Genesis – a name you might have heard of if you’ve travelled to South Korea or the US in the past five years – is finally launching in Europe.

Trouble is, the Hyundai Group’s premium-to-luxury brand is starting in the UK with a large SUV (GV80) and an executive saloon (G80), and with only petrol and diesel power. Some electrified versions will follow within 12 months and there will be a more diverse line-up overall after that, but for now it’s a difficult pitch in a market not short of very well-established premium rivals – from the big German three to Jaguar, Lexus and Volvo too.  

In the brand’s favour are two excellent ex-Bentley men at the top of its design team to make the cars look and function well, and the financial clout of a buoyant Hyundai Group determined to create a high-end brand above Hyundai and Kia that can compete globally. 

Taking the agency rather than the dealer sales route in the UK, Genesis is aiming to disrupt the market by offering a different kind of customer service that is more personal, respectful and appreciative of its end user and carried out by decently salaried staff. Any commission on offer will not be for sales targets met, but for the quality of customer service given. 

For now, Genesis UK makes no bones about focusing on retail customers first. But its head of sales, Jonny Miller, is an ex-Polestar and Volvo man with considerable contract hire and leasing experience, and is keen in the longer-term – especially when the Audi A4-sized G70 arrives – to look at corporate opportunities. Indeed, he’s already been talking with the residual value experts to explain the new brand’s approach. There’s only one physical space for now – at Westfield Shopping Centre in west London – but test drives and servicing via trailer pick-up and collection can be arranged for potential customers who can’t easily get there. 

The Genesis UK launch cars are big – the GV80 is BMW X5-sized and the G80 similar to an Audi A6 – and the GV80 tested here has a spacious cabin to match. Its look and feel is straight out of the Bentley playbook, from diamond-quilted leather seats to knurled switchgear and it’s certainly a comfy and luxurious place to sit, but then again the GV80 seven-seater we drove had some £15,000 of extras that bumped the cost up to £77,485, which is Maserati Levante price territory, so it ought to be good. Can the GV80 mix it with such elevated and storied company though? 

The short answer is no, but not because the GV80 isn’t well made or built. It just feels derivative – from the weakly winged badge design on the steering wheel to the tech that just about everyone else has. We’re not criticising that it has it – it’s essential – but it’s hard to find areas where Genesis is seeking to be different.

The 278hp 3.0 diesel has plenty of power, the well sound-proofed cabin and seats cosset and the ride is decent. It can go fast or slow with equal aplomb and there’s good space in the second row, if not the optional third pop-up one.

The twin screens are flashy and fairly quick, but nothing new. The most original tech detail is perhaps the way the blind spot assist shows a real-time view down the side of the car in certain situations in the right-hand driver dial to aid safety. The GV80 offers lots of other standard kit too, from ten airbags – including a centre armrest airbag useful in side impacts to stop driver and passenger clunking heads – plus active noise control. 

There is also a 304hp 2.5 engine petrol GV80 available, but just like its 3.0 diesel counterpart, it will get clobbered in the company car tax stakes with chunky CO2 ratings that ensure a top-whack 37% BIK rating and high first-year road tax rate. This is the position for most diesel rivals too, but Genesis has ruled out plug-in hybrids, so anyone seeking to be different will have to expect hefty BIK tax bills until the electric models are introduced later.

The GV80 range starts at £56,715 for the five-seat petrol 2.5 in Premium trim and rises to £62,915 for the seven-seat diesel 3.0 in Luxury trim, but it will take a brave company car driver with deep pockets (for the tax if nothing else) to be tempted by this large SUV. Next month we’ll see if the G80 saloon is any better.

Genesis GV80 Luxury (seven seater)  

P11D: £61,010

On sale: Summer 2021

Residual value: TBC

Depreciation: TBC

Fuel: TBC

Service, maintenance and repair: TBC

Cost per mile: TBC

Fuel consumption: 31.5mpg

CO2 (BIK %): 231g/km (37%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £376/£752

Luggage capacity: 727 (five seats up)/2144 litres

Engine size/power: 2,996cc/278hp