of adults. This rear-drive version has a similar power output and range (316 miles) to the rear-drive Genesis.
Hyundai Ioniq 5, from £37,600
Track-stopping appearance and a fine interior, with a similar set of drivetrains as the Genesis. The 4.6-metre length makes it quite big, but there’s room for five adults with space to spare. The only trouble is that it rides like a wooden duck on a string.
Tesla Model Y, from £55,990
This jacked-up version of the Model 3 will potentially be Tesla’s best seller. It has more space than the 3, but that comes at the cost of efficiency and range (315 miles). Tesla’s fast Supercharger network will convince a few, but the ride is pretty awful.
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