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2019 Genesis G70 first drive review

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Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand has established a beachhead with its G80 and G90 sedans, but with the 2019 G70, it’s pushing further into enemy territory. The G70 is a smaller, sportier sedan aimed directly at the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class – three German models that have come to define the modern small luxury car. The G70’s roster of competitors also includes the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, and Lexus IS.

Genesis isn’t ready to discuss pricing yet but said the G70 will start in the mid-$30,000 range when it hits showrooms, while a fully-loaded model will cost around $50,000. The G70 will be offered in Advanced (base), Elite, and Prestige levels. Even the base Advanced model is fairly well equipped with standard features like leather seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a 15-speaker Lexicon audio system.

The G70 also offers a feature that will make car enthusiasts smile: a manual transmission. The stick shift is only available with the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (the optional 3.3-liter V6 is automatic only), but it’s a welcome bit of good news as competitors pare back their manual transmission offerings. The four-cylinder is also available with the same eight-speed automatic as the V6, and both powertrains can be paired with rear- or all-wheel drive. 

Interior and tech

The G70 immediately impresses with the quality of its interior. It’s a cut above most of the other cars in this segment, many of which seem to suffer from cost cutting in this area. Materials are of appropriate quality for a luxury car, and the overall design of the cabin is simple and clutter free. It was also easy to maneuver the seat into a comfortable driving position. Genesis made a point of keeping the driver’s seat low, but outward visibility isn’t compromised thanks to relatively thin forward pillars and lowered exterior mirrors.

The G70 offers comparable interior space to the German trio it’s primarily aimed at. The rear seats are fairly cramped, which is typical for a car in this segment. The 3 Series, A4, and C-Class sedans offer more trunk space than the G70.

Genesis provides an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment. Genesis Connected Services (three years complimentary) adds smartphone and smartwatch apps that let the driver lock or unlock doors and perform other functions remotely, as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Home connectivity. The G70 has three USB ports: one ahead of the shifter, one in the center console storage bin, and one in the rear, along with optional wireless phone charging. Prestige models get a head-up display.

Genesis nailed the key areas of driving dynamics, interior design, and tech integration.

The touchscreen uses in-cell technology, meaning it can be used while wearing gloves, according to Genesis. That’s not something we got to test out during our July drive in Maine and New Hampshire, but we did find the screen to be fairly responsive, with intuitive menus. We also appreciated the inclusion of analog buttons and knobs for the climate control, audio volume, and screen-menu shortcuts.

Sound quality from the 15-speaker Lexicon audio system was clear and crisp, with a pair of under-seat subwoofers providing some added oomph. The system features Lexicon parent Harman’s Clari-Fi tech, which restores compressed digital audio files, as well as Quantum Logic surround sound.

2019 Genesis G70 review
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

Standard driver aids include lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, high beam assist, and a driver-attention monitor, which uses the frequency of control inputs to determine if the driver is paying attention. A surround-view camera system and parking sensors are available on higher trim levels. 

Driving experience

For a brand that doesn’t have any performance heritage, Genesis did an admirable job with the G70. Every automaker tries to portray its small luxury sedan as a driver’s car but the G70 is the real deal.

The G70 immediately impresses with the quality of its interior.

The base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 252 horsepower (255 hp with the manual transmission) and 260 pound-feet of torque, which is more than you get in a BMW 330i, but less torque than an Audi A4 2.0T or a Mercedes-Benz C300. The optional 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 makes 365 hp and 376 lb-ft, beating the German competition, excluding BMW M and Mercedes-AMG performance variants.

The V6 is the same engine used in the Genesis G80 Sport and Kia Stinger, but this may be the best application of it yet. The G70 is lighter than the other cars, and its chassis is well equipped to handle the engine’s power. The base four-cylinder engine is less thrilling, providing only adequate thrust. But that engine is available with the manual transmission and, because the four-banger weighs less than the V6, the front end feels more responsive in corners. So, while the V6 is more thrilling in a straight line, the four-cylinder offers a more rewarding overall driving experience.

2019 Genesis G70 review
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

We drove the G70 on New England back roads and on the track at New Hampshire’s Club Motorsports, with the car performing well in both environments. The steering is impressively communicative for a modern electrically assisted system. The car has plenty of grip and, for the most part, behaves predictably when that grip runs out. The one exception is the behavior of the optional all-wheel drive system, which may be too clever for its own good.

The all-wheel drive system can transfer up to 90 percent of its power to the rear wheels when stability control and traction control are engaged, or 100 percent when those features are turned off (unlike some other cars, off really means off in the G70). But on the track, we found it hard to predict what the car would do in a given situation. It would let the back-end slide in some corners while allowing debilitating understeer in others. Granted, G70 drivers probably won’t track their cars, and the all-wheel drive system was much better behaved at saner speeds.

Every automaker tries to portray its small luxury sedan as a driver’s car, but the G70 is the real deal.

Decrepit stretches of Maine and New Hampshire roads exposed ride quality that’s a bit on the stiff side but that isn’t surprising given the G70’s sporty suspension setup. Switching between the Comfort and Sport drive modes didn’t make much of a difference, aside from the automatic transmission holding each gear longer in Sport mode. An Eco mode puts the car on a leash in the name of fuel economy, Smart mode chooses settings based on the driver’s behavior, and Custom allows drivers to choose their own settings.

Rear-wheel drive, automatic versions of the G70 also feature launch control, something normally found on supercars or much more hardcore sports sedans. The feature only works in Sport mode with stability and traction control disabled. The driver simply presses the brake and gas pedals simultaneously, waits for the revs to build up, and releases the brake. We did not have the opportunity to test this feature, but Genesis claims it allows the V6 G70 to do zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.

2019 Genesis G70 review
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

EPA fuel economy ratings for the rear-wheel drive, four-cylinder G70 are 22 mpg combined (18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway) with the six-speed manual transmission, and 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway) with the eight-speed automatic. The rear-wheel drive V6 model (which is automatic only) is rated at 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway). All-wheel drive versions of the four-cylinder and V6 models are rated at 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway) and 20 mpg combined (18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway), respectively. The manual isn’t available with all-wheel drive.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test ratings for the 2019 Genesis G70 are not available at this time. 

Warranty

Genesis offers a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. The G70 also includes complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles with free valet service and loaner cars. Roadside assistance is included for three years, with unlimited mileage. 

How DT would configure this car

The G70 asks buyers to choose between the interactivity of the 2.0-liter turbo manual and the raw power of the 3.3-liter twin-turbo automatic. It’s a tough call, but we prefer the more involving experience of the car with the manual transmission.

2019 Genesis G70 Compared To

The V6 is great for blasting down a highway, but in other situations its extra power mostly goes unused, making the four-cylinder engine less of a tradeoff in the real world. More importantly, a sporty sedan like the G70 is the perfect fit for a manual transmission, and there are precious few opportunities to enjoy that combination these days.

We would also add the optional Sport package. While this does require upgrading to the top Prestige trim level, it adds more extroverted styling (including model-specific 19-inch wheels, cool-looking dark chrome trim, and available red upholstery stitching) that matches the G70’s sporty driving dynamics, and helps the car stand out from the crowd a bit more. 

Conclusion

The 2019 Genesis G70 is an impressive first effort at a small luxury sedan. Genesis nailed the key areas of driving dynamics, interior design, and tech integration. While it may not be available with the burly V6 engine, the manual transmission is a gift to car enthusiasts.

The G70 isn’t Genesis’ first car, but it is the first one you should care about.

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