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The best-looking Genesis yet is also clearly the best to drive, even if its slightly flat four-pot engines will dim its appeal to keener drivers.

The Genesis G70 Shooting Brake isn’t just another compact executive estate derivative, nor is it just a G70 with a bigger boot.

That’s because, while the G70 saloon was and remains very much a global Genesis model, the Shooting Brake is fully European. It was developed explicitly and exclusively for the European market; it won’t be sold anywhere but here; and that has allowed Genesis Europe’s German-based development engineers a much freer reign not just to fine-tune the car’s ride and handling, but to specify the hardware of the car’s suspension and steering systems at a more meaningful level to suit our roads and tastes. With Genesis’s other cars, those engineers can retune the software calibration of gearboxes, power steering and adaptive dampers, and possibly change tyre specifications; but with this one, it’s been able to go a lot deeper.

A rival for the likes of the BMW 3-Series Touring and the Audi A4 Avant, the car has just gone on sale in the UK, and is priced pretty temptingly from a whisker over £35,000. It’s powered by a choice of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines coupled to eight-speed automatic gearboxes, and comes in rear-wheel drive form only. The entry-level 2.0-litre turbo petrol option develops 194bhp; the 2.2-litre diesel pips that with 197bhp and 325lb ft of torque; and the range-topping 2.0-litre turbo petrol offers 241bhp and a sub-6.5sec 0-62mph time.

It’s available in a lineup of three model derivatives – Premium Line, Luxury Line and Sport Line – with the entry-level petrol engine partnered exclusively with the first of those. Adaptive dampers are fitted to both Luxury- and Sport Line cars, while the latter also get 19in wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S performance tyres, uprated Brembo brakes, a sports exhaust and a limited-slip differential. It was a 2.2-litre diesel Sport Line car we spent the most time in, but also drove a 241bhp Luxury Line 2.0-litre petrol.

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The car looks European, helpfully: a little like a contemporary take on a Lexus IS SportCross or Subaru Impreza wagon, granted, but at least as much like something handsome enough to have made a very passable Saab, Jaguar or Alfa Romeo in another life. Those swooping C-pillars, that floating rear spoiler and Genesis’ split taillights make the car’s rear aspect particularly appealing and distinctive.

The cabin is very appealing, too. The driving position could be lower, but Genesis prefers to put the 200mm sub-woofers for the Lexicon premium audio system (which sounds pretty potent) underneath the front seat cushions rather than elsewhere; so at least they don’t take up space in the boot. There are clever ‘stereoscopic’ digital instruments which trick the eye with some apparent three-dimensional depth, and there’s a useful head-up display too (both are optional-fit with Genesis’ Innovation Pack). Material richness is great in places (the leathers in particular), though some of the ‘chrome’ dashboard fixtures still look quite plain and plasticky by luxury-class standards.

Rear cabin space is about average for the segment – adults can travel, but it’s a bit of squeeze around the knees and feet – but boot space offers a sizable advantage over what you might get in a svelte saloon or four-door ‘fashion’ coupe, and the car’s visual appeal suffers not a jot for it. Back seats that fold down 40:20:40 come as standard.

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The G70 Shooting Brake’s ride is a little firmer, tauter and noisier than that of the saloon; it’s got BMW-M-Sport-level connected feel, but also really well-tied down body control and nicely balanced grip levels. It never crashes or bristles over lumps and bumps, but has closely checked, nicely clipped body movements. The 19in wheels and performance tyres of Sport Line cars make for some surface roar, particularly when you use the sportier driving modes, but good touring comfort levels can be returned to the car by a simple tweak of a knob on the centre console.

Steering feel ebbs and flows from good to numb and heavy, but it’s never a serious bugbear and doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the car’s handling. Cornering poise is certainly good enough to entice you to dial back the stability controls on a winding road, and explore how keenly this car can use that slippy diff to tighten its line under power. As it turns out, it’ll do that encouragingly well.

This is a chassis that deserves better and more enticing powertrains. The car comes with a choice of four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesels; but the V6 turbo that might have gone in, from the Kia Stinger GTS, now feels like a major miss. The four-pots are certainly refined, with very respectable performance and drivability, but neither has much character or seems to relish being worked hard.

The 2.2-litre diesel in particular makes plenty of torque, and it’s pleasingly hushed at a relaxed cruise, with mixed-use, real-world fuel economy in the low 40s for mpg. But it becomes loud and a little coarse above 3500rpm, and isn’t the kind of diesel that likes to spin beyond 4000- at all.

Genesis’s own eight-speed torque-converter gearbox feels soft and slushy at times in combination with both four-pot engines. It works smoothly and competently when you’re just mooching along, but can be hyperactive when you’re moving more quickly, upshifting at every opportunity and then jumping around between ratios in response to almost any change in the position of your right foot. It’s not the only modern gearbox of its kind at which you could level that criticism, of course, and you can mitigate the tendency by using paddleshift manual mode (‘D’ is less frustrating in the case of the diesel, which makes more accessible torque for better part-throttle drivability); but the gearboxes’ shifts aren’t the quickest or the most positive-feeling even here.

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These are respectable and quiet but pretty ordinary-feeling engines, then, which give the G70 Shooting Brake a performance level that’s assertive enough but not enlivening or energetic. There’s no sparkle to them. A good BMW or Alfa Romeo four-pot still feels like a special engine, after all, not a pretty humdrum one that’s been installed in hushed, isolated fashion in the front of a premium product; and perhaps that’s a depth of premium product engineering that the Hyundai-Kia Group has still to fully fathom.

This is a car with an appealing mix of enhanced everyday versatility and design allure, and I suspect that will be the motivating factor for most buyers. It has the makings of an appealing driver’s car in some respects, though it probably doesn’t quite follow up on them well enough that you might recommend it as a really compelling alternative to a BMW 3-Series, Jaguar XE or Alfa Romeo Giulia. It gets closer to that kind of status than many might anticipate, but doesn't quite seal the deal.

But it does prove what Genesis is capable of when given the freedom to commit fully to European-market chassis tuning, which is a very heartening sign of things to come. This is easily the most convincing product that this new Korean premium brand has brought to European shores yet because there are reasons to want it above and beyond an easy ownership experience. If Genesis is going to establish itself, it needs fewer conventional, traditional, forgettable saloons and SUVs and more cars just like it.

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First drives