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