2020 Genesis G70 First Drive Review: Should You Get The Stick?

Test Drive / Comments

The G70 is the last luxury sedan with a manual option.

The Audi A4, Acura TLX, Alfa Romeo Giulia, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Volvo S60. What do all of these compact luxury sport sedans have in common? None of them are available with a manual transmission. If you'd like to row your own gears in this segment, the only option left standing is the 2020 Genesis G70, which offers a six-speed manual option on the smaller 2.0T engine.

Genesis says that just four percent of G70 2.0T customers opt for the manual, making this a highly rarified car. Some might even call it a unicorn. With no other direct competitors, the manual G70 could be in a strong position to capture the small but vocal "I only buy manual cars" demographic. CarBuzz was sent a 2020 G70 with the six-speed manual to review for a week. Is the last manual luxury sedan on the market worth your consideration? The answer might shock you.

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Exterior Design: Wearing The Right Clothes

The G70 is a very attractive sedan, and the 2.0T Manual trim is mostly styled to perfection. Our tester came wearing a unique but understated shade of paint called Siberian Ice. It pairs well with the G70's chain mesh chrome grille and sporty 19-inch wheels with red Brembo-branded brake calipers. We only have one issue with the exterior styling, the single-side dual exhaust outlets that look lopsided compared to the ones found on the larger 3.3T model.

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Interior Design: More Premium Than Luxury

The 2.0T manual is not the most beautifully appointed G70 available, leaving out luxury touches found on upper models like quilted leather seats. Even so, the G70's interior feels premium, though far from the opulent standards set by Mercedes and Volvo. All of the materials feel nice to the touch, though some of the controls are made of plastics that feel shared with lower Hyundai models. At least those controls are knurled, giving a more premium impression.

Buyers can choose from black or gray leatherette, both of which wrap around nicely-hugging seats with adjustable bolstering. Genesis has kept the gauge cluster simple but readable while the eight-inch touchscreen is looking a bit small by 2020 standards. The screen is highly intuitive though and features Apple and Android compatibility, so we can't fault it too much for its small size. Look for a major update to this cabin for the 2021 model year. The manual gear lever on our tester was clearly showing signs of wear within the shift pattern, which is something we've seen before on highly-aged BMW cars.

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Trunk & Cargo Capacity: Sized For Fun

The G70 competes with models like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class but Genesis clearly prioritized driving pleasure over cargo and passenger space. In the rear, the back seat offers just 34.8 inches of legroom, trailing most of its rivals. The trunk is similarly small with just 10.5 cubic feet. An upcoming wagon model could rectify the G70's cargo-hauling inefficiencies, but as it stands, this is well off the best in the segment.

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Engine, Performance, & MPG

By opting for the manual transmission, you are willingly forgoing the G70's wonderful 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6, which is by far the best available engine in this car, because Genesis only offers it with the eight-speed auto. This manual 'box, which is borrowed from the old Hyundai Genesis Coupe, just couldn't handle the additional torque of the V6.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is just fine, but it lacks the punch and massive performance of the V6. With the manual, the 2.0T puts out 255 horsepower (three more than the automatic model) with 260 lb-ft of torque compared to the V6's 365 hp and 376 lb-ft outputs. 0-60 mph takes around 6.2 seconds, which pales in comparison to the 3.3T car's 4.7-second time.

The manual car doesn't just come with a penalty in performance, the fuel economy is impacted as well. Fuel economy drops to 18/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined compared to 22/30/25 mpg with the automatic. Even the larger V6 manages 17/26/20 mpg, nearly matching the 2.0T manual despite having more than 100 extra hp.

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Driving Impressions: A Missing Piece

As we said in our main review of the G70, it drives beautifully. Every poetic word you've read about old-school BMW M cars rings true in the G70. The chassis remains perfectly neutral through the bends and the suspension has been tuned to the perfect mid-point between having enough compliance without too much body lean. This car forgoes the adaptive suspension found on other G70 models in favor of a fixed sport suspension, which we found to be perfectly ideal for a daily driver/weekend canyon carver.

The limited-slip differential helps you control the rear end and put the power down and the communication between the front and rear ends is aided by some of the best steering this side of an Alfa Romeo Giulia. This truly feels like a driver's car first and a luxury sedan second, though Genesis has managed to keep it quiet and comfortable even on the highway. There is only one downside to the driving experience and sadly, it lives in the center console.

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We are manual diehards through and through but in this specific circumstance, we must sadly admit that the automatic car is better. Much better. Manual transmissions are supposed to enhance the driver's connection to the machine but this manual makes an otherwise flawless driving experience feel clunky. The clutch is heavy with a vague bite point, so you are almost guaranteed to stall it the first time you hop in. Forget about driving it in traffic because you'll be thinking so much about every first gear start, it will be a constant reminder of how you should have just bought the V6.

Clutch pedal aside, the manual itself plops into gear with the grace and precision of a spoon in a bowl of oatmeal. You may remember this transmission from the out Genesis Coupe, which was never renowned for the slickness of its transmission. Heel-and-toeing is at least a simple affair and shifting your own gears does allow you to extract the most from the 2.0T's meaty mid-range torque. Just don't try to power shift because the manual in this car does not like to be rushed when changing gears.

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Pricing & Trims: More Than Just A Manual

Among the few automakers that still offer a manual transmission, many of them lock it on the lowest trim level. Genesis knew that just because someone wants a manual, it doesn't necessarily mean they want their car to be devoid of options. Opting for the manual transmission in the G70 actually jumps you into a different trim level that adds more than just a gearbox.

This trim level includes all of the standard features of the base 2.0T car while also adding 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin summer Pilot Sport 4S tires, full-LED headlights, a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, sports exhaust, aluminum interior trim, aluminum pedals, heated and ventilated seats with driver memory, and a 15-speaker Lexicon audio system. Genesis has also swapped out the electronic parking brake for a physical one, which is a move we highly approve of. All of these goodies come at a relative bargain price of $39,525.

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Verdict: Not The One We Want

For the past several years, we have been thrilled to see Genesis outlast all of its competitors by continuing to offer a manual transmission on the G70. If you want a compact luxury sedan with a stick, this is your only option left but in our honest opinion, it isn't the G70 you should buy. The G70 is much more enjoyable with the V6 engine. Even the four-cylinder G70 with the automatic feels like a more cohesive package.

Manual transmissions are sometimes undeservingly praised for offering greater driving pleasure and a deeper connection to the car. This is true for the best manuals but in this particular car, it does nothing to add to the overall experience. We hopped into the G70 manual hoping for greatness but found bitter disappointment. Genesis got everything else right on this car like the limited-slip diff, Brembo brakes, host of interior upgrades, and the mechanical parking brake, but messed up the one thing it needed to get right - the transmission itself. The G70 is still a car we highly recommend. We just recommend it with an automatic.

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