The sport sedan segment has been one long dominated by benchmarks like the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and even the Audi A4. Many attempts have been made to try and usurp this trio from their respective pedestals for years. Some have come very close to achieving that goal, while others promptly flamed out and settled for low sales numbers. The 2020 Genesis G70 is the latest contender to try and do the seemingly impossible task of toppling Germany’s finest. But can it channel its inner Sam Darnold and lead Genesis to a New York Jets worthy upset win? Or will the next generation model have alot more ground to cover when it makes its way to Genesis dealerships?
Lean and Mean G70 styling is eager to please
A key trait of any disruptor of the sport sedan segment is the ability to turn heads and our red hued tester managed to do a good job of doing just that. The front fascia infuses a number of key cues from bigger models like the G80 and 90 with the front grille being accented nicely by its sporty headlights.
The lines here are very muscular and composed with the side profile having a sporty yet elegant appearance. This sleekness helps lead the eye to the rear which has been adorned with chiseled taillights, an integrated rear spoiler, and twin exhaust tips. Models equipped with the 3.3. liter V6 get a more traditional dual exhaust setup, but we came to like the setup that is standard issue on all 2.0 liter equipped G70s. While the look as a whole might seem a bit underwhelming at first glance, the G70 is a noticeable step up when compared to the BMW 3-Series which has embraced a larger front grille design and has perhaps lost some of the simplistically elegant luster that once defined its predecessors.
G70 cabin blends sport and comfort into a compelling side dish
Slip inside the G70 and you are immediately greeted by a space that’s filled with quality materials. The control layout is very straightforward and the G70 has a very driver centric layout which is a must have thing in the world of sport sedans. Unlike some of its rivals, the G70 doesn’t indulge in gimmicks, and delivers a very carefully toned presentation. While there are still splashes of pieces that were clearly sourced from the Hyundai parts bin, the G70 still manages to be a legit step up from its mainstream siblings in other ways. We like the way Genesis designers were allowed to have fun with shapes especially for the dashboard and the IP. The front seats are a nicely balanced slice of sport and comfort though we wished that we had more back support to work with.
The rear seats in contrast are comfortable places for children, but average sized adults will not appreciate the tight amounts of headroom as well as the equally tight legroom. But the one thing that the G70 always reminded us about over and over again during our time with it is that its cabin seemed more luxurious than rivals like the Alfa Romeo Giulia and the Jaguar XE. This is partially due to Genesis designers resisting the urge to add typical sports sedan clichés like a flat bottomed steering wheel, carbon fiber trim and flashy gimmicks. Our tester’s infotainment system was also a breeze to use with the software being largely carried over from the same UVO system that sees duty in countless Hyundai and Kia models.
Dysfunctional transmission sours driving experience
With all the good things that the G70 manages to get right, it’s very surprising to see that the upstart Genesis comes up short when it comes to performance hardware. Two engines are available to choose from with our tester being equipped with a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder that’s good for 255 horsepower (that figure gets reduced to 252 horsepower with an automatic.) Buyers looking for more power can equip it with a 3.3 liter turbocharged V6 that brings 365 horsepower to the party and is shared with the Kia Stinger.
All-wheel drive is available for most G70 models, but if you get the manual (a rarity in many dealer inventories) you are stuck with rear-wheel drive. The 2.0 liter engine itself doesn’t stand out too much from others in the market, but it does suffer from noticeable low end turbo lag which helped our tester record a rather lackluster 6.6 second sprint to 60 mph. That figure is slower than the BMW 3-Series, and is actually even slower than the recently axed manual variant of the Honda Accord which can do the deed in 6.1 seconds. Sport mode does perk things up a bit, but it just makes us wonder why Genesis engineers just couldn’t have made that mode’s programming the default one from the start?
The bulk of our resentment though was reserved for the six speed manual gearbox. Genesis is axing the manual transmission from the lineup due to slow sales, and after experiencing it for ourselves, we suspect that not many will lament its passing. This particular row it yourself option is arguably the worst manual we have ever used in a new car. In an era where the breed is slowly becoming extinct, the G70’s manual is a vibrant reminder of how not to engineer one.
The clutch pedal is too light for its own good, and that in turn helps prevent drivers from reliably learning where the bite point for the clutch is. That’s an already annoying problem as it is, but when you add in a numb shifter and an inadequate lockout for reverse it made launching our tester way more difficult than it should be. The fact that the G70’s manual delivers such a half-baked performance really makes you wonder why it couldn’t of gotten some of the magic that the Veloster N’s gearbox has. The manual in that one is arguably one of the best in Hyundai’s arsenal, and perhaps the G70 could’ve benefitted from some of its internal workings.
Doing the automotive flamenco like a pro
Once your done paying the troll toll to get the G70 moving, the car rewards you with an impressive degree of poise and confidence when pushed hard through sharp turns. The suspension tuning here was clearly designed to mimic its German rivals, and we think that the G70 Sport does a good job of hunting down apexes especially in some of the backroads that dotted central Michigan.
Credit for this is partly credited to the limited slip differential as well as the beefier Brembo brakes and tires that came with our red hued example. It may not have as much sharpness as the Alfa Romeo Giulia, but the G70 Sport makes up for it by adding just enough comfort to make the driver not feel certain bumps and pockmarks as much. The steering wheel also does a good job of delivering plenty of feedback to the driver and the amount of heft that’s present in the wheel is pretty balanced with no major dead spots present.
Pricing for the Genesis G70 is still the car’s biggest trump card in life. While our tester was a 2020 example, buyers that visit the brand’s configurator can begin building a 2021 version, with the base price for a manual equipped sport model starting at $38,600. While our option free 2020 model had a final sticker of $39,495, buyers looking to try and do the same feat on a 2021 model will have to pay a slightly higher $39,625 for one. That’s still a noticeable discount over segment benchmarks, with the BMW 3-Series and the Audi A4 all having a higher base price when comparably equipped the way our tester was.
The lone brand that outshines the G70 in its undercutting abilities is Cadillac with the CT5 having a lower $36,895 base price. The CT5 is bigger than the G70, but Cadillac and General Motors are once again asking the CT5 to be a tweener model with the four door competing against traditional models like the BMW 5-Series as well as select flavors of the 3-Series much like how the first few generations of the axed CTS competed against both of those models.
At the end of the day, the Genesis G70 certainly has the tools to be a potent disruptor in the sport sedan segment. While its slow selling manual transmission will be a forgettable detour that will be taken behind the barn and put out of its misery when the next generation model appears, the rest of the car is still a very potent offering. Sharp handling characteristics and a strong balance of comfort and sport help give the G70 a unique place in the segment, and it will be interesting to see if the heavily revamped G70 will be able to continue building on some of the core values that were set in place by its predecessor.
If it can, then look for the G70 lineup to continue being one of the most potent disruptors in the segment, especially in the eyes of buyers who are willing to give a growing brand like Genesis a chance.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.