£51,655 Price range
The Hyundai Genesis is a large luxury saloon that hopes to break into a tough class that includes models such as the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF. Central to its appeal is a price that undercuts all the similarly specified competition and lots of standard equipment, a formula that Toyota proved can be successful when it launched the original Lexus LS back in the early ‘90s.
That the Genesis is the most luxurious model Hyundai currently offers is immediately apparent when you take a peek at the interior. It features lots of leather and wood, and a bewildering sea of buttons that hint at all the kit on offer. Even the spacious back seat has a centre console that allows passengers in the rear to move the front seats forward.
The Hyundai’s biggest problem is its limited engine range. We say limited, but in fact there is only one to choose from and it’s a 3.8-litre petrol V6 that offers plenty of performance, but can’t hope to match the low running costs of the diesel models offered by all its key rivals.
Hyundai hasn’t bothered offering any options with the Genesis – everything comes as standard. The huge kit list includes heated and ventilated front and rear seats, sat-nav, auto lights and wipers, auto dipping headlights and keyless entry to name but a few.
If, like us, you’re used to Hyundai’s more mundane models such as the Santa Fe and Tucson, then the interior of the Genesis will take time to readjust to. Everywhere you look there’s leather and wood and much of the car’s switchgear is made from metal. It’s a huge step up from the rest of the range, then, but still lags behind all the premium rivals it faces in this class thanks to some cheap feeling plastics, as well as buttons and dials that don’t have the oily smooth operation of the high-end competition.
All models come with an eight-inch display for the sat-nav that is simple to operate and easy to understand, but doesn’t havw clever features such as the dual screen system (which can let passengers watch TV while the driver follows route instructions) that you do get in the Jaguar XF.
Hyundai Genesis passenger space
Passengers in the front seats get eight-way electrical adjustment and lots of space to stretch out, but the same is true for rear-seat occupants. The back seats recline electrically and the front passenger seat can be moved forward by the person behind to give them more legroom. The car’s width means even a third rear passenger won’t feel crushed for elbowroom, but the car’s transmission tunnel does eat into foot room.
Hyundai Genesis boot space
Boot space is pretty average for the class – at 493 litres it’s just a few litres short of the 515-litre boot offered by the larger BMW 7 Series. The boot opening itself is quite restrictive, but unlike in rival saloons, the Genesis’ rear seats split 60:40 (and fold down electrically) to reveal a huge load bay.
Slot the Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic gearbox into drive, prod the accelerator and you’ll be impressed by the car’s shove. But in corners there’s little to encourage spirited driving, despite the car being the only rear-wheel-drive model (the setup usually favoured by enthusiasts) that the company currently offers in the UK.
The Genesis comes with two damper settings Normal or Sport, but in both the suspension offers pillowy comfort that breezes over bumps and road imperfections with ease.
Steer into a curve, though, and the shortfalls of the system are evident. There you’ll find lots of body roll, in either of the two presets, which doesn’t encourage you to push the car to its limits. The same is true on the straights, where the Gensis pitches and wallows in a way you would expect of an American luxury saloon, not a European one. It feels quite unsettled on fast country A roads as a result.
Even the steering is slow-witted and low on accuracy and the Hyundai does little to disguise its huge size in a way that a Jaguar XJ can.
While most rivals offer their luxury saloons with frugal diesels and super-smooth petrol V8s, the Genesis can only be had with a 311hp 3.8-litre V6.
It offers hushed performance – 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds and the car’s top speed is 150mph – but somehow it doesn’t feel quite right in the Genesis. Look at the specs sheets and why that is becomes apparent. Maximum torque (of 293Ib ft) doesn’t arrive until 5000rpm, so you have to work the car’s engine quite hard to get the best of it, in a way you wouldn’t in a rival’s V8. To compare, a 550i BMW delivers 443Ib ft from just 2,000rpm.
The V6’s biggest limitation is undoubtedly its high running costs. Its combined fuel economy rating of just 25.2mpg is pretty poor – diesel rivals offering similar performance can return 50mpg and even the 550i gets 32.8mpg. CO2 emissions of 261g/km see to it that the Genesis sits in the highest band for road tax, setting you back £505 every year.
Euro NCAP doesn’t tend to crash test luxury saloons such as the Genesis, because they sell in much smaller numbers than cheaper models. Nonetheless, we would expect the Hyundai to fare well if it ever was evaluated. A construction composed of high-strength steel means the body should be extremely strong, but you should never have to test that as the car comes with automatic emergency braking, a blind spot warning system and automatic cruise control as standard. If the worst were to happen, it has no less than nine airbags and a system that unlocks the doors when an impact is detected, to let the emergency services access the vehicle. Even pedestrians are protected in a collision by a bonnet that springs up to keep them well away from the car’s hard internals.
Think of any one piece of equipment currently available on a luxury saloon and it will probably comes as standard in the Hyundai. Relative rarities include an electrically operated rear blind, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, an around-view monitor and a system to stop the car’s wipers freezing to the windscreen in cold weather. Pull the doors over gently and the car’s soft-close function shuts them for you, while the panoramic sunroof floods the interior with light and passengers can call on the services of a powerful 14-speaker Lexicon premium sound system.
Although we don’t usually comment on the second-hand values of specific models, the Hyundai’s high price and the less-than-premium badge means it is likely to depreciate quicker than more established luxury saloons.
The Genesis is a decent first stab from Hyundai at building a luxury saloon, but a number of things would put us off signing on the dotted line to buy one ourselves. While nice, its interior just doesn’t exude the quality expected of a car of this type.
A bigger problem is the thirsty petrol engine, which leaves the Genesis at a distinct disadvantage in a class dominated by powerful diesels.
Although we don’t like to say it, the Genesis single biggest issues is its Hyundai badge, which is unlikely to draw buyers away from the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar. That said if we have learnt anything from Hyundai to date it’s that it should never be under estimated and if improvements made across the rest of the range are anything to go by, the Genesis’ rivals have cause to worry.