“Excuse me, is that a Bentley?”
It’s a question Genesis GV80 owners will become accustomed to hearing and while it’s high praise indeed being compared to a Bentayga that costs four times as much, the unfamiliar brand’ deserves no end of praise as they’ve absolutely hit it out of the park.
Genesis is to the Hyundai Motor Group what Lexus is to Toyota - a more premium, luxurious arm that’s going into battle with proven European rivals. While the GV80 - which sits between the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 in length - isn’t cheap at just over £60,000, there’s no compromise with its as-standard kit which completely wipes the floor with its German counterparts.
It looks its price, though. It’s interesting, it’s ultra modern and although its giant front grille and badging are Bentayga-like - enough so to hoodwink passers-by who aren’t in the known - it’s no doubt a handsome brute.
Open the door and it gets even better. Get past its not-so-appealing steering wheel - which evokes memories of my mum’s hateful Chrysler Neon in the mid-90s - and you’ll be bowled over by its sheer quality. Its South Korean parent company’s hardly renowned for its classy interiors, but the Genesis does everything right thanks to its style and substance: there’s plush-feeling leather, a giant 14.5-inch infotainment system, masses of tech and a brilliant sound system - you’ll find a few bits of plastic here and there but it’s not the scratchy, cheap-feeling tat Hyundai’s infamous for. It’s Mercedes-level; a top-drawer interior that no-one could draw criticism from.
There are two engine choices - a 2.5-litre petrol and a 3.0-litre diesel. Although our test car had the former, its 2,300kg weight didn’t exactly help its thirst for fuel, so the diesel - which is just as quick in real-world terms and has more accessible torque, not to mention better economy - is surely the most logical choice.
Either way, the GV80 is a lovely place to sit and it eats miles with ease. Stick it in ‘D’ and its automatic gearbox will shuffle through its eight speeds with no fuss. It’s a little fidgety around town at low speeds, but on open A-roads and motorways it’s absolutely fantastic, ironing out harsh surfaces and travelling in supreme comfort. Sure, its weight also hampers it through corners as it does tend to wallow, but you can see why Genesis’ engineers have focused more on outright comfort than giving it a sportier edge. It’s a leviathan and there’s nothing more irritating than manufacturers attempting to inject a bit of sporting prowess - which usually manifests in jarring damping and awful steering - into vehicles that just aren’t meant for it.
When you look at things a little deeper, there’s really no surprise as to why it’s an immediate success. Hyundai Motor Group’s creations of late - whether they’re N-badged hot hatches or forward-thinking, class-leading electric cars - have been fantastic for several years.
As far as newcomers go, the GV80 is a triumph. It’s different to ten-a-penny rivals, it’s a fresh take on the premium SUV sector and it’s a car you want to do well. To create an all-new vehicle and throw it into a gun fight with tried-and-tested X5s and Q7s is a ballsy move but it’s one that should pay off for Genesis because it really is that good.