Hyundai’s premium marque does a fine job of looking as elegant as Crewe’s finest, says Sean O’Grady
So there I was making my way back to the car park near the shops in Oadby to enjoy another drive in the lovely Genesis GV80 and what should I discover but what can only be described as a non-suspicious figure peering into its plush interior. Older sort of chap, light flat cap like you’d wear golfing, Marks & Spencer carrier bag, slacks, specs; not unlike a Harry Enfield comedy character, and visibly unthreatening. The dialogue went roughly as I anticipated.
Harry Enfield-Style Comedy Character: “I was wondering what it was.”
Me: “It’s a Genesis”.
HESCC: “What make is that?”
Me: “That’s the make. Genesis is the make. It’s a posh Hyundai. It’s Hyundai’s premium brand. [Astonished expression on face of HESCC]. It looks like a Bentley, they say”.
HESCC: “That’s what I thought. How much is it?”
Me: (Not actually having the answer) “About £50,000”
HESCC: “Bet you’re glad it’s not a Bentley”.
Then he got into his Golf Plus and buggered off. I’d didn’t really know what to make of his pay-off, but I’d like to think that he thought me a shrewd sort of chap who would save about £100,000 by buying a lookalike over an actual Bentley Bentayga. Or maybe he was trying to tell me I was a bit of a cheapskate and a fraud. Seeing as I can’t afford a Bentley Bentayga – or a Genesis GV80, for that matter – and I didn’t disabuse him of the notion that the vehicle wasn’t actually mine, I suppose he had a point.
Anyway, we were both right, and the GV80 makes a very good job of looking as elegant and imposing as a Bentley. Having a winged badge that looks very much like a Bentley’s on the nose of the car just where you’d expect it to be also helps. Indeed, the GV80 is “plus royal que le roi” you might say, as it manages to carry its (slightly smaller) bulk more elegantly than its much more famous “rival”. Of course it’s no great surprise, this resemblance, because Hyundai Group, one of the biggest auto makers in the world, has spent as freely as a premier league football claim on poaching the best talent it can find, and that includes a fair number of designers and stylists from the VW Group, and as we all know, Bentley Motors is a actually wholly-owned brand of VW Group (through they tend not to mention its commoner connections).
Genesis has been a nameplate kicking around in its native Korea and other markets for about 15 years, and was established as an upmarket marque in its own right in 2015. Hyundai hopes to emulate the success of Lexus, Toyota’s premium arm, and it deserves to do well, because it’s a nice, comfortable car. But newcomer quality marques, and indeed even venerable ones that aren’t German, find the challenge of breaking into snobby European markets exceptionally hard. Nissan tried with Infiniti, and failed even though some of the cars were literally rebadged Mercedes. Honda daren’t mention Acura. And Saab, Rover, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Maserati have all suffered from automotive Germanophilia. The only partial exception to the German brand wipeout is Volvo, sheltering in a Scandi cool niche. What chance a South Korean interloper?
The Genesis at least looks the part. Mine came in a pleasingly country gentry shade of “Cardiff Green”, which I suppose you’d interpret as “Welsh Racing Green”. The grille of the GV80 is a cross between a Bentley and a contemporary Range-Rover, complete with that doppelgänger logo, and the styling lines, all haunches and muscle bulges, blend beautifully. They’ve given it double-decker lighting front and rear, which is nice and intriguing, giant 22-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels and tasteful understated detailing – resisting the tendency to overdo either the chrome or the piano black finish. The GV80 is about the same size as a BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, but better looking than any of them. It is indeed the baby Bentley Bentayga that Bentley hasn’t built (yet).
Indoors, things are a bit less Bentley, albeit no one should really expect the hand-built quality you get on the Crewe-built product. Even so, there is all the soft leather and real black ash you’d care for, as well as state-of-the-art gadgetry. It’ll pretty much drive itself, park itself, and it is thoroughly cosseting. If it matters to you, the sound system will enhance or eliminate any extraneous engine noise. There’s the usual touch screen (14.5in), plus a rotary dial between the front seats as an optional control, but that sadly works just as badly as on its German competitors.
It’s only when you set off that the premium spell is broken. The 2.5 litre petrol engine is at the upper end of what’s practical with a four-cylinder engine, meaning it is a bit ponderous. The upside is that the design gives it plenty of heft at low speeds/revs, which is excellent for off-road use (this is a permanent four-wheel drive rough terrain capable vehicle), but it makes for a poor drive, to be honest. A V6 (as in the diesel option), or V8 would be nice. Cross country it is swift and can be driven with a little gusto, but it’s no 12-cylinder Bentley (which of course is almost indefensible on green grounds). Indeed the character of the GV80 would be well suited to all-electric propulsion (and sister brands Hyundai and Kia are world leaders in battery electric vehicles).
In any case I enjoyed my time in this automotive novelty, and I like to think that complete strangers, like the man in the Oadby car park, think me a wealthy man with an appreciation of British craftsmanship. How little they know of me, or the Genesis.
Price: £66,970 (as tested; range starts at £56,715)
Engine capacity: 2.5 litre petrol; 8-sp manual; 4WD
Power output (PS): 400
Top speed (mph): 147
0-62 mph (seconds): 6.9
Fuel economy (mpg): 30.5
CO2 emissions (g/km): 248