Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Genesis an Impressive Premium Sedan From Hyundai

Who will be attracted to Hyundai's just-released premium sedan, the Genesis?

Hyundai recently put this question to a selection of the nation's legal professionals, when it presented the new machine at the annual Devil's Own golf tournament, a legal get-together the brand sponsors.

The verdict? Quite a few looked and many were impressed. None, however, showed immediate inclination to renounce their current Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Lexus model choices.

Hyundai New Zealand boss Andy Sinclair wasn't surprised. Those he calls badge devotees and traditionalists won't be easily swayed into taking a risk on a pedigree-less new opportunity. ''They'll stick with what they've got.''

So who's left? Sinclair is banking on ''astute thinkers''. These being? ''People who look beyond a badge and actually look at the dynamics, the safety and the technology. Some will already drive Hyundai and want the next step.''

Hyundai is heading to a niche spot with this new machine, for these days a prestige car is more likely to be an elite sports utility than a conventional saloon: Last year, just 680 sedans priced over $70,000 found homes (a tally almost exceeded by 2014's BMW X5 sales count alone). Most were bought by city-dwelling men, aged 50-plus.

So it's a small circle. Yet Sinclair maintains he will find five to eight homes a month for the Genesis, which, if achieved, will be sufficient to outsell Jaguar's XF here.

Can you see it? Actually, after a first drive, I kind of can; though not a landmark in the way the original Lexus LS was back in 1990, the new Genesis is still an enticing car.

You can quibble over some aspects - for me the dynamics are a little soft and the styling similarities with some other offers (plus the Aston Martin-ish signature badge) will see it tagged ''the Generic'' - yet it's hugely impressive, nonetheless.

Does the lack of pedigree matter? No more than it did when Lexus was fresh, and look at Toyota's toff division now.

After time behind the wheel, it is certainly easy to appreciate the quality and, obviously, the value.

Impressive refinement and a full luxury feel are backed by quality equipment and finish and a smart Ancap safety score.

Standout on-road characteristics are the ride quality and the quietness; drivetrain, wind and road noise, even on coarse chip, are remarkably hushed; the eight-speed automatic slurs through its movements in particularly fine style.

That eight-speed automatic is an impressive in-house effort and the engine is silky and quite reactive (0-100kmh in 6.5sec), though thirst and relative lack of sophistication (no self-activating stop/start technology) are less compelling.

But the vehicle's dynamics are a mixed bag.

Steering feel isn't overly obvious but it is accurate. The 19-inch Dunlops offer excellent grip, but the Genesis is heavy at two tonnes, and the level of body movement when hustled shows it is no sports sedan.

The customer support package is light: the warranty is the same three-year cover as for any Hyundai and there is none of the usual luxury car talk of free tyres, service folk at any hour or tickets to the opera. But maybe that is reflected in the price.

Aside from the fastback shape only slightly restricting headroom in the rear, it is generously roomy. Beyond a few ergonomic niggles, there's a palpable feel of premium luxury and it is comprehensively equipped.

Hyundai is still in the button age, so no i-Drive central controller, but the key is a fancy card that detects when you're near the car and prepares accordingly.

There is little that is truly new - though a CO2 sensor (this detects when carbon dioxide levels rise in the cabin and reduces them to avoid drowsiness) and the autonomous emergency braking that allows the car to self-brake to a complete stop from less than 80kmh are rare - but very little is left out.

Hyundai is well-regarded here in brand studies but this exercise asks for uber-allegiance. Perhaps that's why there is just one H logo on the entire car, and it's on the boot.

No comments: