Genesis Mint Concept is perfectly sized for a New York debut

Small electric cars can go a long way in urban traffic.

Genesis is a luxury automaker, and its current lineup is rich with larger cars -- as it should be, considering size imparts feelings of wealth and prosperity. So it was quite the surprise, then, when the company decided to bring a twee electric car to the 2019 New York Auto Show. But, according to Genesis, perhaps it's not that surprising.

"Mint belongs in the city," Manfred Fitzgerald, global head of the Genesis brand, said in a statement. The Korean automaker believes more and more people will move to city centers in the coming years, and there will be a need for pint-size premium cars. "There's a white spot on the map," Fitzgerald told Roadshow at a New York Auto Show preview event this week.

Indeed, the Mint is a tiny little thing -- it looks to be about the length of a Mazda MX-5 Miata. Those 21-inch wheels are almost comical by contrast, pushed way out to the car's corners. But view the concept from the dead-on front or rear views, and you'll notice its width, further accentuated by the LED lights that span the length of the front and rear fascias.

The coolest part of the Mint might be its rear doors -- which aren't really even doors at all. Rather than a conventional hatchback with a trunk, two small hatches flip up and back, allowing you to access the cargo hold from the sides of the vehicle. The low, wide loan-in aperture offers surprisingly good access to the space behind the front seats. It's easy to imagine this car parallel parked on a busy street, and just flipping the side hatch open so you can toss your belongings inside.

It may be purely conceptual for now, but it's not hard to imagine something like on the road. "I don't believe in a concept being too 'la-la-land,'" SangYup Lee, head of Genesis' parent company Hyundai's global design center, told Roadshow.

The rear-hinged side hatches provide access to the cargo area.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

The Mint's powertrain isn't some far-fetched thing, either. It's a concept, of course, so this is all hypothetical. But in theory, the Mint uses an all-electric powertrain with a range of about 200 miles, with the ability to use 350-kilowatt fast charging. Genesis imagines this car would have at least Level 3 partially autonomous capabilities, as well.

Fitzgerald says it would send "the wrong message" to do the Mint concept with a internal combustion powertrain, and Genesis believes this car is better served as an EV. As for the range, Fitzgerald says Genesis "would like to have a flexible concept" -- if it comes to production, multiple ranges could be offered. "If this is a city car, you don't need a lot of range," he says.

You don't need a crazy interior, either. Open the front doors, and the Mint reveals its very simplistic cabin: one bench with seating for two, and an armrest in the middle, with a one-piece dashboard that's free of any clutter. In fact, when you open the door, the bench seat turns toward you, and the dash moves away -- not only does this help with ingress and egress, it's really inviting.

The bench seat swivels toward you as you open the driver's door.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

The car's central infotainment screen is small and housed inside the steering wheel. Small stacks of buttons flank the wheel, offering shortcuts to commonly used features. At the end of the armrest, you'll find a sphere that rotates and lights up when the car is on, and it's how you put the car into park, reverse, neutral and drive. Similar spheres are found on the doors, which serve as the electronic locks and window switches.

The main interior theme is Genesis' "G-Matrix" pattern. It's designed into the floor liner, and a similar pattern is used on the cargo cover behind the seats. We first saw this design on the Genesis Essentia coupe concept from last year's New York show, and we're told it's something that will come to the company's production cars soon. "You will see a lot of daring statements from Genesis in the future," SangYup Lee told us.

But will we see a production version of the Mint? That, of course, is up in the air. "We really hope to see this in the very near future," Fitzgerald said -- it might even be more viable than a road-going version of the Essentia.

This is one small car that makes a big statement.

The concept's hypothetical electric powertrain is said to offer 200 miles of range.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

Update, April 17: Adds additional information