When Hyundai first started manufacturing their own vehicles in 1975, they wanted to make sure that the design would appear to customers. They managed to get hold of Italdesign Giugiaro S.p.A to design their first vehicle, the Pony, and subsequently, the first generation Stellar, Excel and Sonata were also designed by Italdesign Giugiaro.
They were good design at the time but I felt that Italdesign Giugiaro was behind with their design philosophy in the 70s and 80s. Many car manufacturers were transitioning out of the box shape, sharp edges design during this period, but Italdesign Giugiaro were still applying it in their design. It wasn’t until late 80s, where the line flow of their cars were starting to become smoother and more dynamic.
When the company underwent major reconstruction, splitting off from the rest of Hyundai companies, and the acquiring of Kia, we saw a confusing sense of design and styling in the company’s products. The company wanted to produce better quality cars, but the design of their cars lacked character and definition. With the release of Hyundai Tiburon, we saw a car with good continuity line flow, being “facelifted” into a 6 eyes monster, which makes removes the “expression” of the face.
Then there was the inconsistency in design. The 1993 Sonata had a facebook to its 5th generation, were we saw a front face upgrade with round edged lights, yet only 1 year later, the Elantra facelift recieved squared shaped head lights.
I’d say it wasn’t until mid 2000s when Hyundai’s design really caught up with their competitors in exterior styling. With the introduction of Namyang Design Centre in Korea, American Design Centre in California and Europe Design Centre in Germany, Hyundai has turned their exterior design to a new direction.
The introduction of continuity in the design was a long awaited feature that is present in many car manufacturers. The embedded logo with lines fading out towards the light can be seen with all of the i-range products.
The Veloster is a design revolution for Hyundai as it is a sports car which Hyundai has never done before. Personally, I think the Veloster is beautifully styled, it also introduces the design continuity seen with i-range products.
Within the American market, the luxury Genesis and Equus are also well designed. The design language of the two cars are very similar, and there is also continuity of features with the two cars as seen below.
There is more of a distance from the green house to the vanishing point on the Equus (top) which is a common method for car designers when they are designing higher grade models to give the car a more stream line, dynamic and luxurious. More rear overhang gives the car a backwards leaning stance and provides a better sense of speed and motion.
With their luxury sedan having a front redesign, and a different logo, I can see Hyundai spawning a seperate luxury brand identity, similar to that of Lexus to Toyota or Infiniti to Nissan. We will have to wait and see if this prediction is true or not.