These days, the launch of yet another new luxury compact SUV can feel like a tired Black Friday doorbuster deal. Roll over, go back to bed.
But if you’re searching for a small luxury SUV with the price tag and handling of a compact sports car, you may want to get in the line for the Genesis GV70 from Hyundai’s up-and-coming luxury brand.
As Genesis’ first small SUV, the GV70 is slated to challenge the segment’s road warriors: the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q3, and Lexus NX.
Is it up to the test? We drove the GV70 up California’s Pacific coast, from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara, on a Wednesday in late July, and found it could hold its own in the segment.
Starting at $41,000, the 2022 Genesis GV70 is the fifth vehicle from the brand. If you aren’t familiar with the Genesis marque, it’s only been on the road for a handful of years.
It’s owned by Hyundai Motor Group and is positioned as the luxury brand to its value-oriented Kia sister brand. Since launching out of the gate in 2017 with its first standalone model, the fierce Genesis G70 sport sedan, the brand has fought valiantly for a foothold in a space dominated by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz for decades.
“Genesis is audacious,” Tedros Mengiste, executive director for sales operations of Genesis Motor America, said before we departed the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. “We’re the newest luxury brand in the market, and we know it’s not an easy path.”
Owned by Hyundai Motor and sister brand to Kia, Genesis has put its entrepreneurial spirit to task, debuting four models since December. That includes the larger GV80 crossover, its all-new G80 midsize sedan, a facelift for the G70 compact car, and a forthcoming all-electric version of the GV80. The brand’s lineup also includes its flagship G90 executive sedan.
“We are serious about establishing ourselves as a top-tier luxury brand, and we are investing in it across the board,” Ted said. “We are distinctly Korean. Our Korean heritage teaches us to be humble, to respect the craft and those that have come before us, but also to challenge the status quo and make it even better. We are always striving for bigger and better in whatever we do.”
The five-passenger, two-row GV70 looks like a smaller, sportier version of the GV80. Its “athletic elegance” design language showcases clean, simple lines, starting with a crest grille designed to resemble the winged Genesis emblem itself.
“We want our quad headlamps to be our signature design characteristic, like the Nike swoosh,” said Andre Ravinowich, senior manager for product planning at Genesis Motor North America.
The SUV sports a sleek profile indicative of its “Korean design influence,” according to Ravinowich. At the rear, Genesis placed the GV70’s reflectors and license plate low enough to keep the upper half uncluttered, creating an appealing aesthetic that stands out on the street.
How It Drives
The GV70 comes in two flavors: a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower, and a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 that delivers 375 horsepower. That’s easily more horsepower than any of its rivals. All models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The crossover is built on the same platform as the G70 rear-wheel-drive compact sports car, cemented in the brand’s canon as its first model out of the gate and an award-winning, viable competitor to BMW’s 3 Series. But even though the SUV sends most of its power to its back wheels most of the time, it can distribute power to the front to maximize grip when needed.
That means it’s happiest playing in the canyons high above Malibu and less so in the stop-and-go traffic edging its way up the Pacific Coast Highway.
Inside the Genesis GV70
The Genesis GV70 2.5T comes in four trims: Standard, Select, Advanced, and Sport Prestige. The more powerful 3.5T model comes in Standard, Sport Advanced, and Sport Prestige. I drove a GV70 3.5T Sport Prestige model with all-wheel drive and an MSRP of $65,045.
The GV70’s dashboard is sleek where rivals can feel overbearing. For its materials and control panels, designers drew inspiration from the aerodynamic cross-section of an airplane wing and the texture of a topographical map. Slim wraparound vents flank a floating 14.5-inch touch screen, creating a sense of open space, while jewelry-inspired controls and soft ambient lighting remind you this is very much a luxury ride.
It comes with the standard safety equipment expected of a small SUV in this segment, but we especially loved the optional blind spot view monitor, which features dual cameras on the SUV’s side mirrors when you flip the turn signal.
Compared with the larger GV80 SUV, the GV70 targets single professionals, small families, and empty nesters. Like our recently reviewed Volkswagen Taos and Land Rover Defender 90, these smaller companions drive more like off-road sports cars than traditional SUVs.
(However, note that unlike the surprisingly spacious Taos or Defender 90, the Genesis GV70 has a shockingly small rear seat. At 5’4” my knees bumped against the back; my 5’7” friend felt similarly squished. It’s probably best to leave the back seat to small children, pets, or cargo.)
Genesis wants the car to resonate with customers who have the ethos of an explorer, even if they never leave their county lines. That’s why it named its exterior colors after exotic destinations, from the black volcanic sand on the beaches of Vík, Iceland, to the white sparkling salt flats of Uyuni in southwest Bolivia. “The names of these colors, they’re meant to inspire curiosity and exploration,” we’re told before taking the keys for our coastal California drive.
So maybe another luxury compact SUV is exactly what the world needs. The brand expects its first standalone dealership to open in Lafayette, La., by the end of the year. But you can be among the first to get a Genesis GV70 in your driveway when it goes on sale this summer at Genesis dealers across the country.
What We Loved
- Contrast stitching
- Textured buttons
- 14.5” touch screen
- Compact, muscular profile
- Blind spot view monitor
- Excitement of a new brand
Disclosure: Genesis provided the Genesis GV70 for this review; all opinions are my own.