New G70 Compact Sedan Helps Hyundai Define Korean Luxury For Its Genesis Brand

Genesis, the two-year-old standalone luxury division within Hyundai Motor Corp., took a major step toward becoming a viable premium brand on Friday, launching its third car – a compact sports sedan with outsized ambition.

The G70, which follows the introduction of the brand’s larger G80 and G90 luxury cars, is Genesis’ first attempt at building a sportier nameplate that can go head-to-head with the world’s bestselling compact luxury sedans: BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Both models are top sellers for their respective brands, and Genesis anticipates a similar boost when the G70 arrives in the U.S. in early spring as a 2019 model.

In an opening salvo signaling grand aspirations for the brand, Hyundai hosted hundreds of global media this weekend at its South Korean headquarters to learn more about the car at its research and development center and test it on the track at Inje Speedway outside of Seoul. Genesis hopes that the G70, which serves as its entry-level model and “the ambassador of this new Korean luxury brand,” will help it reach younger customers than the G80 mid-size and G90 flagship sedans attract.

With its long hood, short front overhangs, and athletic proportions, the G70 embodies the automaker’s concept of “Korean luxury,” a term it will need to define and market in order to poach customers from other premium brands, especially as it gears up to add three more vehicles – two SUVs and a high–performance car – to its lineup by 2021. The G70’s interior, which is as plush as any rivals’, features aluminum door handles and a liberal use of leather: quilted leather door panels, Nappa leather-upholstered seats, and leather-covered dashboard panels.

“In the end, the key element for us is to make a nicely balanced car,” said Albert Biermann, who serves as executive vice president of performance development and high performance vehicles at Hyundai Motor Corp. and Genesis. “You have limited resources and time, so you have to decide at some point what is your priority.”

So far, South Korea’s largest automaker has given its new division the resources and the expertise to develop new vehicles and recruit global talent, such as Luc Donckerwolke, the former Volkswagen Group design director turned chief designer for Hyundai Motor Corp. and Genesis, and Biermann, the former vice president of engineering for BMW’s high-performance M badge.

For G70, Genesis strived to strike a balance among driving precision, agility, and ride comfort, Biermann said. “The fun-to-drive was on top of the list, but the comfort is important,” he said. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 255 horsepower to surpass the 3-Series and C-Class’ base models. The G70 also offers a 365-horsepower, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6. (Some global markets will get a third option for a 2.2-liter diesel engine.)

Pricing will be announced closer to the car’s launch date, but the company said it will “follow Genesis’ strategy in other market entries.” Both the G80 and G90 are priced five figures less than their rival German nameplates.