IN THE beginning there was Hyundai, a budget brand that slowly evolved into a respected mainstream choice for car buyers.
The next chapter in the book is Genesis - Hyundai's attempt to mix it with the established luxury car brands.
It's a big gamble - one that didn't pay off for other mainstream brands, most notably Mazda, but Hyundai Australia chief operating officer Scott Grant says Genesis plans to avoid the pitfalls of past attempts.
The luxury offshoot will adopt a different method to its rivals, with concierge services including valet-style car pick-up and delivery to the home or office. Digital marketing will also be a key focus, with online simulations of the brand's products and technology intended to engage prospective buyers.
The G70 compact sedan - a rival for Mercedes-Benz's C-Class and BMW's 3-Series - is the first new model for the brand and reflects growing confidence.
While SUVs and performance versions will be the key to long-term success, the G70 will establish the brand's short-term bona fides.
"G70 gives us a volume opportunity to get some cars into people's hands; get some cars on the road,” Grant says.
"After that we've got a series of additional products that Genesis is looking to launch worldwide over the next few years and we look forward to those coming to Australia.”
High-performance rivals for BMW's M cars and Mercedes' AMG stable are vital Sfor longer-term success in Australia.
Unfortunately that isn't a global priority, although Grant has been agitating for change.
"It's a requirement for this market and that's been made very clear. You only have to look at AMG success in that percentage of their total business to illustrate that Australians have a real interest in those kinds of vehicles,” he says.
The first step, though, is to get pricing of the G70 right.
"We will be pricing at the entry point, on a spec-adjusted basis, underneath the competition. Beyond that we think with our packaging and performance we could have a top-end product that could rival anybody. The two ends of the spectrum are important to us.”
There are no expectations of big sales and initially only 25 Hyundai dealers will sell the Genesis brand as a "store within a store”.
The car will be sold in three trim levels with two engine choices: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo and a 3.3-litre V6 petrol twin-turbo. Both cars use an eight-speed automatic transmission but the V6 model will also run Brembo brakes and adaptive suspension.
Genesis won't talk about prices but the base G70 needs to start at about $50,000, roughly $5000 less than the entry level 3 Series and $10,000 less than the C-Class.
There will be too many edges and bulges on the bonnet for some but the G70 won't look out of place in the executive carpark.
The interior design is classy with alloy highlights and quilted leather seats and door inserts. The eight-inch screen, which is nothing special, is the only let-down.
Safety gear extends from nine airbags to automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning.
ON THE ROAD
It is hard to assess the G70's dynamics given the test cars had a radically different suspension tune to the cars that will sell in Australia and were all-wheel drive against the local version's rear-drive set-up.
Global performance development head Albert Biermann said the floaty suspension settings suit the South Korean market and promised local cars will get a different tune suited to Australian conditions and tastes.
That should help quell our test car's tendency to bounce off line over mid-corner obstacles and improve steering feel.
The V6 twin-turbo is impressively quick, though. The official time is 4.7 seconds to 100km/h, aided by launch control software. A limited slip differential is standard and the throttle is wonderfully touch-sensitive.
On the track the G70 is smooth. You can feel the mass of the V6 over the nose through the tighter turns but the brakes are strong and the all-wheel drive provides plenty of grip.
A test driver we spoke to says the rear-drive versions are more fun.
Price alone won't dictate how Genesis goes. The brand needs to stand out and deliver on the promise of luxury with performance. On that score, work is needed to match the establishment but early signs are promising.
PRICE From $50,000 (est)
WARRANTY 5 years/unlimited km
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol turbo, 185kW/353Nm; 3.3-litre V6 petrol twin-turbo, 252kW/510Nm
SAFETY Not tested, 9 airbags, automatic emergency braking
THIRST 9.4L/100km (4-cyl, est) 11.1L/100km (V6, est)
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