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.


Hyundai Genesis Lexus LS 460

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.

Hyundai Sonata Honda Accord

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.

Kia Sedona Honda Odyssey

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.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. Hyundai may be copying, but if they are, they’re copying Toyota’s strategy, which was to copy the Germans on the more expensive cars, and make the less expensive stuff as inoffensive as possible. So, does that make Hyundai a copy of a copy? Whatever it is, it has been a very successful strategy for Toyota, that’s for sure.

  2. bigcharlie – You got it right. Asian car design is an oxymoron as their designs are just a slightly altered take on someone else’s successful design. Lexus LS 400 was a knockoff of the Mercedes at the time. Mazda Miata is almost an exact copy of the original Lotus Elan. What isn’t a copy is bland, like the Honda Accord or the Toyota Camry. B-O-R-I-N-G. But it’s been very profitable for them in the marketplace.

  3. I like the way my Honda Accord looks. I think it’s very stylish. If that makes me boring then I don’t care. Maybe its not a Ferrari, but who wants all those problems?

  4. How does the Genesis look like the Lexus LS460? The Kia Sedona and the Ford Windstar? That’s real bogus. If they have similarities, your list should be extremely large and it would include GM vehicles. Nitpicking on the Koreans is unjust.

  5. Speaking of Koreans, GM and designing cars, the three mini-cars being shown at the New Your Auto Show all were designed in GM’s Korea design facility. Those aren’t copies. They look pretty good. Maybe it’s just Hyundai and Kia that are being conservative in their design work. Maybe there’s some pretty good design talent in Korea.

  6. CaymanS, the Genesis looks very much like the LS460, in spite of what you may think. And though the photos don’t show it, if you read the article, the OLD Sedona and the OLD Windstar (pictured) look very similar, same as the NEW Sedona (pictured) and NEW Odyssey look very similar.

    The article was not meant to be an exhaustive list of all cars that cribbed design cues from their competitors. Yes, GM has done it too. Ford ripped off a bit of the Mini Cooper’s vibe with the Flex, too, not to mention the Audi A6-style roofline that the Five Hundred has. And how many manufacturers are going with the fender vents nowadays, or the horse collar-type grille that Audi introduced a few years ago?

    As I said at the end of my article, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    I challenge you to name a Hyundai product that is decent looking without cribbing cues from other makes. They have some original models, but they aren’t as attractive as the ones that are clones of the competition.

    By the way, the May 2008 Motor Trend also said that the Genesis looked similar to an LS460 and BMW 5-series.

  7. kimeatskimchi, my theory on the lack of a coherent design language from Hyundai was that they either lack self confidence or lack of creativity. They’ve rolled out some really nice looking, original concept cars over the past few years, but the production models are, in my opinion, styling disappointments. I suspect that there IS talent at Hyundai, but it hasn’t been given a free reign for whatever reason. Similar to what we’ve seen from GM over the past few years – extremely bland models for a while, then suddenly many of the same designers that brought us awful-looking cars like the 2004 Malibu can bring us lookers like the 2008 Malibu and 2008 CTS.

  8. Maybe Hyundai should steal away GM’s Korean designers!

  9. Toyota is very popular car here in Europe and people say some same things about design in Toyota. But buying of Toyota continues. It is the reason of quality. For that, people are accepting boring appearance. Hyundai is same.

  10. You know what would be weird, but kind of cool? If Hyundai copied a really popular car like a 1974 BMW 2002 or a 1967 Chevrolet Nova SS but with modern everything. Like the Mini or the Beetle or the Mustang or the upcoming Camaro. SInce Hyundai doesn’t have a car like that in their history, they’d have to copy someones else’s car, so they couldn’t make it an exact copy. They would have to make it just a little different so they wouldn”t get sued. An update of the BMW 2002 would be a big seller, I bet.

  11. They can make copy cars like the Tiburon anytime. So much more creative than the Rabbit.

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