Move on up

The $60,000 Hyundai Gen­e­sis takes on the lux­ury favourites

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­

Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or … Hyundai?

That’s the choice now fac­ing lux­ury shop­pers who want max­i­mum value, as the Korean car maker from strug­gle street moves into the top end of town.

In the most ag­gres­sive move in the lux­ury class since Toy­ota put Lexus on the road in 1999, Hyundai has pro­duced a new flag­ship called Gen­e­sis that it is pitch­ing di­rectly against the Ger­man lux­ury es­tab­lish­ment.

A start­ing price bang on $60,000, and a fully loaded hero car at a highly af­ford­able $82,000, mean it’s also likely to make the list for peo­ple con­sid­er­ing a large Aussie car like a Holden Caprice.

The Gen­e­sis is full-sized, fully loaded, a suc­cess in the US and al­ready into its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion across the Pa­cific. But this is Aus­tralia, where com­pe­ti­tion is tougher than any­where else on the planet with 60-plus brands — and where a Hyundai badge is all about pric­etags that end in $990 with a five-year war­ranty to pro­vide a safety net.

“We de­lib­er­ately chose not to have a $990 price tag. I think this was im­por­tant. This is a ma­jor change for us,” says Hyundai CEO Charlie Kim.

So Gen­e­sis is more than a car. It’s a change in the game. Or not. “We know that sell­ing a lux­ury car will not be easy,” Kim says. “But it’s the next step for our brand. We think we are ready.”

Start­ing with the ba­sics, Gen­e­sis is an old-school lux­ury car with a V6 in the nose, rear- wheel drive, and a five-adult cabin com­plete with ev­ery­thing from leather trim and touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment with 17 speak­ers to a but­ton in the back that al­loys you to move the front-pas­sen­ger seat for more loung­ing space.

Hyundai stirs in ev­ery­thing from nine airbags in the ba­sic car up to a car­bon diox­ide sen­sor — claimed as a world first — in the $11,000 Sen­sory Pack to com­bat fa­tigue and drowsi­ness, then a panoramic glass sun­roof and acous­tic glass to cut noise in the $22,000 ‘Ul­ti­mate Pack’.

The Gen­e­sis has just achieved the high­est safety score in the his­tory of ANCAP crash test­ing, 36.88 from a pos­si­ble 37, and the company also claims in­te­rior noise lev­els

that are nearly 25 per cent bet­ter than a cou­ple of its Euro­pean ri­vals.

Dis­till­ing the claims, we’re talk­ing about the size and equip­ment of an Audi A6 for the price of an A4.

Dur­ing the press pre­view of the Gen­e­sis this week, the com­par­isons sweep up a huge range of lux­ury con­tenders from Audi, BMW, In­finiti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, as well as the Com­modore and Caprice.

But Hyundai has the ad­van­tage of a five-year war­ranty, which it is sweet­en­ing on the Gen­e­sis with five years of free ser­vic­ing.

It’s all about con­quest­ing what Hyundai de­scribes as “as­tute thinkers”, although you might think of them as ac­coun­tants, or hire­car op­er­a­tors. They’re more likely to be look­ing at the facts and fig­ures than the badge on the bon­net.

Hyundai’s re­search says likely buy­ers are in the 40-60 age group, mostly live in big ci­ties, and could be com­par­ing the Gen­e­sis with ev­ery­thing from a Toy­ota Au­rion to a Mercedes E 400. So, what’s it like? The car looks good, with plenty of pres­ence in the carpark, there is a big boot, good space in the back, and there is noth­ing to com­plain about in the cabin.

Ev­ery­thing you re­ally need is in the $60,000 car, but slid­ing up to the $82,000 model brings such tasty fea­tures as big­ger in­stru­ments, head-up dis­play, ven­ti­lated seats, pow­ered bootlid and that gi­ant sun­roof.

The Gen­e­sis has 232kW with strong torque from low revs and that means, with an eight-speed auto and de­spite a fair heft, it gets along well.

There is good over­tak­ing punch and it cruises eas­ily at 110km/h. The fuel econ­omy is not great but I have no trou­ble beat­ing the company’s 11.2L/ 100km claim dur­ing a long run that mixes sub­ur­ban and coun­try roads.

The car is quiet and comfy, there is lots of safety stuff — in­clud­ing an all-round cam­era in the flag­ship and both radar cruise and blind-spot warn­ings — and it drives eas­ily. It’s no match for an Audi in the cabin qual­ity — one car I drive has a dash­board

The Gen­e­sis has plenty of pres­ence in the carpark, big

boot, good rear space and noth­ing to com­plain about

in the cabin

squeak — but it does the job quite nicely. If I didn’t know it was a Hyundai I’d more likely pick it as a Lexus or an In­finiti.

And that’s where the plan comes slightly unglued. All the ra­tio­nal stuff makes sense. The car ticks the boxes for peo­ple who buy a car as trans­port and want max­i­mum value.

But an Audi feels more “spe­cial”, a BMW is bet­ter to drive and the new C-Class from Mercedes shows how to re­fresh an idea with mod­ern think­ing and de­sign work. Just as an ex­am­ple be­tween chal­lenger and cham­pi­ons, the wood trim in the Gen­e­sis is fake.

Still, the price is im­pres­sive and I would rate the Gen­e­sis ahead of a Lexus ES and the Caprice as a car.

Hyundai’s Hyundais sales tar­get next year is about 1000 cars, which is slightly am­bi­tious but could be on the money if it’s right about those as­tute thinkers who use their cal­cu­la­tor as much as their car. And there are also those limo driv­ers, who are def­i­nitely look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive to the Caprice with­out hav­ing to spend big on an Audi or a Benz.

The badge snobs will not be think­ing about a Gen­e­sis any time soon but we can still ex­pect to see many ex­am­ples on the road, many of them driven by smartly dressed men wear­ing hats who know a bar­gain when they see it.

Ev­ery­thing you need: The Gen­e­sis has ra­tio­nal ap­peal but lacks the “spe­cial” Audi and Benz traits

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