As we detailed on Monday, this year’s Shanghai auto show has been the place to be if you want to see car designers’ ideas for future electric cars. But not everyone chose China as the place to reveal their electric concept cars. Genesis thinks the Big Apple is a better place to make an annual statement.
In 2017 it was the GV80, a hydrogen fuel cell EV that was the first clean-sheet design for the new Korean luxury brand and a vehicle that seems a lot more plausible now that we’ve driven Hyundai’s Nexo. Last year, we got the Essentia, an electric hypercar that will almost certainly remain nothing more than a concept. Now, for the third year in a row, Genesis has stolen the New York International Auto Show, this time with the Mint, its take on a small luxury battery EV.
Forget an electric car for the masses, this one is for a niche within a niche: the city dweller who only needs two seats but still wants cargo space, plus the added drama of scissor doors and a leather-lined interior that looks like it belongs in a coachbuilt Bugatti from the 1930s. Admittedly, it’s not the biggest demographic in the world, but I count myself firmly in that camp.
“Luxury has no size,” said Manfred Fitzgerald, head of Genesis Motors. “Even a small car with a confined space can feel luxurious. Despite the aesthetic cues, I think it also has a lot of practical features to it like the lateral openings to stow your things. Also the simplicity of the interior, the fine lines and reducing it to the minimum, to the essentials, is the statement here.”
Genesis designer Sangyup Lee concurred. “Traditionally, size matters in luxury cars. But the question to ourselves was, ‘If you live in a city like New York, is size relevant?” Lee told Ars. “What if we did something small but luxurious. It’s an EV, so we pushed the wheels to the corners. Even though it’s a small car we could stretch the cabin so there’s a lot of leg room and headroom when you sit in it. We also asked ourselves whether four or five seats were relevant; in a city there are a lot of transport options, and maybe two seats are enough, and we made the rear space utilitarian so you could carry your stuff.”
That cargo area is accessed through a pair of side-opening doors that give the car plenty of visual drama while also proving practical. “The scissor doors open from the sides so you can easily access your stuff from the cargo area. If you think about it, in a city cars park bumper to bumper. So is a hatchback tailgate the best idea? Maybe not, if there’s a car parked right behind you,” Lee said. “When scissor doors are in the front they’re quite heavy, the glass has to drop, and it’s difficult to get in and out. But when you have them like this, half size and in the back, it’s almost ideal.”
The cabin is a particular delight. The bench seat swivels back a little when you open the door to aid entry. The driver’s display is set into the wheel, with three small circular screens either side of the wheel for other controls. To start the Mint, you flip the spherical drive mode selector on its axis, which provides immediate visual feedback as to whether the car is off (metal side up) or on (crystal side up). To drive away, twist it from P to D (or R). Behind the two seats, stretchy black netting provides a way of securing cargo, and it’s simple to get to thanks to the huge side openings. My favorite elements are the pedals and the foot rest (the one on the left), which use Genesis’ Matrix design and leather to add a touch of Art Deco flair.
No real technical specs exist for the Mint, but don’t rule out a production version. When I asked Fitzgerald if that might include some of the more extrovert design details, he responded enthusiastically. “I would like to see all of them make it and I will definitely fight for it. I don’t know if I’ll win, but I’m going to fight to have this on the street just the way it is.”
Genesis, if you make this car a reality, you will have my money.