CABAZON, California—The traffic circle invited me to play, so I took the outside lane and tried to squeal the Michelins on my way to the third exit, the one for I-10 eastbound. From the inside lane, a plodding Mini Cooper veered for the second right, the one for Main Street, giving the 2019 Genesis G70 2.0T Sport M/T another way to prove itself. The strong Brembo brakes front and rear assured that neither the Mini nor I paid a price. Indeed, still in third gear, I nudged back into the accelerator and bounded up the ramp with alacrity.
It was the sixth night in my weeklong test, and the car was delivering new ways to please. Fifteen months ago, at the launch of the G70 series in South Korea, we got details on the four-cylinder version that would complement the V-6 envisioned as the mainstay of this all-new sport sedan. As it turns out, the four-cylinder G70 2.0T Sport M/T—it sounds Pythagorean, not Korean—is something special and will accomplish a few things.
First, all five of the 2.0T trim levels are offered at a wholly reasonable price point in the mid- to upper-$30,000 range. My test car stickered at $38,895 including destination and delivery. For a small premium over a well-equipped Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, the buyer gets a fast, fun, feature-filled sedan that’s distinguished-looking, sleek, and sporty. Choose between rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations, and in those other trims, let an eight-speed automatic transmission handle the business. But my car, the top four-cylinder variant, has rear-drive and a six-speed manual. For anyone who looks at a traffic circle as a playground, the 2.0T Sport M/T will be seen as an accomplishment: a driver’s car that gives the G70 series a lot of credibility, the automotive equivalent of climbing a high peak without bottled oxygen. It’s perfect for street racers who are graduating to greater seriousness and four doors with a roomier interior.
Besides the 19-inch wheels and Brembo brakes, the 2.0T Sport M/T comes with a multi-plate limited-slip rear differential, sport exhaust system, and handbrake to replace the electronic parking brake of the other models. Three aluminum pedal caps and a dead pedal in the driver’s footwell present an engaging proposition. The pedals are well-positioned, and it is possible to heel-and-toe downshift. But as happy as I was to use them, they’re also my biggest complaint about the car because of the car’s occasional recalcitrance to launching smartly from a stop. The problem with the 2.0T Sport M/T starts with a tricky, sluggish throttle opening. When matching revs during downshifts, I took to double-pumping the accelerator to ensure response. Combine this lassitude with an indecipherable clutch release, and getting off the line smoothly proved a bit chancy. As with training a handsome but inattentive young spaniel, it is understood to be worth the effort.
On the other hand, it’s hard to say enough about the smooth six-speed’s well-spaced ratios and the saucy character it gives the car, although we do wish it had a bit more positivity to its engagement. Sixth gear is the only overdrive, so midrange response is strong in all lower gears. In these moments, the note from the twin-outlet exhaust transforms from a hum to a howl. Under the hood, the direct-injection turbocharged four may not make any worthwhile sounds of its own, but it delivers 255 horsepower—3 more than the 2.0T with the eight-speed automatic—and 260 lb-ft of torque from 1,400 rpm, which explains, for example, the ability to resume in third gear after braking for the Mini. Boost from the turbo comes without whoop or whine. The 0 to 60 mph dash ends in about 6.0 seconds, and watch for 100 mph sooner than expected. Indeed, the V-6 makes 115 horsepower beyond the four, but then the G70 is more nose-heavy.
Besides the capable powertrain, the 2.0T Sport M/T delights with its chassis dynamics. The platform’s stability is always reassuring, steering has a just-right feel (especially with the driving mode set to Sport), and the suspension delivers a beautiful balance between taut and cushy. Body motions are well controlled in every situation. The car weighs 3,580 pounds, which is 64 pounds more than eight-speed automatic RWD variants of the 2.0T but 307 pounds less than a V-6 model with AWD. The weight seemed reasonable and reasonably well-managed, and the word “sumo” only floated through my mind once or twice.
For all this speed and agility, the 2.0T Sport M/T offers a sedan’s traditional practicality and comfort. Wind noise is a non-factor, so cocooning occupants can cherish the 15-speaker, 660-watt sound system that would leave Joseph Haydn pleased upon hearing the adagio movement of his Symphony Number 102. The infotainment system incorporates smartphone mirroring and proffers enough settings and submenus to satisfy Radar O’Reilly. Layout of the minor controls is very straightforward.
The 2.0T Sport M/T also happens to be a beautiful car with graceful roofline, flaring fenders, and elegant wheels. Sparkling in Adriatic blue, my example looked wonderful. I felt ambivalent about the bright body trim, but highest compliments go to the face that makes do without gauche and self-conscious display of the front air intakes. The interior, which is pretty conventional, doesn’t quite say “all-new design,” and the plastic door panels say “economy car.” But the leather-wrapped, power-tilting-and-telescoping steering wheel is perfect, and the leather-covered heated and ventilated front seats were very nice.
In sum, the G70 2.0T Sport M/T may take some practice, but it abounds in verve and seems like a good value for a rear-drive car with fine handling characteristics and a decent amount of snort. Apologies for not assessing the level of driver-assistance features on offer or even turning on the cruise control—I was having too much fun driving.
2019 Genesis G70 2.0T Sport Manual Specifications
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 255 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/28 (city/highway)|
|L x W x H||184.4 x 72.8 x 55.1 in|
|0–60 MPH||6.5 second (est)|
|TOP SPEED||145 mph (est)|