I haven’t watched a single episode of Tiger King.
That isn’t a badge of honor, simply a statement. We’ve all been there at some point, outside looking in at a pop culture phenomenon. The Genesis G70 was the automotive equivalent for me. Time after time I’d hear about how good the G70 was, from people with drastically different tastes and preferences. It already has an impressive trophy cabinet, from the 2019 North American Car of the Year title to the 2019 AutoGuide.com Car of the Year honors. I had to find out for myself.
A week with a 2020 Genesis G70 3.3T Prestige—a new trim for its sophomore year—was all it took. This is a hugely satisfying sport sedan, more than deserving of siphoning off sales from the usual German suspects.
A strong first impression
Hyundai made the right call a few years ago when it spun Genesis off into its own brand. Freed of the limits of the proletariat lineup, Genesis engineers and designers have been able to craft a unique identity for the upstart. The G70 makes a strong first impression: it looks long and low, with the proper long-hood, short-deck proportions and a clipped front overhang. The aggressive, squinty headlamps and giant grille announce the G70’s intents nice and early, while the spindly wheels spokes and tasteful exterior chrome trim give it just the right amount of luxury feel.
It looks expensive and handsome, albeit slightly anonymous. That’s not a knock: I really enjoy the new Genesis design language exemplified in the upcoming GV80 for its daring and unique brand identity. The brand’s smallest sedan will no doubt adopt a similar look in a year or two, and while it will set it further apart amidst the crowd, I think the current car’s more traditional styling will age better.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Genesis GV80 Revealed in North America: 5 Things You Need to Know
The interior is less likely to divide opinions, at least for front seat passengers: it feels instantly special thanks to high-quality trim, leather everywhere, and massively adjustable seats. The quilted leather on the seats and door panels in particular wouldn’t look out of place in a Bentley. Every major touch point feels substantial, especially the knurled dials for the climate controls.
Exploitable power with an entertaining chassis
The Prestige is a little softer around the edges than the top Sport trim, like an Instagram filter to broaden its regular-folks appeal. It loses out on the adaptive suspension and limited-slip differential, but keeps the Brembo braking system. The latter means strong, consistent stopping power via a firm, well-weighted left pedal.
To be a legitimate sport sedan the G70 needs to blend performance and comfort, and I’m happy to report it’s up to the task. Even with all-wheel drive (standard on the V6 in Canada) and the fixed suspension, this four-door feels balanced, responding to steering inputs with clarity and a hint that, yes, this is still a rear-biased setup. The quick steering ratio provides a level of agility that’s addictive, but the G70’s engineers have also gifted it with a smooth highway ride.
It feels tight and controlled in motion, and more than a little Germanic—no surprise, given Albert Biermann’s guiding hand as the head of the Hyundai group’s R&D department. The 62-year-old was responsible for some of the most iconic enthusiast models of all time at his previous post at BMW M.
SEE ALSO: 2020 BMW 330i xDrive Review
Pinning the throttle produces a pleasant exhaust growl as the G70 lunges forward. It’s quick, deceptively so, thanks to the 3.3-liter turbo V6’s maximum 376 lb-ft of torque available from barely off idle right through to 4,500 rpm. The eight-speed auto shuffles through the gears seamlessly when needed, or holds on gamely for high-rev antics when in Sport mode. The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are responsive, but they lack the tactile delight of the items in the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Room for improvement
I’ve thoroughly showered it with praise, but the G70 is not without fault.
Despite its compact executive title, it’s quite a large car, but the interior packaging doesn’t take advantage of that. Front row space is fine—though I consistently hit my head getting out—but the back seat is tight. Drivers over six feet will pretty much guarantee those behind them have their knees permanently in the seat backs. Trunk space is similarly sparse: at just 10.5 cubic feet, it lags behind every other member of the class. The G70 is essentially the coupe of the Genesis range, such are its spatial sacrifices.
The big-hearted drivetrain is addictive, but it has a drinking problem. Resist its charms and you shouldn’t have trouble hitting the EPA’s 20 mpg average (17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway), but that’s substantially lower than the BMW M340i, Audi S4, or Mercedes-AMG C43. All three feature all-wheel drive as well, but that doesn’t stop the 382-horsepower Bimmer from posting a 25 mpg average, and a full 30 mpg on the highway. I managed a healthy 21.5 mpg, though I chalk that up to substantially less traffic than is typical, for obvious reasons.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Genesis G90 Review
One final blemish on the G70’s record is probably the most debatable: its infotainment. Such is the speed at which in-car tech is evolving that the Prestige’s 8.0-inch touchscreen already feels a little small, but that’s not the issue. Some may take umbrage with its clear Hyundai roots. I personally don’t: the system isn’t the flashiest, but it is responsive and it gets the job done. That said, its workmanlike nature does clash with what is otherwise such a special-feeling interior.
A value proposition
The Prestige 3.3T AWD comes with nearly every conceivable bell and whistle, including a head-up display, heated seats all around (and vented up front), a bird’s eye view camera, and more. V6 models come with leather as standard, instead of an added-cost option elsewhere in the class. It also comes with a 15-speaker audio system that is impressively crisp and powerful.
Every G70 comes with a full suite of passive and active safety features. The lineup of assists include emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, auto high-beams and lane-keep assist. It all works as expected, though the lane-keep assist is more prone to light back-and-forth on the highway than other comparable setups.
The verdict: 2020 Genesis G70 Review
I can’t say I was honestly surprised by how good the G70 was during our time together. It confirmed what everyone had been telling me for the last year. Like another Hyundai product—the Veloster N—the Genesis G70 isn’t just a good-first-try product, but a true competitor in its class right out of the gate. That’s before you take into account how drastically it undercuts the competition: at an as-tested price of $51,975 (or $56,000 Canadian, including destination), this 3.3T Prestige model is nearly $10,000 less than a comparably-equipped BMW or Merc. The 2.0-liter turbo performs a similar feat further down the lineup, and also offers what’s sadly now a unique feature in the class: a manual transmission.
The biggest hurdle the G70 faces, and indeed the whole Genesis brand, is badge snobbery. To dismiss it purely for that reason would be folly, though. The Genesis G70 is stylish inside and out, well-equipped, and genuine fun behind the wheel. If you’re in the market for a compact luxury sport sedan, don’t miss this show.