The premium car market isn’t exactly lacking for choice at the moment.
All the usual suspects from Germany, the UK, Sweden and Japan have at least a couple of options on offer, covering a host of sizes, styles and budgets.
So it takes guts for a relatively unknown brand to shoulder its way among the established marques, slap its brochures on the table and demand to be taken seriously.
Other marques have tried in the past and failed but none has been quite so strident about its ambitions as Genesis.
Rather than a low-key entry into the UK market, a la Lexus, the Korean brand has hit the ground running, sponsoring everything from the Goodwood Festival of Speed to the Scottish Open and launching five models in the first year, including two entries in the ruthlessly competitive SUV segment.
The GV80 is its flagship model, aiming for the big, big guns of the X5, Q7, XC90 and GLE but just beneath it the GV70 is squaring up to an equally intimidating field.
In a segment home to the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60, first impressions count and the GV70 certainly grabs the attention with its massive chromed triangular grille and narrow LED headlights. It’s a clean, fresh style that’s unlike anything else on the market. From the side there are hints of the Mercedes GLC but the individuality returns at the back where four slim blade-like tail lights echo the headlight shape.
The interior is similarly individual. There’s a pleasing simplicity to the layout and materials, and an almost organic curved design where some rivals favour sharp edges. Touches like the asymmetrical panel around the heating controls and the single metal line that sweeps from door top to door top across the dash add character and there’s a smooth tactility to the glass and knurled metal controls.
On every surface and control the material quality feels more than a match for anything else in the segment, with metal, glass and leather liberally applied. Our test car’s red leather upholstery was particularly bold. The red of the seats and dash facing contrasted strongly with the black finish to the dash top and the technical webbing fabric panels on the seats.
It won’t be to everybody’s taste and there are more subdued tones to choose from but compared to the often austere blacks and greys from rivals it’s a refreshingly audacious look.
Being audacious is fine but to seriously compete the GV70 also manages to match its rivals for comfort, quality and ease of use. The cabin feels spacious and airy, especially in models with the panoramic roof. There is generous room for those in the front and the seats are impressively comfortable but rear legroom is nothing out of the ordinary.
Genesis has committed to a number of electrified cars over coming years but the GV70 is resolutely old-school beneath the bonnet and that is among its biggest shortcomings compared with other cars. While rivals offer a variety of hybrid options and various outputs from their range of refined petrol and diesel engines, the GV70 is a straight choice between a 2.5-litre turbo petrol or a 2.2-litre diesel.
Both come with all-wheel-drive as standard and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. We tested the 300bhp petrol which offers a rapid 0-62mph sprint of 6.1 seconds but fairly poor economy of 27.9mpg. As you would hope, it feels more than powerful enough to get the large GV70 moving with ease and, apart from a little roar under hard throttle, it’s pretty smooth and quiet for a four-cylinder unit. However, its relatively poor eco credentials will make it a tough choice for business buyers.
The transmission feels calibrated more for comfort than dynamic driving but that’s okay because it’s a similar story with the chassis. The steering has a reasonable weight and feel but the GV70 can’t match something like an F-Pace or X3 for dynamism or engagement. It does have the measure of them when it comes to comfort, thanks to road-scanning adaptive suspension that can smooth out the worst excesses of this country’s broken roads.
One of Genesis’s big selling points as it tries to lure buyers away from the established brands is convenience. It sells the cars directly to drivers and includes a five-year servicing, warranty, assistance and courtesy car package to make ownership hassle-free.
It also operates a fixed pricing structure, just three trim lines and a handful of options to keep things simple. In a world where many people dread haggling with a salesman in a shiny suit to get a discount on their options, it’s likely to be a model that appeals to many buyers.
The three trim options are Premium, Luxury and the tested Sport, and every car comes laden with all the modern tech and equipment to compete with the high-end spec of its rivals. Every function that can be heated, powered or automated is, from the seats and tailgate to headlight dipping and even fingerprint recognition that will adjust settings automatically to your driver profile. Options packs bring touches such as 3D digital instruments, a head-up display, panoramic roof and heated rear seats.
Much (but not all) of what is on offer is also available on rival cars but Genesis’s trick is to fit so much as standard but still undercut those rivals by thousands of pounds. The GV70 starts at £39,450 and tops out before options at £43,350. The X3, Q5 GLC and XC60 all start at north of £44k and only the F-Pace and smaller Lexus NX get close to the GV70’s starting price.
Being cheaper than the rest wouldn’t be enough on its own to recommend a car but what the GV70 manages is to match its rivals almost everywhere else. It doesn’t set any new standards but its fresh design, refinement, comfort and technology make it easily a match for any car in the class and a legitimate contender.
Genesis GV70 Sport 2.5T
Price: £43,340 (£50,810 as tested); Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 300bhp; Torque: 311lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 149mph; 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds; Economy: 29.7mpg; CO2 emissions: 218g/km