► Choice of two petrol and one diesel engine
► Rear-wheel drive platform shared with Kia Stinger
► Driven in the UK
If you’ve been paying attention over the last few months, you’ll know there’s a new kid on the premium car block. With a big saloon and SUV already available, the Genesis G70 is the third offering from Korea’s answer to the established European players. A Shooting Brake is on the way for you sensible sorts, with the saloon you’re looking at here the opening gambit.
But, I hear you cry, what’s the G70 aiming at? Well, with the G80 a 5 Series rival, the smaller G70 is a direct competitor for the BMW 3 Series. If you’re trying to get your head around the naming convention, the upcoming GV70 SUV rivals the X3 while the GV80 goes toe to toe with the X5.
So, there's plenty of engine choice?
Err, no. Despite the plug-in hybrid being an ever more popular choice in the compact executive class and mild hybridisation becoming the norm for petrol and diesel models, the G70 has just two regular engines. There’s a 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel for those that are looking to buck current trends and a 2.0-litre petrol in two power outputs.
At the bottom of the range is a 194bhp unit that’s relatively sluggish, while there’s also a 242bhp version that’s far brisker on paper. None of the units have particularly impressive CO2 or economy figures, making this a tough sell to company car users. A 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 is available in other markets, but not in the UK currently.
Does the lack of a properly punchy model matter?
Potentially, yes. The G70 is rear-drive only and shares a platform with the rather entertaining Kia Stinger. Furthermore, Sport Line models like our test car get a few trinkets to help you make the most of its layout.
Ignoring the usual styling guff, there’s adaptive dampers with switchable modes taking you from squishy to stiff, beefy four-pot Brembo brakes up front, a sports exhaust, stickier tyres and a mechanical limited-slip diff. Coupled with bespoke tuning for European tastes, the end result is really rather impressive.
So, what’s it like on the road?
In Comfort mode there’s a pleasant waft to proceedings and enough give in the sidewalls to avoid feeling lead-footed over crumbling road surfaces. Larger crests and compressions taken at speed reveal a slightly loose edge to proceedings, but on the whole it’s a more cushioned experience than an adaptively sprung 3 Series. Not bad considering our test car rode on 19in wheels.
Flick the G70 into Sport and any unwanted float is eliminated, giving a firm edge that’s arguably a bit much for general schlepping, but works well over challenging B roads if you don’t mind being jostled around a little. Big impacts don’t deflect you from your chosen trajectory, body roll is kept well in check and the nose resists washing wide well.
The presence of the diff means you can coax the tail into steering the car if you slacken the electronic safety nets, too. However, even with 242bhp to call upon, you’ll just feel a slight tightening of your line in all but the slowest of bends. More importantly for the day to day, the steering is well weighted, precise and even delivers a modicum of connection to the road’s surface.
Where's the rub?
It’s a shame the engine isn’t livelier. Although it’ll do 0-62mph in 6.1sec according to the official figures, it just doesn’t feel all that quick on the road despite a fast-acting eight-speed automatic gearbox. That’s no surprise as it’s heavier and considerably less torquey than the equivalent BMW 330i.
Even with the sports exhaust it sounds a bit flat – not that the 330i is a particularly sonorous thing – so you might actually prefer flicking the ‘sound enhancer’ on to pretend you’ve got more than four cylinders under the bonnet.
These are fairly minor woes compared to the real kicker, efficiency. No G70, not even the diesel, dips below the 37% BIK tax bracket making them a hard sell to company car users. Then there’s the economy; on a long and gentle motorway run we saw a best of 34mpg. Throw in some heavier acceleration plus a bit of town driving and you’ll see that dip to nearer 28mpg, with a spirited run cross country putting it into the teens.
To put things into perspective, that’s sub-330i performance with real-world economy figures easily beaten by the far faster and four-wheel drive M340i. Ouch.
Will the interior win me over?
Apart from a few chintzy chrome plastic bezels, the interior is a nicely put together place with a good spread of suitably premium materials and switches that work with well-damped precision. The 10.25in touchscreen infotainment system is sharp and responsive, albeit a lightly refaced version of what you’d find in a modern Hyundai or Kia.
The 12.3in digital dials are available with 3D-effect graphics that look good and don’t make your eyes go slightly squiffy like those found in Peugeots. The dials change depending on driving mode and the centre section can show a variety of information, yet you’ll find Audi and Mercedes’ equivalents have far more customisation options.
Front space is plentiful and there are plenty of areas to empty your pockets into. Things aren’t so spiffing for those in the back; leg room is OK for the class with head room proving tight for those above the six-foot mark. A chunky centre and raised centre seat means it’s not great for three back there.
The boot is also a bit disappointing with less space than key rivals and even a Volkswagen Golf. It’s long and wide enough, with depth being the real issue here.
Genesis G70: verdict
Let’s start with the good. The G70 is certainly a decent drive, with a good blend of comfort and cornering ability depending on what setting you’re in. Tactile steering and a smooth, obedient automatic gearbox help make this something you can really enjoy driving.
At least, it is if you can ignore what lurks under the bonnet. Like the G80 we tested previously, the G70’s engines lack the punch and parsimony required in this class, while the lack of any hybrid offering is something of an oversight.
With interior space being on the tight side and pricing that’s competitive but in no way a bargain, you’d have to really fall for the looks or the promise of a stress-free ownership experience. For some that might be enough, but we need a bit more convincing to recommend it.
Read more Genesis reviews here