Genesis GV80 and G80 review – do the Germans have Korean competition?
We've driven the first two Genesis models coming to Europe – and they're up there with the best German rivals
If you're from America, Australia, the Middle East or Asia, you're probably well used to the Genesis brand – you've had it since 2015. But the luxury brand that lives alongside Kia and Hyundai has always had its sights set on Europe – and it's finally landed on UK shores.
We went along to the first European press launch of two Genesis cars – the G80 saloon and the GV80 SUV to see if they're going to be a match for German rivals. Watch the video below to see what they're like, or read on for more thoughts and not a single Phil Collins joke.
What are they?
The Genesis G80 is a large executive saloon that rivals the likes of the Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo S90 and the BMW 5 Series, and it'll set you back £38,000 in its most basic form, though most buyers will likely go for a luxury-spec one that'll cost over £50,000. The GV80 is a similarly lengthy car, but instead is a seven-seater SUV, rivalling the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 – and it'll cost from £57,000 – or closer to £70,000 with a few luxury trimmings.
This is the Genesis GV80 – a large seven-seat SUV with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it air of subtlety. Oh wait
Those prices will be set in stone thanks to Genesis' business model. You'll order your car online direct from the brand, or in its fancy studio-style dealerships in Zurich, London and Munich. Genesis says it's focused as much on customer experience as the cars – so you will have a personal assistant assigned to you, who will drop a car off with you for a test drive; then once you've bought one, deliver your car and deal with you when a truck collects your Genesis for servicing, leaving you with a like-for-like courtesy car for the interim.
The dealerships will be staffed by an equal number of men and women to make the car buying process less of a penis-led nightmare from the stone age.
That sounds fabulous, but are the cars actually any good?
Yes. Let's start with the big GV80. The SUV comes with either a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 304hp or a 280hp 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel. We drove the latter, and it's a smooth, sophisticated engine that rivals anything from BMW. It feels plenty quick enough, and faster than the 7.5-second 0-62mph time would have you believe.
The chassis of both cars are set up for comfort, and the GV80 is certainly trying to be wafty –but even with clever road-scanning cameras feeding information to the dynamic dampers, it's just a bit too crashy over small bumps to ever be properly luxurious. That's probably because the press cars were on giant 22-inch chrome wheels, but other makers have found ways around this – usually by fitting air suspension which isn't available on any of the Genesis models yet.
Dark green suits the GV80 – there's a matte option too. Those are 22-inch wheels
It's a quiet and luxurious cabin though, thanks to optional double-glazed windows, and you could imagine smashing out huge miles in complete comfort, thanks to an excellent cabin (which we'll get to in a bit) and comfy seats that have been recognised as excellent by the German Consortium for Spinal Diskomfort. Or something.
Let's jump over to the G80 saloon. It handles really quite tidily, staying flat through corners and turning in nice and quickly. It's not available with the six-cylinder diesel engine though – your choices are a 2.2-litre, 204hp diesel (driving the rear wheels alone) or the aforementioned 2.5-litre petrol driving all four. We drove the petrol and really rather liked it – the 6.0-second 0-62mph time sounds slower than the reality – this is a big brisk barge, but one that grips and can be sped down a country road with confidence, if not excitement. It rides far better than the GV80, and does a nicer job of wafting along, despite not getting the fancy predictive suspension camera.
The G80's svelte bum has a nicely hidden boot-opening button
The petrol engine is augmented by a fake noise played through the car's speakers, and you can adjust how aggressive this noise is – left in comfort mode you can easily be fooled into thinking that you're driving a six- or even eight-cylinder motor, helped by strong mid-range torque – all 422Nm of it. In sport mode the noise gets louder and meaner, and actually didn't annoy us at all. At higher revs it's a bit unsophisticated, but you don't need to thrash it to make progress.
Do them there Genesises feel luxurious?
Yes. Both cars share similar cabins, which feature leather seats (you pick from three levels of leather, ranging from leatherette to full-on nappa with edge piping), gorgeous open-pore wood trims and a super-sharp 14.5-inch infotainment screen which is controlled by prodding it or using the rotary dial and touchpad arrangement on the centre console. Apple CarPlay is included, as is just about everything else you can think of (and some quirky Korean stuff you can't).
This is the GV80's interior – it gets a cool two-spoke steering wheel
Naturally the driver gets a high-res display behind the steering wheel, which steals the Kia Sorento's trick of showing a back-facing blindspot camera view when you flick the indicators on, helping you avoid sending cyclists flying as you loaf about town.
This is the G80 saloon's interior – it looks and feels posh, and the tech all works well, with super high-res screens
Back-seat passengers get loads of space (and optional heated and cooled seats), and you can spec entertainment screens which have separate headphone jacks in the rear armrest cubby, so your kids (or clients) can watch separate things. The GV80's third row of seats aren't huge, but they're a match for most seven-seaters – so they're okay for occasional use. By small people. Without legs.
The GV80 gets a mammoth boot, and the option to have a third-row of seats, turning it into a 7 seater
Boot space in the G80 is actually smaller than it looks at 424 litres, which means it's a bit less practical than the German competition, but we reckon the Genesis has roomier back seats than most of the rivals. The GV80 has a huge 735-litre boot space with the third row of seats folded down, which is about enough room to house a beached whale if you fold it up a bit without popping it.
Should I buy one?
It's fair to say that Genesis has a battle on its hands convincing Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo buyers to try a new brand – but the G80 and GV80 are genuinely good enough to take the fight to the Germans, while undercutting them a bit on price when you compare like-for-like specs.
Genesis is going in hard with its customer-first proposition, and it's honestly refreshing to drive a pair of very competent new cars with completely unfamiliar interiors, powertrains and overall vibes. Neither the GV80 or G80 is set up to be sporty, but both live happily in a real-world space of comfort with a proper feel-good factor. It'll be very interesting to see where Genesis goes from here – it's off to a great start.