Car reviews - Hyundai - Genesis - Sedan
Premium features, ride comfort, style, value for money
Room for improvement
Uninspiring engine, market perception
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30 Mar 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
HYUNDAI has a reputation for value and the Genesis doesn’t disappoint. The problem isn’t necessarily what it offers in the equipment list.
There are 19 manufacturers in the prestige passenger car sector. It’s a fearful den to enter and segment newcomers like Hyundai, with not a lot of experience dealing with the particular customers, may find it all a bit nerve-racking.
So it’s armour is value. Genesis is a single model priced at $60,000 plus on-road costs. There are two option packs, Sensory which takes the price to $71,000 and the Ultimate which is $82,000.
The Ultimate is tested here and it cherry picks the top shelf of luxury and safety items.
While the features of the entry level car are probably sufficient for most, the Ultimate hurls items such as double-stitched premium-grade leather seats with the driver having 12-way electric adjustment including under-thigh extensions, four-way lumbar support and heating and ventilation. And that’s just the front seat.
There is an exhaustive list of convenience features but the important ones include the 9.2-inch touchscreen with a satellite-navigation system that has three years of free HERE maps, SUNA live traffic updates and incorporates a reversing camera, cross-traffic alert and a bird’s-eye view courtesy of multiple side cameras.
The extensive safety kit continues with active cruise control that adjusts speed to suit the car ahead, automatic emergency braking, automatically-dipping headlights, lane-change assist, blind-spot monitor, tyre pressure monitor and nine airbags.
If that makes you a bit light headed, the cabin has a carbon-dioxide sensor that will replenish the interior with fresh air to reduce chances of the driver nodding off.
Hyundai report that the car recorded the highest crash rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), with a score of 36.88 from a possible 37. Similar safety praise has been received from American insurance firms.
While scrolling down the list of equipment, note also the head-up display of the dashboard, the panoramic sunroof, the electric adjustment of the steering wheel, rear audio and ventilation controls and rear heated seats, park-assist that uses eight sensors to automatically park the car, and a large 7.0-inch “supervision’’ cluster between the main instrument gauges.
The Ultimate’s front and rear wheels are different sizes, requiring a space-saver spare.
The United States and South Korea markets have adjusted to a big Hyundai thanks to a first-generation sedan and coupe. For Australia, it’s an oddity.
The incoming Genesis is a rear-drive sedan that follows the format of, ironically, the outgoing Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore. Both these Australian models are retiring because of low demand for a large, rear-drive car.
Hyundai isn’t listening. Genesis sits on a long 3010mm wheelbase that is only 1mm longer than the Holden Caprice. That indicates cabin space, and particularly rear-seat legroom, is on par with the big Holden but that’s not the case.
But while rear-seat legroom isn’t in the Caprice’s class, the Genesis is still a big, sumptuous car. It will undoubtedly see duty in hauling executives from the airport and acting as the wedding-day conduit to marital bliss. Already, about 50 per cent of sale inquiries are from charter limousine businesses.
At 1890mm wide, it’s also liberal on elbow-room. But the pronounced prop-shaft tunnel means it’s better with two rear-seat occupants.
The boot is 493 litres, smaller than the Caprice’s 531 litres, and even down on some of its intended rivals the BMW 5 Series (500 litres), Mercedes-Benz E-Class (540 litres) and Audi A6 (530 litres).
But it’s not only about space. The cabin treatment is something expected from a car costing twice the price. The quality of the leather, the fit and finish of trim and furniture, and the subtle yet elegant colours of the cabin make it feel, well, restful.
For executives on their way back from an overseas trip or for a parent driving their children to school, restful is a highly desirable, if sometimes allusive, commodity.
Which brings me to quietness. Hyundai claims there’s 38 kilograms of sound deadening in this car and given its hushed operation and its ability to screen out all but the most aggressive of ambient noise, we don’t doubt it.
There’s well-planned personal storage spaces from the door pockets to the centre console’s portals and the double-lid bin between the seats.
The width of the driver’s compartment makes it a comfortable car to drive, as does the simplicity of the dashboard, clarity of the instruments and the logic of the head-up display that projects condensed, yet vital information onto the windscreen.
The big centre screen is dead easy to operate and the graphics of the HERE maps make navigation a breeze.
We loved the comfort of the seats and appreciate the extraordinary adjustments possible for the driver to ensure a safe and comfortable journey.
Engine and transmission
It’s petrol-only as the Genesis maximizes its appeal in its biggest market, the United States. The 3.8-litre V6 engine is the latest development of Hyundai-Kia’s alloy V6 engine program and has been seen previously as a 3.3-litre. It’s now a 3.5-litre in the Kia Sorento and 3.3-litre in the 2015 Kia Carnival.
The feature-rich, 1.9-tonne Genesis demands more performance so there’s 232kW on tap and 397Nm of torque, 90 per cent of which is available from 2000rpm and stays constant through to 6000rpm.
That flat, meaty torque perfectly suits its saloon-status need for effortless performance and to minimise drivetrain discomfort, the engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic that was developed in-house at Hyundai-Kia.
In its first longitudinal application, the engine drives the rear wheels and faces up against the layout of choice used by most rivals.
That layout is predominantly used to give the car a near-perfect front-rear balance that sharpens handling and bolsters primary safety.
All the data that points to an eager engine crystalises on the road. The engine is unerringly quiet to the point that at idle you need to check the tachometer needle’s tremble. It stays that way through to about 2000rpm, puling without fuss and as smooth as a V8 until it starts to sound a bit strained around 3500rpm before it becomes uncharacteristically harsh around 4500rpm.
While the engine is capable of high revs, it doesn’t suit its application in the Genesis, despite the 38kg of sound deadening.
To be fair, the performance under 3500rpm is perfectly adequate and is a bracket where the rest of the car’s virtues are fully appreciated.
Drivers who don’t mind a bit of gruffness from beneath the bonnet will appreciate that the Genesis is no traffic-light slouch, dusting off 100km/h sprint in only 6.5 seconds. That’s 1.5 seconds better than equivalent versions of the BMW and Mercedes and almost two seconds faster than the Audi.
You pay for that at the petrol bowser. While the Genesis only needs 91RON fuel, it has a claimed average of 11.2 litres per 100 kilometres and, on test, recorded 12.0L/100km in suburban and freeway routes.
Compare that with the three competitors listed below each with a claimed 6.4L/100km average of 95RON petrol.
Ride and handling
Hyundai aims for big-car ride and hits the nail on the head not only with its sumptuous, hushed and serene comfort but with impressive road holding.
The company spent up big on getting the suspension right for Australia, a reflection of how serious it is on lifting its new flagship up the prestige-car ladder.
Lotus devised a new-rear suspension cradle for this second-generation Genesis which went down a treat in the US.
But Australia went further, revising all the dampening and suspension points and then bringing in consulting suspension engineer David Potter to fine-tune the ride and handling. Mr Potter, incidentally, also worked on the new Sonata.
The way the Genesis now covers the road, hides the bumps and holds the corners is more than impressive. It’s difficult to find much wrong with the ride, however there are some road surfaces that at low speeds will annoy the suspension.
For virtually all other road conditions, the ride is like a much bigger, more opulent limousine. Long distances and sweeping country roads show the suppleness of the suspension and the scalloped seats are more like armchairs.
The electric-assist steering has a quicker electronic box to more efficiently process data and this means less vagueness and, particularly, a more solid feel from the steering wheel.
The result is a car that is more confident through the bends and that makes the journey less stressful.
But it’s never quite fun. The Genesis is portly and this mass restrains the potential of the chassis and the engine. It would be an interesting exercise to see what this car would be like with 300kg – the difference between it and the Mercedes E200 – removed from its frame.
In its Ultimate guise, the car gets 19-inch wheels with smaller rubber – 245/40 – at the front and wider 275/35 tyres at the back. The intention is to maximize rear-wheel grip and lighten the steered wheels.
That works but it may be a bit extreme for an owner contemplating future tyre needs.
Safety and servicing
The Genesis is the highest-scoring car in ANCAP’s crash test history and that’s backed up with a plethora of safety enhancements.
The safety kit of the Genesis is explained above (see Price and Equipment) which has features designed to minimise the chances of occupant injury or death.
The primary safety features of the car are less tangible but include the string of brake and chassis aids, the low-ratio steering and responsive brakes that can be collated to avoid an accident.
Even the carbon-dioxide sniffer that detects and counters high incidences of the gas in the cabin have far-reaching effects in reducing the possibility of the driver falling asleep at the wheel.
On a less somber note, the Genesis picks up all the generous servicing and warranty benefits of the lesser Hyundai models and then adds a few of its own.
In addition to the five-year, unlimited distance warranty and the roadside assistance that’s up to 10 years if you remain with a Hyundai service agent, there’s free scheduled servicing for five years of 75,000km.
The capped-price service program is for the life of the car and there’s three years of free map upgrades for the satellite-navigation unit.
Hyundai offers a guaranteed buy-back on the car for leaseholders.
In a surprise to the free-fall depreciation usually seen in large cars, Glass’ Guide expects the Genesis to retain 51 per cent of its value in three years time.
There’s a divide among potential buyers – those in business who provide a chauffeur ride and those with an eye for value. Either way it’s an impressive sedan and will only be bypassed by badge-focused folk.
I’m reminded of the fledgling start of Lexus and how that, albeit slowly, turned opinion. Genesis has the same ability.
BMW 520i from $80,400, plus on-road costs
Pretty Bavarian has a high level of features and plenty of room. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is designed more for economy and sips only 6.4 litres/100km. But it’s not especially quick with a sprint time to 100km/h of 7.9 seconds. Like the other rivals here, it is also left at the traffic lights by the Genesis when it comes to warranty and service.
AUDI A6 2.0TFSI from $77,900, plus on-road costs
The BMW format of a spacious four-door sedan with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine repeats for the Audi and Mercedes-Benz. The Audi is the only front-wheel drive, allowing more rear-seat legroom. High safety levels and attractive equipment levels shine, as does the frugal 6.4L/100km fuel thirst.
MERCEDES-BENZ E200 from $80,400, plus on-road costs
The cheapest E-Class with loads of cabin room, impressive big-car styling but a small engine. It is the least powerful in this bunch and yet is as quick as the BMW. Again, the E-Class is high on safety and features include a satellite-navigation unit.
Like BMW, there’s a pre-paid service option to cap service costs.
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