SEOUL – A new rich kid on the block – the ’19 Genesis G70 from South Korea –wants to give the German big boys – Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 – a run for the money (and market share) in the highly competitive lower-luxury sedan segment.

The G70 is agile, well-appointed and not wanting for power. During a media program in its homeland, it dives into twisty turns northeast of here and keeps cool doing hot laps at a race track, the Speedium, in Inje, about 24 miles (40 km) from the North Korea border. (A few military personnel were spotted at the track.)

The new sedan from Hyundai’s luxury brand is not muscle-car powerful like a Chevrolet Camaro, but it is sports premium like the Infiniti Q50, a car Genesis folks don’t mention as a G70 competitor, but seems like it could be. 

The G70 becomes the third car in Genesis’ 3-vehicle lineup that also includes the heftier G80 and kingsize G90 flagship that’s chauffeur-suitable.

Genesis says the G70 completes the brand’s current car portfolio. Introducing CUVs in coming years is next on the to-do list of the 2-year-old stand-alone brand that’s trying to make a name for itself among upscale buyers.

The G70 is expected to play a big role in both building the brand and moving the metal.

It’s up to the task as a solid newcomer, but it won’t be easy trying to take market share from the established C-Class, 3-Series and A4 that collectively sold 181,700 units in the U.S. last year, according to WardsAuto data.

The rear-wheel-drive G70 shares the same new platform and 3.3L V-6 twin-turbo engine as sister brand’s Kia Stinger, another all-new car from the Hyundai Group.

Genesis executives at a program here to both unveil the G70 and then show off its sophisticated yet athletic driving dynamics dismiss questions about how it compares with the more-performance-oriented Stinger that’s bold enough to set its competitive sights on the Porsche Panamera and Audi A7.

“We’re here to talk about the G70,” says Albert Biermann, an engineering vice president for Kia and Genesis. “We don’t do this contest between two of our cars.”

Biermann, who worked for BMW until 2014, adds, “Performance and fun-to-drive is not limited to Germany. In Korea, we can do it too.”

He and colleagues can get a bit mystical talking about how Korean values, harmony and traditions are channeled into the G70. Yet as an automotive product,  it mixes the right portions of luxury features and driving dynamics.     

At the track, Biermann says the G70 is not out to set any records, but the 365-hp direct-injected V-6 in the Sport version launches the car from 0-62.5 mph (100.5 km/h) in 4.7 seconds and tops out at 168 mph (269 km/h).

Variable-ratio steering and electronically controlled suspension (eco, sport and comfort mode choices) contribute to crisp steering response and agile ride and handling.

The engine keeps from whining or otherwise complaining when pushed. Torque  tips in at the right moments. The show of power is designed, in part, with Millennials in mind. “Young people are more attracted to more power” than their elders, Biermann says. Some things don’t change.

The G70 comes with two other powertrain offerings: a base 2.0L turbo I-4 and a 2.2L I-4 diesel. The latter probably won’t make it to the U.S. market.          

The optional 3.3L V-6 also powers the heavier G80 that went on sale in the U.S. earlier this year. The G70 hit the South Korean market in September. It will find its way to U.S. dealers around next spring. The suspension in the Korean version is cushier than the one planned for the U.S., a reflection of differing market preferences. 

“This is a land of speed bumps, and South Koreans want cars that can handle those,” Biermann says. Genesis will tune the U.S. version more tightly.

Still, the Korean version doesn’t fixate on ride at the expense of handling. Rack-mounted motor-driven power steering and multi-link rear suspension provide precise handling. Dynamic torque-vectoring keeps the car confident when cornering. A mechanical limited slip differential keeps it stable on various roadways.     

Designers didn’t go nuts with the G70, but they went for the bold with a honeycomb grille, long hood, short front overhang, narrow wraparound LED headlights, a chrome-accented profile and big 10-spoke wheels that give the body a noticeable lift.

Inside, a horizontal layout tastefully features aluminum door handles, quilted leather, metal speaker grilles and soft-touch surfaces. It’s easy to make yourself at home here.

Although Rose Ann Ryntz, a renowned plastics expert and polymer chemist, predicts leather’s days are numbered as an automotive interior material, Genesis designer Bozhena Lalova disagrees. She points to the generous use of it in the G70. 

Knobs and switches complement touchscreen functions on an infotainment system that has everything it should, yet remains refreshingly easy to use.

The steering wheel is conventionally circular. Product developers at one point considered a D-shaped wheel, but didn’t take that idea to the finish line. “The original contention was the D-shape offers more leg room, but that’s just not the case,” says Erwin Raphael, who heads the Genesis U.S. unit.

Audio controls for an Active Sound Design system allow drivers to select different  exhaust-tone sounds (normal, minimized and enhanced) emanating from the speakers. The choices tie into driving-mode settings.

Much design-studio effort went into picking secondary feedback sounds such as the ones that alert a driver to fasten a seatbelt or indicate a vehicle is locked, says Harry Eum, a Genesis sound engineer who helps create “the sounds you don’t think about afterwards.”

His product-development assignment was to think about it a lot. For the G70, the result is high-quality audio feedback that, while not particularly soothing the soul, doesn’t jar the ears, either.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com