Has Genesis shown us a fresh face in emission-free motoring?
Since the advent of the automobile, cars and cities have co-existed in uneasy truce, but as concerns over deteriorating air quality gain traction across the developed world, it seems increasingly likely that our towns are simply not big enough for both. So the mid-term future for the combustion-engined private car, in an urban context at least, is looking bleak.
However, like most behavioural shifts, this is unlikely to occur overnight, but already, as previously reported both here and elsewhere, city legislatures are taking matters upon themselves by limiting or banning outright, vehicles which fail to meet stricter environmental rules.
Also previously discussed on these pages is the strong likelihood that in the near-future, prior to any outright bans at least, city cars will increasingly shift from the cheap and cheerful vehicles we know now to being expensive, mostly EV products increasingly aimed towards the affluent urban dweller.
Hyundai’s luxury car brand, Genesis, faces what is likely to be a lengthy and precipitous climb towards acceptance and upmarket credibility, having recently launched in the US market and with plans to do likewise in Europe next year. The task they face is both onerous and uncertain – ask Lexus, to say nothing of Infiniti or DS Auto.
Making its simultaneous debut at the Shanghai and New York motor shows this week (couldn’t they have staggered the dates?), Genesis’ Mint concept previews the kind of upmarket compact urban vehicle the carmaker suggests might tempt the upwardly mobile out of the ‘urban-CUVs’ they currently appear to like so much.
More coupé than city-hatch in form, the Mint’s sinuous forms make virtue of its means of propulsion with short overhangs, strong, muscular proportions and clean, largely unadorned surfaces. If the nose treatment can be described as somewhat Tesla-esque, that is perhaps an inevitable consequence of carmakers adopting a grille-free aesthetic. There are after all only so many ways to skin a cat. And on the subject of reflections, the canopy perhaps puts one in mind of Lancia’s 2003 Stilnovo concept, but only fleetingly.
The Mint is currently configured as a three-abreast-seater, with a rather exposed looking storage area behind the seats. Access to the rear compartment is through an elaborate pair of scissor-style hatches, which looks impressive, if a little over-elaborated – as does the instrumentation and controls. But it is after all a concept. Genesis say it employs a high-density battery pack which should enable it to travel approximately 200 miles (322 km) on a full charge.
Perhaps the biggest surprise however is the possibility that Genesis might be considering a production version, brand chief Manfred Fitzgerald telling Autocar, “I believe that there is a white spot on the map that nobody is really catering to and it’s something we should really take a stab at.”
There is a lot to admire in the Mint concept, especially if Genesis can in fact, (a) produce it, and (b) do so in relatively undiluted form. Certainly, as a challenger brand in the luxury sector, they are perhaps better placed to be at the vanguard and it behoves them more to take a risk.
About a decade (or so) ago, environmentalists overtly targeted SUVs in a campaign to highlight issues of wasteful consumption. With the protests currently taking place in central London and elsewhere against Governments’ apparent inaction on climate change, who is to say that similar (and more virulent) campaigns might not again form?
Certainly our cities ought not be populated by oversized, hyper-aggressive behemoths, so if the future of urban vehicles is set to move closer to the lines made flesh by Luc Donckerwolke’s design team here, it seems (on the face of things) like something worth standing behind. Mind you, given the likely asking prices, this is probably where the rest of us will find ourselves confined as the urban elite ooze past.