2019 Genesis G70
2019 Genesis G70 First Drive
Personality Makes the G70 Stand Out From the Crowd
On my second lap of the excellent Club Motorsports track in New Hampshire, I discovered the previous driver had turned the traction control off. Surprising no one — except, in the moment, me — a 365-horsepower 2019 Genesis G70 will drift.
What would have been surprising just a few years ago is the idea of the Hyundai Motor Co. producing a small, sporty luxury sedan that's not only competent on a racetrack, but downright fun. Hyundai's Genesis brand is charting its own course and taking the Korean automaker in surprising new directions. In this case, that means taking aim at the German Big Three: Audi and the A4, BMW and the 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz and the C-Class. Does Genesis have a contender on its hands, or is the G70 destined to be another also-ran in a competitive segment?
The Kia Connection
The 2019 Genesis G70 shares much of its DNA with the Kia Stinger. You'll find the same engine options (a 252-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 365-horsepower 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6) paired, for the most part, with an eight-speed automatic feeding power either to the rear wheels or to an all-wheel-drive system. Hop in the cabin, and Stinger fans will note a familiar-looking center console topped by a very, very familiar 8-inch infotainment screen.
Look closer, though, and the G70 starts to set itself apart. For starters: It's a sedan and not a hatchback. Then there's the fact that the G70's wheelbase is about 3 inches shorter than the Kia Stinger's, a difference that Genesis representatives say helps contribute to a lower weight. In the middle of the G70's rear axle (on most versions of the car) lives a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential rather than the electronically controlled unit found on the Stinger.
Then there's the stuff that's harder to see, such as adjustments and calibrations, tweaks to the suspension, transmission and steering. All the wizardry that separates a well-conceived car from a well-executed car.
Also: quilted leather. Lots of quilted leather.
Emphasis on the Compact
The compact G70's shorter length means it has less trunk space and less rear-seat room than the midsize Stinger. The back seat is quite tight — there's less rear leg- and headroom than the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class. In practice, it's a space best reserved for children or small adults.
Since we're starting with the bad news, here's the rest: The technology isn't fully competitive with luxury compacts. While the G70 has everything you expect from a luxury car, from standard active safety features and driver aids to a head-up display and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the look and feel of everything is distinctly Hyundai. That means it all works and it's easy to use, but it lacks the visual appeal baked into the German brands.
A True Competitor
In terms of comfort, quiet and materials quality, the G70 checks all the luxury boxes. The seats support a full day of driving comfort, and the quilted leather found on mid- and high-level trims looks and feels great. Around the cabin you'll find more leather and soft-touch materials alongside real aluminum trim and knurling on the plastic knobs. Genesis keeps getting better at this part of the equation, and the G70 benefits with an interior that looks and feels like it belongs in a luxury vehicle.
Even better, though, is the way it drives, especially if you opt for the V6. Power delivery is strong and both the all- and rear-wheel-drive versions put the power down quickly and with authority. The transmission is quick on its toes, executing shifts smoothly and immediately and holding gears when you want it to. It also responds rapidly to inputs from the wheel-mounted paddle shifters, making them rewarding to use.
Turn-in, especially on the available summer tires, is sharp, and the steering provides actual feedback from the road. The brake pedal is also communicative, and the Brembo brakes that come on all V6 models and AWD four-cylinder models are impressively capable. Even at the end of my fifth run down Club Motorsports' front straight, dragging the car down from 120 mph to make Turn One, I didn't notice appreciable fade.
Body roll is apparent during rapid weight transitions, but once you're in a turn the suspension loads up and the vehicle stabilizes. Much to my relief, the chassis is communicative once the suspension is loaded. Because between that, the steering feel and the responsive throttle, my surprise oversteer experiment was easy to recover from — and made me want to do it again.
Manual Labor (of Love)
Owing to the G70's driver's car intentions, it's available with a six-speed manual transmission. It only comes with the four-cylinder, but opting for the manual means you get a rear-wheel-drive car with Brembo brakes, a sport exhaust, some weight-reduction measures, and, of course, the limited-slip differential.
Here's the bad news: The automatic is quicker and more satisfying. That's not to say the manual is bad, though. The clutch pedal is light but has a clear uptake point, and the shifter provides solid, positive engagement points. But the throws are a bit long, and travel is somewhat vague. There's also a moment right after you engage the clutch where power delivery lags. The overall sensation is just not as sharp as the units you'll find (with increasing rarity) in the German competitors.
Priced to Move
The G70 should start around $35,000 for a basic four-cylinder car, and for about $50,000 you should be able to get into a top-trim V6. That's a compelling price for a luxury compact that includes a powerful engine with performance upgrades, all the technology features (including adaptive suspension), and the fancy quilted premium leather interior. It doesn't hurt that you get a 100,000-mile warranty along with three years of free maintenance and valet service for appointments.
While a final verdict has to wait until we've run the G70 through our full testing process, a day on a racetrack and the road left me impressed. There are some weaknesses, like the tight back seat and how it falls short of the Germans in the appearance of its entertainment screen. But the 2019 Genesis G70 feels lively and eager, and it's engaging to put down a road. The quality, features, warranty, and price make it an intriguing compact luxury car to begin with, but the character makes it a contender in this class.