Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand is still pretty green, and its lineup continues to lack an all-important SUV. But it does build some compelling sedans. Its smallest, sportiest, and least expensive model is the 2020 Genesis G70, which shares most of its chassis and both of its available engines with the Kia Stinger. Last year we named the G70 to our 10Best cars list, as well as welcomed one into our long-term fleet in turbo 2.0-liter inline-four guise. What we haven't done yet is line one up next to the long-standing stalwart in the compact luxury sedan class, the BMW 3-series.
To make this a fair fight we ordered up the hottest version of the G70, with a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V-6 good for 365 horsepower, a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, and, when you opt for the sport package, a staggered set of 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires. Base price is $45,645, which undercuts the entry point of the comparable six-cylinder BMW M340i by more than $9,000. Both brands also offer all-wheel-drive variants, as well as lesser-engined models, but we're more concerned with how things shake out at the sharp end of their lineups. Unlike the BMW, the G70 3.3T doesn't get inflated with a bunch of options. Once you select the $1300 sport package, Genesis also makes you go for the Elite and Prestige packages, making the $51,245 G70 about as loaded as one can get.
As tested, our rear-drive 2020 BMW M340i stickers for $67,070. Its smaller 3.0-liter inline-six only has a single, twin-scroll turbocharger, but it produces 382 horsepower and its 369 lb-ft of torque is just 7 lb-ft shy of the G70's. Unlike the G70, the latest 3-series is no longer available with a manual transmission in the United States, but it does feature ZF's excellent eight-speed automatic, which BMW says has been tweaked for use in the M340i with optimized hydraulics. Our example's $12K in options include black leather upholstery with blue stitching, an upgraded audio system, three safety-related packages, adaptive dampers, and the $1500 Cooling and HP Tire package, which adds Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, larger front brake rotors, and an oil cooler behind the front bumper. An electronically controlled limited-slip differential and 19-inch wheels are standard.
Both cars weigh about the same, with the G70, at 3879 pounds, being the 66-pound heavier example, and their dimensions match up well. The Genesis is about an inch wider than the BMW, which gives its interior a bit more elbow room, while the M340i is about an inch longer. The BMW’s 112.2-inch wheelbase also is longer, but only by about half an inch. That additional wheelbase and clever packaging gives the German considerably more rear seat space than the Korean. Rear leg and headroom are tight in the Genesis, and if you’re more than six feet tall, your head will rub against its headliner. At 17 cubic feet, the BMW's trunk also is considerably larger than the G70's 11-cubic-foot hold.
On the Road
In a pure contest of speed, the Genesis simply can’t keep up with the BMW. The G70 3.3T Sport is quick, but the M340i seems to be powered by the hand of Zeus. The Bimmer rockets to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds at 114 mph, beating the Genesis by nearly a second in both measurements. As speeds climb, the gap widens further, with the 3-series beating the G70 to 150 mph by more than five seconds.
Both cars' powertrains are smooth and refined, but the silken nature of the BMW’s inline-six and the smoothness with which its transmission snatches gears truly are marvelous. In its Sport Plus driving mode, the quickness of its shifts increases further, but there’s never any untoward lurching or pause in the power delivery. The Genesis's boosted V-6 paired with its eight-speed transmission also performs wonderfully, churning out smooth thrust with little hesitation. But the tuning and calibration abilities of BMW’s engineers have reached another level.
Although the two sedans manage to generate good grip around the skidpad, the Genesis’s 0.91 g is dummied by the BMW’s 0.96 g. The BMW’s brakes also outperform the Genesis, stopping from 70 mph in 156 feet to the G70’s 164. It also is noteworthy that the BMW carries more speed down twisty two-lane roads. Its greater power, firmer suspension, and more athletic overall feel makes the M340i the choice for a hard run up and down your favorite mountain road, although the latest 3 still is rather stingy on tactile steering feedback, more of which would make it a true driver's car. Unfortunately, few of us drive Angeles Crest Highway on the way to the office, and in the real world of daily commuting, it’s the Genesis G70 that offers a superior ride-and-handling compromise. Its comportment is more compliant in Sport mode than the BMW’s is in it softest Comfort setting, yet the G70 doesn't wallow down the road in any way. Its body control is excellent, and its reflexes are of proper sports sedan stuff. The BMW, in comparison, often feels overly stiff and busy on the road.
The Inside View
Open the door of the Genesis G70, and it’s hard not to be impressed. Its interior is visually striking, with quilted leather, red contrast stitching, aluminum trim, and an Alcantara headliner. It’s also very comfortable, smartly laid out, and dotted with neat details such as knurled tuning knobs and trim around its front cupholders. There’s also more interior storage inside the G70, and its clean white-on-black gauges are classically simple. Look a little more closely, however, and the price gap between these two sedans appears in the G70’s smaller 8.0-inch infotainment screen and some plastic interior trim hiding under silver paint.
The BMW is more expensive, but it also feels more expensive. Climb in, and the firm actions of its engine start button and electronic shifter set the tone. This is a premium product in every way. Like its dynamics, the interior of the M340i duly impresses, save for the iDrive infotainment interface that pales to the Genesis's setup in terms of intuitiveness and ease of use. The M340i's digital gauge cluster is rather busy but intensely modern, and although the BMW’s front buckets are narrower than the G70's, seat comfort is good as long as you're not too broad in the hips.
The Bottom Line
All things being equal, you have to pick the BMW M340i here. It’s significantly quicker, its powertrain is more refined, and it has the richer interior, larger back seat, and bigger trunk. But all things aren’t equal. Our BMW test car cost the price of a new Nissan Versa more than the Genesis, and it’s the G70 that rides better and has more than enough performance and handling for 90 percent of drivers 95 percent of the time. Compared to the M340i, the G70 3.3T Sport represents an incredible value. It does everything nearly as well as the BMW, and it even manages to do a few things better. And you won’t be disappointed when hustling it around or when put your right foot down. It convincingly does both speed and luxury at a discount that the M340i, good as it is, struggles to overcome.