The Genesis New York Concept, unveiled last week at the New York auto show, is perhaps the most vivid reminder that Hyundai and Kia have attracted a world-class group of designers over the past few years. Despite its less than imaginative name, the car is a clear statement that the Korean carmaker can deliver finely wrought designs and a consistent — and original — familial style.
But more than a mere hint at the design direction for Hyundai’s upstart luxury brand, the gorgeous New York Concept presages a real car, one that is set to arrive in showrooms within the next 18 months, according to Hyundai insiders.
"This car is not really a show car," announced Kia designer Peter Schreyer. "It's really a look into the future of the Genesis brand. We are lucky on this project, not having to start from an established car. We could build from a clean sheet.”
At a size that fits between the compact Jaguar XE and mid-size XF saloons, the New York Concept approaches the conventional three-box profile with unconventional rakishness. It has a surprisingly low roofline; the side windows appear quite shallow. In dove grey with a kiss of blue, the car’s colour matches extremely well with the copper accents at the front fascia and surrounding the quad exhaust tips. At the rear, the New York Concept tapers organically. Well after the car’s reveal, we overheard one Maserati executive exclaim, “My God, that car is gorgeous.”
Well after the car’s reveal, we overheard one Maserati executive exclaim, 'My God, that car is gorgeous'.
Though chief of design Peter Schreyer is responsible for the overall design brief, much of the New York Concept’s styling was executed by others — including Luc Donckerwolke who joined Hyundai and Kia from Bentley last year and who will eventually succeed Schreyer as head of design. As well, Hyundai Design North America chief, Chris Chapman, himself a graduate of BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA in California, is intimately involved.
“Ultimately, what you see must feel natural, pure and at ease in it’s own skin,” Chapman says of the New York concept, and in general. “Everything begins with proportion. Complex or intellectual design doesn’t work to most eyes. The New York uses simple surfaces.”
The Genesis New York Concept serves notice that it will take a design back seat to no one, including the established luxury brands it plans to challenge in the very near future. Can South Korea’s first luxury marque emerge as a contender in an arena dominated by the likes of Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus? Time will tell, but in the New York Concept’s artful form, a strategy shines through: win hearts first, then minds.
If you would like to comment on this or anything else you have seen on BBC Autos, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter. And while you're at it, join the BBC Autos community on Instagram.
And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Autos, Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.