Genesis GV70 review: the premium SUV that dares to be a little different

·12-min read
Genesis hopes to become a luxury car brand that combines a good after-sales package combined with a polished finish - Genesis
Genesis hopes to become a luxury car brand that combines a good after-sales package combined with a polished finish - Genesis

You want a premium SUV, just like all the other school run mums and dads have, but you don’t want the same one. Everyone has a BMW X3, Audi Q5, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLC or Volvo XC60 these days. If you want something different, there’s only the Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus NX or Alfa Romeo Stelvio – and now the Genesis GV70.

In case you missed the news of its launch, Genesis is an offshoot of Hyundai, and an attempt to start and grow a Korean luxury car brand that offers the company’s famously good after-sales package combined with a more polished finish. Think of it then, roughly, as Lexus is to Toyota, and Infiniti to Nissan.

The marque launched in the UK last year with the G80 saloon and GV80 SUV; now, here come the G70 and GV70, again a saloon and SUV respectively. We’ll bring you a review of the former soon, but for now it’s time to see whether it can truly offer an alternative to the establishment.

In the beginning...

Our Genesis GV70 had a mid-range Sport Line trim and weighed in at just above £43,000 - Genesis
Our Genesis GV70 had a mid-range Sport Line trim and weighed in at just above £43,000 - Genesis

Our test car is a 300bhp 2.5-litre petrol turbo in mid-range Sport Line trim, weighing in at a shade over £43,000. That’s remarkably good value when you size it up against its rivals; for similar money, a BMW X3 will get a piffling 181bhp and less equipment to boot, while an equivalent Jaguar F-Pace will cost more than £5,000 extra and still have around 50bhp less.

Of course, most buyers will probably opt for the 207bhp diesel instead, which will save them £1,550; to save even more, they can also opt for the cheaper Premium Line version. This might be even more affordable, but its specification doesn’t quite cut it, with faux leather seats where most of the premium establishment give you the pukka hide. That you can’t upgrade to the real deal, either, is a weird quirk.

Mind you, you do get a bunch of equipment you’d normally have to pay extra for elsewhere, even on this base model: adaptive cruise control, for example, and electronically controlled suspension that reads the road ahead and adjusts itself to suit.

Sport Line adds leather upholstery (real this time), along with heated front seats, three-zone climate control, ambient lighting and sportier styling (including a pair of enormous exhaust finishers that wouldn’t look out-of-place on a Max Power cover car), while the priciest GV70 is the Luxury Line, which gets bigger wheels as standard, but otherwise apes the spec of the Sport Line.

Internal politics

Most of the major functions are controlled by a small touchscreen on the dashboard that’s a bit fiddly to use but looks sleek - Genesis
Most of the major functions are controlled by a small touchscreen on the dashboard that’s a bit fiddly to use but looks sleek - Genesis

Big, chunky door handles and hefty doors mean the GV70 feels the part on first acquaintance. Our test car’s interior is finished in a fairly violent shade of red, but if that isn’t to your liking there’s a suite of alternative options to choose from, with the usual grey and black supplemented by cream, tan and brown.

Go for the optional Nappa leather and you get diamond quilting and contrast stitching, too, along with illumination that lights up along with the ambient lighting, showing through the aluminium inserts on the doors in a pattern. This is all high-end stuff, the likes of which you just don’t usually find on a car of this price.

But there are catches, too. While some of the aluminium is real, some of it is not – most notably, the internal door handles, which are actually flimsy-feeling silver plastic where you’d find chrome inside most premium rivals.

The same goes for the unusual knurled switches at the ends of the stalks and the paddles behind the steering wheel; they might be painted silver, but they’re plastic too. And the faux leather used to cover the dash feels a little cheap; perhaps dense, high-quality plastics might have been a better bet.

If you opt for Nappa leather, you get diamond quilting and contrast stitching, along with illumination that lights up - Genesis
If you opt for Nappa leather, you get diamond quilting and contrast stitching, along with illumination that lights up - Genesis

Unusually, the dash is dominated not by a touchscreen but by a large, oval swathe of glossy black plastic which encompasses the climate control panel and the switchgear down to the right of the steering wheel.

The climate control uses two physical rotary dials instead of touch-sensitive controls, which is good, but most of the major functions are controlled by a small touchscreen that’s a bit fiddly to use.

Thankfully, though, they haven’t been folded into the menu system of the main screen. This perches atop the dash, and is controllable either by touch or by using the central capstan, which is handy because the left-hand side is quite a stretch away. The menu system is quite extensive but sensibly laid out which makes it easy to use, and the high-resolution display is rather lovely to look at.

The boot is roughly on a par with its rivals in size, but the sloping rear glass means it isn’t quite as useful for big, bulky items - Genesis
The boot is roughly on a par with its rivals in size, but the sloping rear glass means it isn’t quite as useful for big, bulky items - Genesis

Also good are the steering wheel controls. These look to be touch-sensitive, as seems to be the latest nonsensical fad, but in fact behind the sheet of glossy black plastic sit physical buttons, so you don’t accidentally activate the functions they control while you’re twirling the wheel.

You sit down quite low in the front of the GV70, nestling between the high centre console and the door bin, and that makes it feel rather cosy, though in reality there’s plenty of head and leg room. The view out over the long, rippling bonnet is good, too, and the boot is roughly on a par with its rivals in outright size, though the sloping rear glass means it isn’t quite as useful for big, bulky items.

Sound logic

The Sport Line adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, three-zone climate control, ambient lighting and sportier styling - Genesis
The Sport Line adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, three-zone climate control, ambient lighting and sportier styling - Genesis

The GV70 springs to life at the touch of a starter button, the engine settling to a whispering idle. Unless you’ve opted to beef up the sound it makes, that is; the engine note can be artificially invigorated via the speakers. This is nothing new, of course, but Genesis offers you the option to adjust the amount of artificial noise you get – or to turn it off completely, which isn’t often the case.

And turning it off completely, as it turns out, is what you should do, because with the system activated, even in “soft” mode, it makes the GV70 sound like a diesel. Yet on its own, the brawny four-cylinder engine sounds surprisingly good, opening up to a raspy warble as you pile on the revs, a little like a muted old Ford Pinto unit breathing through carburettors.

At low speeds, though, it’s remarkably tranquil, as is the eight-speed auto, which shifts quickly and smoothly, and manages to be in just the right gear all the time. The effect is one of smooth, fuss-free grunt.

The GV70 is soft; Genesis claims to have prioritised comfort, and you can tell by the way the GV70 lopes over crests and into dips. That magic, prescient suspension system isn’t foolproof, however; the wheels do pick up some of the road’s imperfections, and just occasionally the GV70 shimmies from side to side on a rough country road as a series of potholes catch it off balance.

The Genesis GV70 is "comfortable enough, but not entirely serene" - Genesis
The Genesis GV70 is "comfortable enough, but not entirely serene" - Genesis

The overall effect is comfortable enough, but not entirely serene, and now and again you just wish the suspension was a bit more controlled, to stop the GV70’s wheels clumping into ruts and its body swaying around.

This susceptibility to potholes makes itself felt if you up the pace a bit, too, at which point it starts to knock the front wheels off-line mid bend, meaning you have to hold the steering wheel quite firmly to make sure the GV70 continues in the direction you require.

That soft suspension also means the body rolls quite a bit; the GV70 can’t match the taut, poised feel you’d find in a BMW or Audi. All of this can make it feel like a bit of a handful at times, especially if you clobber the throttle with abandon here, there and everywhere.

The rough with the smooth

Rough and ready: the GV70 is quite good fun if you grab it by the scruff of the neck and ignore its pitching and rolling. - Genesis
Rough and ready: the GV70 is quite good fun if you grab it by the scruff of the neck and ignore its pitching and rolling. - Genesis

Treat it with more finesse, though, and the GV70 can be rather good fun. There’s plenty of grip and the front turns in quickly and eagerly, so even though the body rolls over you can still get a fair old lick on.

There’s plenty of traction, too (four-wheel drive is standard on every GV70), so if you feed in the throttle so as not to upset the body too much on the way out of a bend, the GV70 hunkers down and yomps off along the next straight.

The engine really is a powerhouse, with huge amounts of low-down grunt and that lovely wail at the top end to tempt you into holding each gear. It’s a shame about the gearbox, though; sometimes it doesn’t change when you ask it to, and sometimes it changes for you. There’s no proper manual mode to prevent it from doing this, so while you can flick the gears up and down with the paddles, the car takes over again as and when it sees fit.

It’s a bit rough and ready, then, the GV70, but quite good fun if you grab it by the scruff of the neck and ignore its pitching and rolling. It is thirsty, though; in the real world, you’ll be lucky to see 25mpg, and even the flattering WLTP test didn’t produce a Combined figure that could crack the 30mpg mark. Despite having a six-cylinder engine and 55bhp more, a BMW X3 M40i can better it.

Yet what you spend on fuel you may well make back on running costs, because Genesis will throw in the first five years of servicing free of charge, along with a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty and five years’ roadside assistance.

That’s quite a remarkable offer, and it doesn’t end there, because you also get free collection and delivery with a courtesy car, instead of having to take your car to a dealer.

All of this is organised by your “personal assistant”, a single point of contact you liaise with throughout the purchase process and then on throughout your ownership.

Genesis has a few “studios” dotted around the country, but no dealers; prices are no-haggle, and the personal assistants don’t operate on a commission basis. Their job is to bring you a car to test drive at your convenience, to show you around it and answer any of your questions, to take your order and then to deliver your car to you.

The Telegraph verdict

Good value: the GV70 might just be enough to make it worthy of a place at the school gates - Genesis
Good value: the GV70 might just be enough to make it worthy of a place at the school gates - Genesis

This, in all likelihood, will be the thing that attracts buyers to Genesis, over and above the cars themselves.

And why not? Nobody likes going to a dealership and haggling with a smarmy salesperson, after all, and time is a luxury money can’t buy, so giving it back to customers in this way is a smart move by this upstart marque. Throw in that remarkable aftersales package and it’s hard not to be wooed.

As for the GV70, viewed in isolation it isn’t as good as the best premium SUVs. It lacks their polish and in this form it’s too thirsty; what’s more, with no hybrid options in the range, it makes no sense as a company car.

But for private buyers, it is extremely good value. Combined with the purchase and after-care experience it comes with, that might just be enough to make it worthy of a place at the school gates.

The facts

Genesis GV70 2.5T Sport Line

Price: £43,350 on the road
Speed: 149mph, 0-62mph in 6.1sec
Economy: 29.7mpg (WLTP Combined)
Engine/gearbox: 2,497cc four-cylinder petrol with 300bhp, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive
The electric bits: N/A
Electric range: N/A
CO2 emissions: 218g/km
VED: £1,345 first year, £490/year for five years thereafter, then £155/year
Warranty: 5 years / unlimited miles
Boot size: 542 litres
Spare wheel as standard: No (optional extra)

The rivals

BMW X3 xDrive20i M Sport

181bhp, 36.7mpg, £45,170 on the road

BMW X3 xDrive20i M Sport
BMW X3 xDrive20i M Sport

Yes, it must make do with a huge power deficit in this form, but the X3 is still sweeter to drive, classier inside and roomier to boot. However, it’s also more expensive to buy, and you don’t get the Korean car’s excellent care package either – nor anywhere near as long a warranty.

Jaguar F-Pace P250 R-Dynamic S

⇢ 246bhp, 29.7mpg, £48,980 on the road

Jaguar F-Pace P250 R-Dynamic S
Jaguar F-Pace P250 R-Dynamic S

The F-Pace in this form is a delight to drive, with beautifully weighted controls, a supple ride and silky handling – and the punchy petrol turbo is a joy to use, too. It isn’t bristling with quite as much tech as the Genesis and it’s a lot more costly to buy – but you might feel the driving experience is worth it.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 Turbo Sprint

197bhp, 33.2mpg, £45,249 on the road

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 Turbo Sprint
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 Turbo Sprint

Another SUV that roundly beats the Genesis on its driving experience, but actually the GV70 has the Stelvio licked in most other areas. It feels smarter inside, it’s vastly more powerful, once again it’s cheaper to buy and, of course, it’s backed by a much more comprehensive warranty.

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