Hyundai and South Korean stablemate Kia have made great strides in Australia in recent years.

Once scoffed at, they have won over buyers with solidly made cars, attractive pricing and generous warranty offers.

Now, Hyundai will test goodwill Down Under with the latest generation of its flagship Genesis sports sedan.

And make no mistake, the company isn't settling for any "it's-good-for-a-Hyundai" pat-on-the-back response.

At the car's first airing to Australian designers, it said the new Genesis was "ready to challenge the established luxury car brands while changing buyer perceptions about quality and affordability".

Hyundai Australia's John Elsworth said the popularity of the top-spec Santa Fe SUV was enough to pull the trigger and bring the Genesis to Australia.

The particulars are still being finalised.

We do know we'll get the 232kW 3.8-litre Lambda V6 and not the 3.3-litre V6 and 5.0-litre V8 units on offer in Korea.

It will be a rear-wheel-drive though all-wheel-drive is made.

And a $50,000-$60,000 price tag seems likely.

HEY GOOD LOOKIN'
So what do you get in a luxury Hyundai? Well . . . it depends.

Hyundai hasn't decided what features will make it to Oz, or whether there will be different spec variants or just a single model.

But you'll definitely be getting a damn fine-looking vehicle.

With a coupe-like roof line, daytime LEDs and muscular rear, the Genesis carries all the headturning capabilities buyers in this segment want.

It's topped off by Hyundai's winged, Bentley-aping Genesis badge up front.

The good looks, in keeping with recent Hyundais, have played a large part in the car maker's improved standing in Australians' minds.

Or, as Hyundai's Sydney-raised design chief Casey Hyun explained, the company wanted to appeal to the emotional side of a buyer these days as well as the practical.

HOW'S THE SERENITY?
After spending time in the Genesis, one thing became clear - if the car maker can squeeze everything on the range-topping model into the Australian version, the car will go a long way.

From Incheon Airport to Seoul, we experienced the Genesis' town-car credentials from the back seat - and it certainly got a tick.

Two intelligent scoops in the ceiling ensured taller folk had enough headroom, while there also were a TV screen and power seats which were heated and cooled.

Blinds for the rear windows and windshield and USB connectivity made for a most pleasant ride.

Such features can be controlled from the rear - which was great until we interrupted our driver's navigation with a Korean little-league baseball telecast.

It doesn't have BMW 7 Series space in the back but it's certainly comfortable and, unless you're a Perth Wildcat, you'll be fine for legroom.

Things were just as nice up front. Hyundai has used real wood, leather and aluminium to create a luxe feel while an analog clock is a nice touch.

It still feels like an Asian car rather than Euro but that's not to say it's inferior - just different.

It's certainly at least equal to, say, Lexus levels of refinement, with superb cabin quietness.

BEHIND THE WHEEL
The Genesis was great on the open road, the suspension soft but not disconcertingly so. And it will benefit from further tuning for Australian tastes and conditions.

There's no doubt this is more a luxury cruiser than sports car.

The concession in having such a serene cabin is the V6 doesn't give a satisfying roar when you floor it.

But it's still brisk - it will get you to 100 clicks in 6.5secs.

It's also pretty frugal: after driving it with not exactly light feet, we had a reading of about 10L/100km after more than 200km.

The eight-speed auto is excellent, going unnoticed in normal driving conditions and holding on to gears nicely when in sports mode.

GO GO GADGETS
Hopefully, Hyundai can bring most of the tech features over as the Genesis is stacked.

There's the usual heads-up display, big high-definition touch screen, safety and infotainment perks, plus some nifty extra stuff.

A Smart Trunk function sees the boot automatically open after the driver - armed with a smart key - stands still by the boot for three seconds.

And the car can sense CO{-2} levels in the cabin and will ventilate fresh air in when levels get too high to minimise the chance of the driver becoming drowsy. Neat.

There's a heap of safety and driver-assist technology - blind-spot detection, lane- departure assist, emergency accident braking - but a firsthand viewing of the Genesis' safety credentials was most impressive.

At Hyundai's sprawling Namyang R&D Centre, we got to see a compliancy crash test for ANCAP. After hitting a wall at 64km/h in a forceful collision, the Genesis' front doors could be opened despite the front carnage.

AN IMPRESSIVE STATEMENT
Despite the premium-car segment succeeding in an otherwise drooping Australian market, Hyundai won't have it easy.

Nissan's Infiniti luxury offshoot has struggled since arriving in Australia and it remains to be seen if luxury-car buyers will get the same ego boost having a Hyundai badge - even a fancy one - on their bonnet.

A lot is riding on how the Genesis is priced. If Hyundai gets it right, its new Australian flagship should change perceptions on what the Korean car maker is now capable of.

HYUNDAI GENESIS
Price: Estimate $50,000-$60,000
Engine: 3.8L V6 petrol
Outputs: 232kW/397Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Thirst: Expect 10-11L/100km
0-100km/h: 6.5secs

The West Australian

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