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Hyundai-owned luxury brand introduces its next offering to the UK: a stately mid-sized SUV to take on the BMW X3

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Here’s something very new: another new model from a new (to us) manufacturer. It’s the Genesis GV70, and if news of this brand’s arrival has escaped you, it’s the posh bit of the Hyundai Motor Group, so think the equivalent of Lexus (Toyota), Infiniti (Nissan) or Acura (Honda).

Like those brands, Genesis has so far been more about America than Europe. Sales figures reflect that to the extent that, in Infiniti’s case, it gave up on us entirely. V is for versatile, which means the GV70 is an SUV. Genesis sells an estate, too, yet although those are also quite versatile things, it calls it the G70 Shooting Brake.

This SUV, then, is 4.7 metres long and costs from a bit under £40,000. Like the latest batch of Hyundais, it has been developed for us in Europe, most notably to make it drive suitably on our roads, and you can think of it as a rival to the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

It’s meant to be plush, and that’s evident inside, although not in a conventional European manner. Despite the European development and tuning, it has stronger hints of American luxury. There are only tiny amounts of black plastic allowed anywhere, just at the edges of a big satin-metallic oval that stretches across the dashboard, consuming the heating controls on its left and some lighting controls on the far right. It’s all surrounded by plush-feeling leather (in grey or plummy brown) without a hint of brittle plastic anywhere.

The oval continues, sort of, across the steering wheel (less successfully, given that the wheel moves), surrounding an enormous wheel spoke like you would see in an odd concept car from the 1970s. Genesis’s winged badge, slightly Chrysler-esque, or like one you would find on a competitively priced range of golf clubs, is fastened to it like a medal on a cushion.

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As in the new Hyundai Tucson, the air vents are ensconced within a bold, sweeping, satin-brushed metal line that stretches from the rear doors to the front doors and then all the way across the dash. There’s no wood anywhere, but there are share-price graphs on the door cards. 

On the transmission tunnel sits an attractive rotary gear selector and a dial for controlling the big (15.4in) central touchscreen, which is too far away to prod while you’re driving. It has a lovely high resolution and pretty good functionality, especially via the dial, the centre of which is a touchpad. It would be improved by not being so close to the gear selector, because it’s easy to grab the wrong one. I guess you would get used to it, but you shouldn’t have to.

The ends of the steering-column stalks ting like metal, are knurled to look like bamboo weave and move really smoothly. It’s unusual next to the German stuff that dominates this class, then, but it’s comfortable luxury done differently, and that’s all right by me.

There’s good head room in the front and generous knee room and head room in the three back seats. Obviously, the rear seats can be split and folded by a remote lever near the hatch, while the tailgate is powered. (The button to activate it is high and visible, by the wiper, where it’s less likely to give you grubby fingers.) Beneath the 542-litre boot’s floor, you can store the cargo cover, handily.

The driving position is pretty car- like: it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting overtly high, even though there’s a Terrain mode and four-wheel drive. You can set the seat low, angle its base and adjust the under-thigh support’s length, and although the wheel doesn’t reach as close as you might like it (and that big spoke is designed to meet the rim at precisely the place you would like to grip it), this is a decent driving environment. When you indicate, little blindspot camera feeds appear in the digital dial display, which is a neat idea.

At launch, the GV70 is available with a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol or a 2.2-litre diesel, both having four cylinders. We’re testing the latter, which will officially return up to 40mpg while emitting 189g/km of CO2. It’s quiet at idle and then steps off smoothly and easily.

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Indeed, the diesel GV70 mooches pretty well. The engine is very quiet and makes its way along without much disturbance, with the eight- speed automatic gearbox shifting smoothly. There’s an old-school ‘auto hold’ button and wheel-mounted shift paddles, but if you do take over, it simply reverts to Drive after a few seconds of you not intervening.

Under more power, the ’box drops down a couple of gears and still hums away easily. This is a 2010kg car that produces 207bhp and 325lb ft for a sub-8.0sec 0-62mph time, although that kind of acceleration isn’t what diesels are about; the GV70 tends to put itself in the right gear at the right time for easy and quiet performance.

Likewise the ride – mostly. It’s controlled, with an underlying firmness and a decent hold on the body over crests. You do notice surface ripples: there’s nothing as harsh as patter present but, like when walking over those patterned slabs at the edge of a road, you know there’s something underneath you.

That said, the wheel control is also good. On bad surfaces, with different inputs left and right, it resists head toss; and in cornering, acceleration or braking, roll is moderate and pitch fore and aft is really well resisted. The steering is more heavily weighted than the class average, so it feels more Mercedes than Audi. There’s a long bonnet, with visible edges that help you place the car.

You can also feel that this is a rear-dominated platform. The steering gains little weight or feel as you drive out of corners, but what extra weight it does take on is smooth, linear and uncorrupted, plus you get no sense of it being troubled by torque.

Overall, the GV70 feels solid and weighty. Despite the fairly low feel and rear drive bias, nothing shouts agility. But hey, it weighs two tonnes.

It’s a curious car. It drives most like a Mercedes SUV, but honestly it feels welcomingly unlike anything else in its class. And it’s very quiet. Wind and road noise vie to be the loudest thing you hear at motorway speeds, yet both are hushed, and actually you probably notice wind hum only because road roar is so well isolated.

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It’s agreeable transport, then. Not thrilling, but what in this class is? And it does, at least, have steering that doesn’t bother itself getting corrupted by power; quite a pure cornering stance; and noise levels that isolate you from the road.

Chuck in a plush (albeit American plush) feel and the class gains a welcome new competitor, if one that needs broadening with some more powertrains.

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.