Genesis is a new Korean luxury automotive brand that has big plans for Europe. Starting with this GV80 large luxury SUV. It probably won't be a car on your wish list if you're looking at a big seven-seat crossover of this kind, but it comes with everything you could want as standard, plus it offers superb refinement, outstanding interior quality and a rather unique sales and after-care package. If you're after something a bit different in this segment, it could be just what you're looking for.
You'll have noticed just how much higher quality Korean-made cars are these days. To the point where both Hyundai and Kia now feel justified selling their largest, most luxurious models at or around the £50,000 mark. But is our market ready for a proper premium luxury brand from Korea? The US market has been for some time and the Hyundai Motor Group's Genesis brand has done quite well there. One of its models, a large saloon, was sold here between 2015 and 2017, badged as the Hyundai Genesis, but only 50 were shifted before the car was quietly deleted. Now though, the European market is much more open to premium Korean products and the Genesis brand launched here with two models, the G80 (a large luxury saloon), and our subject here, the GV80, a large luxury SUV. Mid-size G70 saloon, G70 Shooting Brake and GV70 SUV models quickly followed, as will various EVs.
The GV80 launched with a straight-six 278PS diesel, but is now only available with a 304PS 2.5-litre four cylinder turbo petrol unit mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. You can expect exceptional levels of drive refinement, aided by special noise cancelling technology. You'll need to avoid the largest 22-inch wheels if you want an exceptional level of ride quality to match this. Damping is aided by a camera that monitors the road surface and adjusts the suspension to suit the tarmac tears and pot holes you're about to pass over. Through the twists and turns, you'll certainly feel the size and weight of this luxury SUV - it tips the scales at over 2300kg. But likely buyers aren't people who are going to want to throw this car about. They will though, want the latest in semi-autonomous drive tech - which of course is provided here. Along with plenty of gadgets, including a self-parking system that will parallel park your GV80 for you via the remote while you stand outside the car. Ideal if you're trying to get into a really tight space.
The GV80 certainly has plenty of road presence - some even see hints of Bentley Bentayga here. Size-wise, it's a lot smaller than one of those, measuring 4,945mm long, which puts it somewhere between a BMW X5 and an Audi Q7 in terms of length. It'll make a decent enough statement at the golf club, an imposing G-Matrix front grille dominating an upright front end featuring the brand so-called 'two lines' design language. This references the split-front LED headlights, as well as the bi-level illuminated side vents and the rear tail lamps. Inside, there's a very high quality feel and an almost Bentley-like knurled finish to some items of switchgear. And of course there's the usual huge centre touchscreen, accompanied by a digital instrument cluster. The seats are superb and the quality of leather upholstery impeccable. There's very comfortable space for two adults in the second row and Genesis offers the option of third row seating too, though there won't be quite as much space at the very back as you'd get in the back of a competing Land Rover Discovery; it's a match for what you get in an Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90 though. Out back, with five seats in place, there's 727-litre boot, which is more than you'd get in a BMW X5 or a Mercedes GLE.
Prices start at just over £60,000 for the 3.0-litre 278PS diesel variant most will want. You'll need £500 more if you want it with seven seats. You can also talk to Genesis about a 304PS 2.5-litre petrol version. There's a choice of either 'Premium', 'Luxury', 'Luxury Plus' or 'Sport' trim levels. The prices are comparable with the entry-level figures for cars like Audi's Q7, Volvo's XC90 or the Mercedes GLE, but with those models, you'll need to spend a lot more to get a comparable level of equipment that fitted with the GV80. Just about everything you can imagine is fitted as standard. Genesis doesn't have a network of UK dealerships. Instead, everything is done via so-called Genesis 'Studios' - which will be shopfronts in upmarket shopping centres. One has already been opened in London and others will follow. But you don't have to go to one of those. You simply connect with Genesis online, then you'll be allocated your own Genesis Personal Assistant who'll take you through the sales process, from test drive to delivery - and they'll deal with after-care as well. This Assistant won't be salaried on commission as an ordinary car salesperson would be, so you won't get any hard sell.
You won't be expecting a large, heavy SUV to be particularly economic and this one isn't. WLTP-rated combined cycle fuel economy for the diesel is rated at between 31.5-33.1mpg. The CO2 figure for the diesel is up to 220g/km, which puts this variant in a 37% BiK tax band. For this 2.5-litre petrol version, the economy figures are 25.3-26.1mpg, with a CO2 reading of up to 241g/km. Insurance for the diesel is rated at either 46D or 48D, depending on trim. For this petrol version, it's groups 45D to 47D. Every Genesis is covered by a 5 year Care Plan which includes scheduled servicing for 5 years or 50,000 miles. With each service visit, Genesis will collect and return the car to your door. This also applies to any necessary work required, including warranty work. You simply contact your Genesis Personal Assistant to make it happen. Who can also arrange a courtesy car. The 5 year Care Plan also includes updates to in-car navigational maps. And there's complimentary subscription to Genesis Connected Services, which will allow you to access information services from your 'phone to digitally enhance your ownership experience.
Recent history is littered with would-be premium brands that never quite gained mainstream acceptance in Europe. Will Genesis be any different? There are grounds for thinking so. It has the might of the Hyundai Motor Group behind it. The customer service approach being offered here seems genuinely appealing. And, if this GV80 model is anything to go on, the product seems strong. Whether you'll like it will probably depend on what you think of the established premium brands. If you're a little tired of them and their snooty dealerships, then you might find Genesis - and this model in particular - to be something of a breath of fresh air. To appreciate the GV80, you'll need to be someone who defines driving enjoyment in terms of a lowering rather than a raising of the heartbeat. But if you are, then there's lots to like here, particularly if you happen to find the styling distinctive. In a few years time, it'll be strange to think that we even doubted that Korea could bring us a credible premium automotive brand. And Genesis will be the reason why.