Genesis is a new name to the UK car market, although the company, which started in 2015, sold 130,000 vehicles worldwide last year alone.
Just as Lexus is the luxury arm of Toyota, and Polestar is of Volvo, Genesis is the upmarket brand of Hyundai – so it comes from a powerful family.
First UK models arrive this summer and the range begins with the G80 saloon and GV80 SUV. G70 and GV70 models plus a handsome GV70 Shooting Brake will follow, plus an electric G80 and two other EVs within the first year.
The G80 comes with either a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels, or a 300bhp 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit with all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed auto gearbox.
At the company’s UK launch I tried the more powerful version of the G80 range, which starts at £47,950, although the test car came out at £63,440.
This is a gutsy but refined performer, loaded to the gunwales with tech. The styling featured Genesis’s trademark double-stacked light clusters front and rear, and the high quality cabin had pleasingly tactile metal buttons, head-up display and diamond-quilted Nappa leather, part of the luxury pack.
Genesis UK’s managing director, Andrew Pilkington, says that although the company is competing with upmarket European manufacturers such as Audi, Land Rover, Mercedes and BMW, it is not going to imitate them and it intends to keep Genesis models distinctly Korean.
As with Polestar, you can’t walk into a dealership and buy one. All sales are online, but you can get a feel for the products at Genesis studios in London (opening soon in Westfield), Munich and Zurich.
“We are not trying to be the same as anyone else – our business model is different. Our customers will be cash rich but time poor so we are putting service above sales,” says Pilkington.
Instead of buying from dealers, customers will be allocated Genesis Personal Assistants, who are salaried and receive no commission. These GPAs are, he says, recruited from retail rather than automotive backgrounds, and their motivation is to make things easier for customers instead of just scoring sales.
So for test drives, cars will be brought to customers’ homes or offices – several times if required - and for servicing, cars will be collected and a similar courtesy car provided until their own vehicle is returned.
The package of making things easier includes a five-year care plan which consists of:
Five-year unlimited warranty
Five-year free servicing
Five-year roadside assistance
Five-year access to a courtesy car
Five-year maps and online updates.
Quality and high tech oozes from every inch of the cabin which includes a nine-speaker sound system as standard or an optional 18 Lexicon speaker system.
The engine is eager and refined, although if you want more engine noise there is a sound tube (not my favourite invention) which introduces more noise via the speakers.
The large front seats are comfortable but anyone over six feet tall might find their head rather close to the roof-lining. Rear head and legroom is fine. Fuel consumption after several hours of mixed driving was a rather disappointing 26mpg, although examples which have covered more miles would hopefully fare a bit better.
Among the barrage of technical innovation is road active noise control which acts rather like noise-cancelling headphones. There is also a system which reads the road surface ahead and adjusts the dampers when it spots ruts and potholes approaching.
Among other safety features are side exit alert, which prevents doors from being opened if passengers fail to spot other vehicles approaching from behind. There is also surround and view monitor for a 360-degree view while parking, blind sport alert, reverse parking collision avoidance.
The overall feel of the cabin is of high quality but not in a British or European way – part of what Andrew Pilkington means by the Korean-ness of the brand. If something looks like attractive open-pore wood, it is wood. The same with leather and metal - no anodised plastics round here, thanks.
I also tried the 3-litre diesel GV80 SUV. Its smooth and husky engine note sounded totally un-diesely. As with its petrol-powered sibling the electronic rev counter and speedo turn into camera screens when you indicate left or right, giving you a clear view down the car’s flanks of any approaching traffic.
This is quite a tall car, and it can be a bit of a haul to get into it, and rear accommodation is rather cramped. Genesis claim a top speed of 143mph and a sticker price of £60,200, although my highly specced test car cost £73,360, which is knocking on the door of a full fat Range Rover.
What Genesis is attempting has been tried before, notably by Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti – and that didn’t go very well. But these first Genesis models lay down a marker putting customer service first, and they may well appeal to customers bored with seeing the same old Mercs, Audis and BMWs everywhere they look.
Genesis G80 2.5T + AWD Five Seater
Price: from £47,950
Top speed: 155mph
Combined mpg: 29.1
C02 emissions: 226g/km
Genesis GV80 3.D + AT8 Seven Seater
Price: from £62,915
Top speed: 143mph
Combined mpg: 35.3
CO2 emissions: 209g/km