Hyundai Needs Its Own Design Language
By Chris Haak
Hyundai has shown us its very attractive Genesis large rear wheel drive sedan concept at the 2007 New York Auto Show. On paper, this sounds like a heck of a car: rear wheel drive, optional 4.6 liter 300-horsepower V8, at prices starting below $30,000. But what’s wrong with this car? It’s a victim of Hyundai’s own lack of creativity, or lack of confidence, in its own design team.
From the front, this car looks a lot like a 2007 Toyota Camry, but with more chrome. From the side, it’s trying to look like a Lexus LS 460, even to the point of having a BMW-like “Bangle Butt” decklid design, which Lexus cribbed off of Bangle’s BMW 7-series. It also has the same crease cut into the doors and into the front fender that the 2005+ Acura TL has.
The Genesis isn’t Hyundai’s first example of cribbing design cues from competitors, though. The 2006 Hyundai Sonata, for all of the accolades that it received, looks very much like a 2003 Honda Accord, but with a slightly more angular front end treatment. The rear end is nearly a carbon copy of the 2003-2004 Accord’s.
Going back further, the 2002-2005 Hyundai XG300/350 is a knockoff of the original Infiniti Q45. The 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe looks very similar to a previous-generation Toyota RAV4 (especially from the A-pillars rearward). Also, the recent mid-cycle enhancement of the Hyundai Tiburon made it look less like a Tiburon and more like a 2001 Mercury Capri.
Hyundai’s corporate cousin, Kia, is also guilty of dressing up a few of their vehicles to look like the competition. The Kia Amanti is a halfhearted attempt to crib Jaguar S-Type styling cues, and the Kia Sedona minivan’s first generation mimicked a Ford Windstar, and the second generation looked an awful lot like a Honda Odyssey.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery – but it’s flattering to the companies whose products are being duplicated, and should be embarrassing to Hyundai that they have trouble developing attractive mainstream vehicles with their own original – and not quirky – styling.
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