The Truth About Cars » Hyundai http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hyundai http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/hyundai/ Hyundai, Tesla In Spat Over Funding Of Supercharger Network http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hyundai-tesla-in-spat-over-funding-of-supercharger-network/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hyundai-tesla-in-spat-over-funding-of-supercharger-network/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866874 Tesla Supercharger Night Party

Hyundai’s head of U.S. product planning Michael O’Brien may have written a check his mouth can’t cash when he claimed Tesla’s Supercharger network was paid with taxpayer dollars.

Green Car Reports says during a discussion of his employer’s view on hydrogen fueling infrastructure, O’Brien stated that Hyundai has not received any funding from the federal government for its hydrogen vehicles, while Tesla’s Supercharger network was paid with “grants and loans from the government.”

In turn, this assertion infuriated Tesla’s vice president of business development Diarmuld O’Connell:

Those sites have been paid for entirely by Tesla Motors — which continues to spend money in expanding the network. This stands in stark contrast to certain foreign carmakers, including Hyundai, who have no manufacturing presence in California but expect the state’s taxpayers to spend up to $200 million to set up hydrogen stations.

For his part, O’Brien did acknowledge hydrogen would only take off “when other states start investing in infrastructure.”

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2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan To Receive Speed-Camera Warning System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-hyundai-genesis-sedan-to-receive-speed-camera-warning-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-hyundai-genesis-sedan-to-receive-speed-camera-warning-system/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 11:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857105 2015-Hyundai-Genesis-main

Speed cameras are the bane of any driver’s existence, especially if they’re more trouble than they’re worth for the municipality who experiments with them for a contract period of several years. Future Hyundai Genesis owners in Korea, however, may have a new tool at their disposal that should make dealing with the long lens of the law much easier on the wallet.

Drive.com.au reports the new generation of the Korean premium sedan will use GPS and braking technology to help would-be Alex Roys down to the limit in time to wave hello at the camera. Hyundai representative explained to reporters at the Genesis Sedan’s unveiling in Seoul how the system would work:

It knows there is a speed camera there, it knows where the speed camera is and it will adopt the correct speed. It will beep 800 metres before a camera and show the legal speed, and it will beep at you if your speed is over that.

The system will work best at fixed and average speed cameras, but not against mobile units. Meanwhile, the same self-braking tech used in the preemptive camera evasion will also bring the sedan to a halt to prevent a collision should such an event arise.

Alas, the system won’t be available to U.S. drivers anytime soon, while Korean drivers may have to wait a bit until after the Genesis makes its local debut in October of this year.

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Review: 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Sport and 1.6T Eco http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-hyundai-sonata-2-0t-sport-and-1-6t-eco/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-hyundai-sonata-2-0t-sport-and-1-6t-eco/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 12:30:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856521 IMG_6725

Yesterday, we gave a qualified thumbs-up to the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.4, noting that the powertrain didn’t really come up to snuff in what was otherwise a competent and well-equipped sedan.

Today we’re trying the other two motivational packages on offer, in lower-priced Sport and Eco trim.

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Be warned: not every Sonata Sport has the turbo engine. There’s a bodykit 2.4 Sport as well, but that doesn’t get you the two-liter turbo and it doesn’t get you the more expensive rack-mounted power steering system. The car I drove retails for a robust $29,325 and it is meant to be a competitor to the Accord and Camry V-6 entries as well as the bigger of the two Fusion Ecoboost engine options.

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I’m hoping you read yesterday’s Sonata review; if you haven’t, go catch up. Let’s discuss the differences between that car and this one. In the Turbo-only metallic orange, the Sport manages to claw back a little bit of the style that Hyundai let go with the 2015 redesign. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but this Sport appearance package impressed me as a step forward over the base car. Inside, the luxurious ventilated seats are replaced by “Turbo” embossed leather seats, the steering wheel is the oh-so-cliche-now flat-bottomed unit, and the needles for the instruments rest at the six o’-clock position for additional sportiness. They dutifully flick through their entire range of motion when the Sonata powers up, which means that this vehicle shares at least two features — the steering wheel shape and the instrument panel behavior — with a Lotus Elise.

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And that’s where the Lotus comparison ends, because the sportiest Sonata isn’t much sportier than the regular one. The blown two-liter is torquey from 1350rpm according to the spec sheet (245hp/260 lb-ft) and it steams up the back-road hills with far more authority and less agitation than its normally-aspirated sibling, but there’s nothing particularly enthusiastic or visceral about it. Full disclosure: your humble author is the owner of a 2014 Accord V6. Fuller disclosure: and as a sporting proposition, the Accord V6 puts the Sonata 2.0T up on the pinball table and violates it while the Camry V6 and possibly even the Malibu Turbo cheer it on. There’s no comparison. It ain’t like Hyundai can’t do a strong six-cylinder, as we found out when we praised the Genesis Coupe a few years ago. They just won’t give it to you in the Sonata.

What the engine doesn’t do to torpedo its own desirability, the transmission will. While downshifts from the flimsy, wobbly paddles are sure and strong and don’t require placing the lever in Tiptronic mode in order to work, upshifts happen automatically a full 750rpm beneath the 7000rpm redline regardless of paddles or lever placement. That’s fine, I suppose, since the turbo’s long since out of breath at that point. This is the small-snail-itis that VW suffers as well. To misuse a phrase frequently heard on the internet, a compressor wheel small enough to give you the low-end torque you need is small enough to take away every bit of thrill the top end could have.

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This would be a stellar engine in the Limited Ultimate; it’s strong at low revs and can’t be flustered by the demands of passing on back roads. It just doesn’t measure up to the six-banger competition, period, point blank.

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Bereft of the Limited Ultimate touches and the segment-unique equipment, the interior of the Sonata Sport is revealed as a fairly Camry LE-ish place to be. The smaller LCD display has the same sad proportions of the uConnect Chrysler gives you when they want to punish you for not buying the real one. The stereo, on the other hand, is fully the equal of what you get in the big-money Sonata. It might even be a little better, and I can’t offer any reason for that other than preproduction variance. It really drops that bass on the Elvis Crespo tunes, to the discomfort of my passengers.

The theme of grey cheer continues with the deletion of the electronic parking brake and the loss of the fabulous fake wood in favor of a textured-looking silver pattern that is disappointingly smooth to the touch. It must be said that the same NVH virtues that were noted in the Sonata Limited review apply here. This is a big, quiet, solid automobile that exudes build quality and will adjust to fit nearly any driver.

For about the same money, however, you can get a Camry V-6 with fabric seats. It’s anybody’s guess how good the 2015 Camry super-facelift will be, but the existing car is pretty good and from an enthusiast perspective it continues to have much to recommend it over the Sonata. Luckily, Hyundai loyalists have another very good option available.

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The 1.6T Eco that we drove was a “pilot” vehicle and not representative of the eventual production and blah blah blah and hey it was actually better than the Sport in pretty much every way. The smaller engine is mated with an alert dual-clutch transmission that is perfectly at home on hills and in city driving. The net result is a sprightly, low-inertia feel that encourages spirited driving far more than the rev-averse two-liter turbo and torque-converter automatic possibly could.

The two-tone Eco interior has the Sport beat six ways to Sunday even if it isn’t quite up to Ultimate snuff. The large touchscreen returns — and trust me, you really want that — and the dual-trapezoid center stack is enlivened with Infiniti-style grey plastiwood. Hyundai doesn’t make a big deal of the Eco’s credentials visually, presumably because the new 2016 hybrid model that will replace the carryover old hybrid for 2015 is scheduled to receive a unique fascia and trim. But it’s handsome enough and somehow the new styling works best when it’s “Eco” instead of “Ultimate” or “Sport”.

Driving point-to-point in downtown Montgomery, the Eco was sluggish with its eponymous drive mode selected via the console button, but switching to “Sport” mode brought it alive. This is the fun member of the Sonata family. The engine wants to rev, even if it’s not terribly strong, and the Eco Sonata just feels lighter on its feet. (During Q&A, Hyundai indicated that weight savings for the Eco model would be minimal.)

The DCT offers PowerShift slurring rather than DSG brap-and-cut instant shifting, so we wouldn’t expect the Eco to shine on track. In the real world, however, it’s more direct and more involving than the six-speed automatic and it’s a difference you can feel in just a few hundred feet. This was the only one of the supplied cars we felt any temptation to “hoon”, even if we didn’t yield to that temptation.

The drive in the Eco came at just the right time during the press event. Finally, a Sonata that didn’t feel so grown-up, and all the better for it. With pricing that sneaks under the $24k mark to start, it might be the best consumer choice as well. Whatever you do, don’t pick the 2.4 or 2.0T versions of this car without at least trying the Eco. It’s our choice as best of breed in the Sonata family, and it’s a value proposition besides. While none of these Sonatas will blow your mind, they’ll all impress your reason, and hey — the Eco might even capture your heart.

(Disclaimer: Hyundai provided meals and lodging and offered travel assistance which we did not use.)

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Review: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2015-hyundai-sonata-limited-2-4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2015-hyundai-sonata-limited-2-4/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855721 IMG_6693

There are old Sonatas, and there are bold Sonatas, and starting now, any bold Sonatas you see are going to be old Sonatas.
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That old, bold Sonata lifted Hyundai from casual-participant status in the American midsize game to the life of a full-time player. The timing was right, falling in the middle of the bailout mess. The quality and equipment levels were acceptable to a useful slice of the buying public. And the styling was ripped straight from the headlines — assuming the headline story of that particular day was “A Fuzzier Look At The First-Generation Mercedes CLS”. Plenty of flash, not much cash, and a warranty to ease your mind about the way your neighbor’s 1999 Elantra rusted out at the door seams.

To consolidate those gains and keep the Montgomery, AL plant running three shifts a day at full capacity, Hyundai’s elected to dial back the visuals and crank up the equipment levels, both standard and optional. They invited us to tour that plant and drive three variants of the new Sonata on a variety of suspiciously smooth Alabama highways and byways. Today we’ll cover the $33,375 Sonata Limited Ultimate Package; later on in the week we’ll have the Sport 2.0T and Eco 1.6T models.

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It’s fair to say that Hyundai has successfully met about ninety-five percent of their stated goals with this new Sonata. In the press preview, they promised us a large, roomy car — and that it is. They promised us a rigid car that matched the class leaders for solidity — and if anything they’ve exceeded that goal. They promised segment-unique equipment like stop-start laser cruise control, panoramic roof, ventilated seats, all at a price that meets or beats the value entries — and the numbers don’t lie.

Start with the Sonata’s size and weight. By removing the option of a V-6, Hyundai has moved the cabin forward and secured the only “EPA Large Car” classification in the segment. It’s the widest of the Camcord/Sonatoptima/Fusionbu crowd and it beats most of them in most measurements. After some prodding on my part regarding Hyundai’s ability to cut weight in this car the way Honda did with the most recent Accord, their chief vehicle engineer retorted that the old Sonata was among the lightest in the segment and that this new car would weigh just six pounds more. The Accord’s lighter, but you need to take a manual transmission to have a measurable gap. The number I was given for a base 2.4 Sonata was 3,259 pounds; Honda quotes 3,254 for the LX CVT.

So what we have here is a serious effort at delivering space without a weight penalty and the results are convincing. The Sonata never feels cramped, front or rear. In particular, the relative lack of tumblehome really imparts an airy feel to the cabin and if the windowsills aren’t quite Accord-low they are easily a match for the Camry or Altima. It doesn’t need to be said, but in this respect the Malibu isn’t even a competitor — which is perhaps why the press materials accidentally showed the previous-gen Malibu. Hyundai’s long past having to worry about fighting General Motors.

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A press of the metal start button, shared with the Genesis, and the 2.4L thrashes into life. Our test Sonata was in Limited Ultimate trim, which for over $33,000 offers you a BMW 7er’s worth of equipment. But you still have to take that lumpenprole big-inch four-cylinder, coupled to a six-speed automatic. Hyundai’s people refused to get defensive when I pressed them on this: “There are hundreds of thousands of Sonata owners who are very satisfied with this proven six-speed unit and they are coming back for more of the same.” Sure, but if any of them accidentally experience the four-cylinder powertrains in the Accord, Camry, or Altima, they won’t like what they find here very much. On the numbers, the Sonata is fine, offering about the same amount of power and economy as everyone else. On the move, however, it’s coarse and frequently whines in protest when asked to climb a hill.

The transmission is slow-witted and when the lever is moved over to Tiptronic mode it takes a full inch or more of meaningless travel in either direction before the desired gear is selected right as the level hits the mechanical stop. Annoying, the “+” and “-” selections are backwards, with “+” being towards the dashboard and “-” away from it. Hate to say it, but the Sonata really disappoints in the powertrain department, and my recent drive of a CVT Accord four-cylinder just hammered that home.

If you can let that go, however, you’ll find plenty else to love about the interior of this Sonata Limited Ultimate. The seats are brilliant; supportive, with strong ventilation or heating, they really satisfy and the range of adjustment is considerable. There’s even an auto-slide for entry and exit a la Town Car. There is a wide range of high-quality interior materials on offer, with the “wood” trim and the touch-points leather coming in for particular commendation. This is an expensive vehicle — indeed, I cannot readily think of a naturally-aspirated non-hybrid four-cylinder car that costs more — but there is clear value everywhere you look. Two false notes are struck by the much-ballyhooed “driver-focused” center stack shape that looks oddly like something from the original season of Battlestar Galactica and the LCD displays for time and temperature that would not be hugely out of place in a digital watch from that same era. Maybe there’s a retro thing going on of which I wasn’t aware.

This being the year 2015, or at least the model year 2015, there’s a requirement for full-featured navitainment and Bluetooth integration. The Sonata delivers ably with a high-resolution eight-inch center display, seamless ability to work with my old Samsung Galaxy S3, and a “BlueLink” group of external satellite features. The stereo is reasonably good although it isn’t very loud, offering reasonable clarity, focus, and adjustability. It’s a long reach to the touchscreen but if you can make it you’ll be satisfied with what Hyundai says is a more sensitive interface that allows the user to perform drags and slides on the navigation screen. (A tablet-style “pinch” or “expand” is not available.)

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What’s the rest of the drive experience like? As Hilary said, “what difference does it make?” But it would be unfair not to mention just how eerily quiet the Sonata is and how solidly it thumps on the bumps. I’d want a full week on Midwestern frost-heaved roads to really evaluate the ride, but in Alabama it was brilliant. Steering and brake feel are thoroughly artificial and strangely heavy, perhaps because the Hyundai customer might associate light steering with some cheap-ass Pontiac Grand Am. A “Drive Mode” button between the shifter and the electronic parking brake produces convincing further stiffening in steering and engine response.

The restrained styling, superior NVH, and unbeatable features list will make this Sonata a dangerously effective rival for the Fusion, but more than that Hyundai’s own Genesis is probably going to face some encroachment from the Limited Ultimate. It’s almost an Avalon competitor more than a Camry clone, and a few minutes behind the wheel of the relatively quick-witted four-cylinder Camry SE or XLE would drive the point home.

For this money, you can get an Accord Touring. Dynamically, the V-6 Touring murders this Sonata — but how often would you call on the power of the J35 six-cylinder, and how often would you miss the ventilated seats and the pano roof and the Hyundai’s ability to drive itself in traffic? How often would you hustle the big Honda down a twisty road, and how often would you want the Sonata’s vault-like isolation from the traffic outside?

In the areas of feature count, interior room, and quiet solidity, this is a genuine advance in the segment and should be recognized as such. The problem is that you can’t get the good equipment with the preferred engine. Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about what you do get when you choose the “Turbo” logo. In the meantime, feel free to think of the not-so-bold Sonata as a Korean take on an Oldsmobile Cutlass Brougham. You remember how popular that was, right?

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(Lodging and meals were provided courtesy of Hyundai, who also offered us transportation which we ended up declining due to travel conflicts.)

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846905 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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Kia Building First Mexican Plant To Alleviate Strained U.S. Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/kia-building-first-mexican-plant-to-alleviate-strained-u-s-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/kia-building-first-mexican-plant-to-alleviate-strained-u-s-production/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840426 2014-kia-forte-5-door-rear-left-view

In light of high demand in the United States for its offerings, Kia will build its first Mexican plant in Monterrey to help bring additional capacity to North America.

Reuters reports the factory will open 21 months after groundbreaking, supplying a total of 300,000 vehicles annually to the United States. Production will focus on Kia’s compacts — the Forte and Rio — at first before taking on work from the brand’s sole U.S. factory in Georgia, where the Optima, Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe are assembled, and from Hyundai’s Alabama plant, where the Sonata and Elantra are built. No word was given on when the first shovels would break the earth.

Aside from supply-and-demand issues in the U.S., Kia is likely building the Monterrey plant — to go with Hyundai’s production expansion into Chongqing, China — in order to maintain its market share around the globe. The duo together hold fifth place in the global auto sales race, a position it could lose by 2016 if no more capacity is added, according to Korea Investment & Securities auto analyst Suh Sung-moon.

The capacity limit was unofficially put in place by Hyundai/Kia chair Chung Mong-koo over two years ago, fearing his two brands would end up like Toyota in the 2000s if they expanded as aggressively as had the Japanese automaker.

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Hyundai Gathers Tucson ZEV Credits For Future Internal, External Swaps http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hyundai-gathers-tucson-zev-credits-for-future-internal-external-swaps/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hyundai-gathers-tucson-zev-credits-for-future-internal-external-swaps/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 10:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837793 Hyundai-Tucson-ix35-fuel-cell-crossover-rear-side-view

While the first hydrogen-powered Tucson FCVs left the docks in California in the last week of May, Hyundai knows the vehicles aren’t meant to add to the company’s bottom line, but are meant to garner credits for future use.

Ward’s Auto reports the Korean automaker will earn as much as 26 CARB credits for every Tucson FCV leased through 2017, each vehicle equal to $130,000 in credit. Fuel cell boss Byung Ki Ahn believes his company could then sell those credits to automakers in need of offsetting their carbon footprint, though Hyundai has no plans on the table to do so at this time, preferring to use the credits for themselves for less compliant vehicles of their own design.

In addition, the ZEV credits bestowed upon Hyundai’s hydrogen dream is more than than what EVs earn under California’s credit scheme, which earn less than half of what fuel-cell vehicles garner per unit sold. Ahn has no qualms with the scheme, though, viewing the credit market as “a good business model” for Hyundai and subsidary Kia to follow.

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New York 2014: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-hyundai-sonata-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-hyundai-sonata-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800810 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-10

Unveiled in South Korea last month, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata made its United States debut during the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The sedan, set to roll out of Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant this summer, offers an improved ride quality thanks to a stiffer chassis and lower co-efficient of drag. Up front, either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-pot or turbocharged 2-liter put less power to the front wheels than the previous generation of engines, with the former creating 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque while the latter churning 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft torque. Both engines are forever linked to a six-speed automatic.

Those opting for the turbo-four can add the Sport trim to their Sonata, bringing bigger brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels, quad exhaust, and more aggressive bodywork to the package.

Stepping inside the sedan, those who test-drove the Genesis sedan may feel a sense of deja-vu thanks to the driver-oriented center stack. Meanwhile, Hyundai will be offering a number of safety conveniences for the Sonata, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Hyundai Genesis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/capsule-review-2015-hyundai-genesis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/capsule-review-2015-hyundai-genesis/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:51:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788538 photo (14)

When it comes to luxury cars, there are two factors, often mutually exclusive, that come into play: actual excellence and perceived prestige. Very often, the latter wins out. If you want to know why, ask anyone who bought a Maserati Quattroporte. Or a BMW 528i.

From 1997-2003 the BMW 5-series was the last word in four-door sedans. If you wanted the perceived prestige, then the big V8 cars were sure to impress bench racers and badge snobs. If you wanted actual excellence, you did not pass go, did not collect 282 horsepower, and you went right for the six cylinder cars.

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When I think of the quintessential 5-Series, I think of the E39 525i or 530i. Neither was particularly fast. The cabin did have sumptuous leather and slabs of wood, but by and large it was still full of old school BMW touches like displays with orange illumination and dot-matrix looking typography, a dearth of cupholders and even *gasp* hard black plastic. And yet, they were all things to all people – comfortable commuter, ersatz school bus, peerless long-distance cruiser and even an engaging backroad scalpel.

In roughly a decade, we’ve regressed. You can now spend over $70,000 on an entry level BMW that has a turbo-four engine, just like your insurance broker’s Fusion or a soccer mom’s Santa Fe. And when you drive it, you realize that the 528i is not The Ultimate Driving Machine anymore, nor is it a positional good like the E60 cars were when the end of their life-cycle coincided with the Great Financial Crisis. The F10 528i is, in many respects, a very expensive, longitudinally oriented Camry.

Not much else in the segment is thrilling, however. The Audi A6 and Cadillac CTS are both saddled with 2.0T engines unbecoming of their relative station in life. The Mercedes-Benz E350 has a proper V6, but is softer than a Buick Lacrosse. The Lexus GS and Infiniti M are non-entities.

Nobody would have ever thought that the 2015 Hyundai Genesis would be upholding the mantle of excellence in the large rear-drive segment, but then again, nobody in 2003 would have expected that Hyundai would introduce this car – badged as a Hyundai, sold through the Hyundai dealer network – either.

As with the previous Genesis, the styling is handsome but derivative. If the old car looks like a reasonable facsimile of a Lexus, the new one looks like a reasonable facsimile of an Audi, styled within the framework of today’s emissions and safety regulations. The lack of aesthetic imagination would be all the more damning if it weren’t for the homogenization of everything else on the road, in both looks and driving experience.

Well, almost everything. The two-point-oh-tee engines infesting nearly every car from the C-segment on up are very helpful with meeting all kinds of regulation: CAFE, European emissions standards, EPA fuel economy tests and world market displacement taxes.

With the Genesis, Hyundai is focusing on three major markets: the United States, Korea, and China. That means no boosted fours. Instead, you have the choice of a 3.8L V6 (311 horsepower, 293 lb-ft of torque) or a 5.0L V8 (420 horsepower, 383 lb-ft of torque). The V6 actually loses 22 horsepower, though it gains 2 lb-ft, while the V8 drops 9 horsepower and picks up 7 lb-ft. Not particularly encouraging stuff, given that curb weight is up by about 150 lbs on rear-drive models.

Any doubts about performance dissipate once you’re behind the wheel. Both cars feel much faster than their predecessors, with the 5.0 V8 providing serious forward thrust and an aggressive bellow at higher rpms that sounds like a muffled version of Chrysler’s Hemi V8. Like the old E39 540i, the V8 Genesis is at its best when cruising rapidly in a straight line, tracking perfectly straight without any hands on the wheel, cruising below 2000 rpm in near silence while eating up miles of blacktop.

If you never got a chance to drive the 3.8L V6, you wouldn’t have any qualms about the 5.0′s dynamics. The V8 car isn’t overly engaging, with relatively numb steering, a rather slow turn-in and a grudgingly competent way of taking turns . The V6 is an entirely different animal, as distinct in character as the I6 E39s were from the 540i.

With two fewer cylinders and the engine sitting a bit farther back, the V6 Genesis responds with far more enthusiasm than the 5.0 While the steering isn’t particularly big on feel, there’s a much greater level of feedback from the front tires. Turn-in is quicker, and the whole car responds to inputs in a more enthusiastic manner. The V6 isn’t as effortlessly powerful as the big 5.0 V8, but it responds with enthusiasm, and its own soundtrack is engaging and even raw at higher revs. Nobody would ever complain about the lack of power from the 3.8L engine either. V6 models will have an optional all-wheel drive system developed with Magna, but seat time in that car will have to wait for a later date.

The weak link in the powertrain is the in-house 8-speed automatic transmission, which is neither as sporting nor as refined as the 8-speed ZF gearbox that is near-ubiquitous in today’s premium car offerings. Kudos to Hyundai for making their own in-house design, but ZF has set a very high bar with what might be the best gearbox on the market. And even 8-speeds can’t help save the Genesis from less than stellar fuel economy ratings (18/29/22 mpg city/highway/combined for the V6, 16/25/19 for the AWD model and 15/23/18 for the V8).

But all of this talk of high performance driving is largely academic. The things that the Genesis needs to excel at – namely, a comfortable ride, minimal NVH and a premium interior – are all tasks at which the Genesis acquits itself. There’s a bit of noise around the wing mirrors when traveling at speed, but road and wind noise is largely isolated. The new car manages to strike the appropriate balance between ride and handling as well. Chassis tuning by Lotus (yes, that Lotus) was a big part of Hyundai’s PR push, but driving on bumpy desert access roads and poorly-maintained streets in outlying towns displayed a compliant, well-sorted ride as the primary characteristic. When pushed, the Genesis responds as well as a two-ton luxury sedan could be expected to – more than its European competition can say for themselves.

In its attempt to ape the leading European and Japanese luxury cars, the Genesis can be optioned up with all kinds of the latest cutting edge technology: a lane-keep assist system (that was overzealous and a bit of a nuisance), radar-guided cruise control, haptic feedback through the steering wheel and even a CO2 sensor (which supposedly helps keep drivers from getting too drowsy).

And you don’t need any of it. The best Genesis is the one we spent the most time with – a basic 3.8 V6, with the smaller 8″ display screen, 18″ wheels and only a couple of rows of neatly organized buttons (no iDrive-esque controller like the fully loaded Ultimate Package cars). At $38,000, it’s closer in price to a Honda Accord V6 Touring than a BMW 528i. Both the Honda and the Hyundai are better examples of actual excellence than the now neutered 5er, but in the real world, few have the courage to put character before image. What a shame.

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Hyundai Sonata Fuel Economy Rating Found Lower Than Stated, Corrected http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hyundai-sonata-fuel-economy-rating-found-lower-than-stated-corrected/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hyundai-sonata-fuel-economy-rating-found-lower-than-stated-corrected/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:40:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=774929 2014 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai announced a correction in the upcoming 2015 Sonata’s fuel economy upon findings showing the economy figures to be lower than originally stated.

Reuters reports the sedan claimed a 6 percent-climb to 12.6 kilometers per liter, a figure based on tests at the automaker’s research center. However, government tests returned a 2 percent-climb of 12.1 kilometers per liter than the outgoing model.

Analysts, including Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade senior researcher Cho Chul, said the impact of the error and subsequent correction would be short-lived, having been announced prior to the new Sonata going on sale later this month in its home market:

This may have a short-term impact on its reputation. But for the longer term, it is better for Hyundai to take quick action before controversy erupts.

Both Hyundai and Kia are rebuilding their reputations regarding fuel economy after overstate figures in their respective lineups led to recalls and customer lawsuits, paying $395 million total in settlements in the United States in 2012 for over 1 million vehicles with erroneous mileage.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata Caught Nude In Home Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-hyundai-sonata-caught-nude-in-home-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-hyundai-sonata-caught-nude-in-home-plant/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:37:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770842 2015-hyundai-sonata-lf-scooped-factory-3

New spy photos of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata have emerged showing the upcoming sedan fully nude in its home plant in South Korea.

The Korean Car Blog reports spy photographers have said the Sonata boasted a 2-liter T-GDI four-pot pushing 274 horsepower toward the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The new Sonata will make its official launch March 24.

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Hyundai To Challenge BMW, Mercedes With Genesis Sedan In Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-to-challenge-bmw-mercedes-with-genesis-sedan-in-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-to-challenge-bmw-mercedes-with-genesis-sedan-in-europe/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756313 2015 Hyundai Genesis

Set to be introduced to the European premium market at the Geneva Auto Show next week, the Hyundai Genesis will be aimed at establishing a foothold for the automaker in the market against BMW and Mercedes upon arrival in showrooms in June, particularly in Southern Europe, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Automotive News Europe reports Hyundai expects to sell 1,000 of the premium sedans to a targeted group of customers who are familiar with the brand, especially those ready to attach diplomat plates to their new purchase. No price has been announced thus far, though the automaker has pegged the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class as rivals to their Genesis.

Overall, Hyundai aims to increase their market share on the continent from 3.4 percent currently to 5 percent by 2020. Though sales fell 5.5 percent last month, there are already 6 million vehicles on the road, with 70 percent under seven years of age. Customer retention also increased, moving from 36 percent in 2010 to 50 percent in the present, which benefits Hyundai in Europe according to regional head Allan Rushforth:

Working on loyalty is really fundamental to the economics of our business, and the success of our business in Europe. We’ve been a conquest brand to get to this point, but we’ve got to evolve and mature to balance retention and conquest in the future.

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Sonata Quality Issues Drag Down Hyundai, R&D President Returns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sonata-quality-issues-drag-down-hyundai-rd-president-returns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sonata-quality-issues-drag-down-hyundai-rd-president-returns/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:54:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756401 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Just as J.D. Power ranks Hyundai fifth from dead last over quality issues regarding the 2011 Sonata, the automaker’s research and development president, Kwon Moon-sik, returns to the fold three months after quitting over a number of quality issues within the product line.

Automotive News and Reuters report Hyundai holds 27th overall on J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, with 169 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed. Though nothing was specified for the 2011 Sonata or the 2011 Elantra — the other car from 2011 that brought down Hyundai’s rank — the industry overall developed issues with engines and transmissions tied to advanced fuel-efficiency technologies, including turbocharging. The sedan’s issues are magnified due to its groundbreaking design and said technologies, shaking up the otherwise conservative midsize sedan segment on its way to becoming Hyundai’s top-selling vehicle.

Meanwhile, Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo has rehired R&D president Kwon Moon-sik to help right the ship as the next generation Sonata prepares to make its debut in South Korea next month, as the automaker said in a statement:

Given his expertise, experience and leadership skills, we reinstated president Kwon to enhance quality and R&D capability from scratch.

Hyundai also said they expect their dependability ratings to improve next year when the 2012 models are evaluated, though it was “very disappointed” the results of this year’s study, and is “examining every component of the score to determine root-cause solutions” for improving their product line and services.

Kwon, along with two other R&D executives, quit three months earlier over quality issues — such as those affecting the 2011 models — that led to massive recalls in the United States, South Korea and other market. He was also one of the top aides to Chung’s son, Chung Eui-sun. His replacement, Kim Hae-jin, will return to heading powertrain development.

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Hyundai, Mazda Eyeing Small Crossover Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-mazda-eyeing-small-crossover-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-mazda-eyeing-small-crossover-market/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:30:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=743737 2011_Mazda2_Touring_--_11-30-2010_2.jpg

The growing small crossover segment, featuring the likes of the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore, Honda Vezel and Kia Soul, may soon find two new players in the game as both Hyundai and Mazda have their eyes on the prize.

Automotive News Europe and Automotive News report the two automakers are planning to release subcompact CUVs of their own down the road, with Mazda tying theirs to the newly redesigned Mazda2 due out later this year. The crossover would slot underneath the current CX-5 in Mazda’s home market, and would be priced between 1.5 million and 2 million yen ($15,000 – $20,000 USD).

Mazda also aims to bring the mid-size CX-9 to Japan as soon as 2015 following its next redesign; both new models would expand the automaker’s crossover lineup to three vehicles in their home market.

Meanwhile, Hyundai’s subcompact crossover is in the study phase according to Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski:

We’re always looking at segments that we’re not in right now that maybe we should be based on where the market’s going. We’re very intrigued by this B-segment CUV.

Zuchowski also announced that his employer may also bring a smaller luxury sports sedan within a couple of years, which would form a trinity with the Equus and Genesis sedans.

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Hyundai Ready To Add Capacity After Two-Year Break http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-ready-to-add-capacity-after-two-year-break/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-ready-to-add-capacity-after-two-year-break/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739417 Hyundai production line Alabama plant

After a two-year break in expansion mandated by Hyundai Motor Company Chairman Chung Mong-koo in order to avoid quality issues experienced by Toyota during their aggressive growing spurt in the 2000s, Hyundai and Kia are both looking through feasibilities studies to determine where to invest in expanding their manufacturing footprint.

Though the mandate is still in place, the expansion freeze is putting the pressure on both brands’ existing factories to produce more vehicles as it is. In 2013, Hyundai and Kia utilized 105 percent capacity of their factories around the globe, with those in the Southeastern United States running flat-out between 125 percent and 135 percent on two shifts per day.

Sources closes to the expansion plans noted the current ban, though highly beneficial to the parent automaker’s bottom line, is ultimately unsustainable for future success; Hyundai aims to sell nearly 8 million units globally in 2014, and expansion into Mexico and China — and possibly the U.S., though through a cautious approach due to tougher competition in a tight market — would help move the goal post past 8 million

The renewed interest in expansion comes as costs in labor and languid growth prospects in the automaker’s home market are prompting competitors — such as General Motors — to cut back on manufacturing and export, something Hyundai refuses to contemplate. Thus, the search for “investment opportunities” outside of a local market set to peak at 1.6 million sales annually through 2020 beginning in 2016, including three sites in China, whose local market could see 33 million to 38 million sales annually by 2020.

If approved, the fourth Chinese factory would be Hyundai’s first major manufacturing capacity investment since opening their third plant in 2012 alongside one in Brazil, both announced prior to the expansion ban in 2010 and 2008, respectively.

That said, Chung could veto any new expansion investment should such plans be presented.

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Hyundai Canada Settles Class Action Fuel Economy Suit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-canada-settles-class-action-fuel-economy-suit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-canada-settles-class-action-fuel-economy-suit/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 17:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=726978 2011 Hyundai Elantra Build Sheet

Hyundai Auto Canada reached a settlement with consumers in a class action lawsuit over exaggerated fuel economy numbers among their Hyundai and Kia lineup of vehicles, paying a total of $46.65 million CAD ($41.85 million USD) in the deal, according to just-auto.

Under the terms of the settlement — affecting current and former owners and lessees of 130,000 Hyundai and Kia models made between MY2011 and MY2013 — consumers can either take a one-time payment based on type of vehicle affected, or remain in an existing reimbursement program Hyundai started in late 2012 after the automaker restated fuel economy ratings. The program covers additional fuel costs associated with the adjustment, along with a 15 percent premium in acknowledgement of the inconvenience over the issue so long as the vehicle is in the possession of the owner or lessee.

Those who take the lump sum will receive the payment minus previous reimbursements from the program. Other options available include a dealership credit of 150 percent of the lump sum, and a 200 percent credit of the cash amount towards the purchase of a new Hyundai or Kia.

Though Hyundai’s Canadian wing has its ducks in a row, their operations in the United States are still in the class action process after the Environmental Protection Agency announced fuel economy overstatements made by the automaker, as well as subsequent adjustments to the fact.

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Honda, Nissan, Toyota Set Production Record Against Weakening Yen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-nissan-toyota-set-production-record-against-weakening-yen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-nissan-toyota-set-production-record-against-weakening-yen/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=706538 Toyota Baja California Assembly Line

As the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all set production records in their North American plants in 2013, according to Automotive News.

Outputs for the trio last year include 1.86 million units for Toyota, 1.78 million for Honda, and 1.47 million for Nissan, though gains on the production line didn’t match sales in the United States. However, exports took up the slack in U.S. showrooms, with more units sent to growing markets such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Latin America.

As far as individual models are concerned, Honda built 466,695 Accords at their Marysville, Ohio plant in 2013, around 20,000 more than the number of Camrys Toyota workers at the automaker’s Georgetown, Ky. plant.

The Japanese Three expanded their presence in North America as insulation against a falling yen, which fell 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013 after falling 11 percent in 2012, as well as protection from overseas production disruptions that could affect North American output. In fact, Honda will soon open a plant in Celaya, Mexico to build the Fit, with the long-awaited 2015 NSX to be assembled in an experimental plant in Marysville.

Regarding Hyundai and Kia, the two South Korean automakers set a few records of their own in North America, including 399,495 Sonatas and Elantras leaving Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant, and 105,647 Santa Fes rolling out of the Kia line in West Point, Ga.

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Hyundai, Kia See Weakest Annual Sales Growth in a Decade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-kia-see-weakest-annual-sales-growth-in-a-decade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-kia-see-weakest-annual-sales-growth-in-a-decade/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 16:59:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691178 kia-k900-la-auto-show-14

2014 may only be a day old, but it’s already shaping up to be a rough year for Hyundai and Kia as they prepare to increase global sales by just 4 percent this year, the lowest and bleakest forecast for the Korean duo since 2003.

Though the foreseen growth will be fueled by revamped models and increased production in China, and is in line with overall projected global sales in 2014, a stronger won and weaker yen — the latter brought about by Japan’s desire to support its export industry and to find a way out of the 20-year trek through the economic wilderness — have eroded the price advantage Hyundai and Kia held over their Japanese competitors.

While the duo experienced market growth in Brazil and China last year, they lost market share in both their home market and in the United States, the former through a free trade pact between the European Union and South Korea. Sales in 2013 totaled 7.56 million units worldwide, with a total projection of 7.86 million going forward in 2014.

Shares of the parent automaker haven’t fared well in the outgoing year, advancing only 8 percent against GM’s 41 percent and Toyota’s 60 percent surges on the trading floor.

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Hyundai Battles Skoda For Czech Republic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-battles-skoda-for-dominion-of-czech-republic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-battles-skoda-for-dominion-of-czech-republic/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 12:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691138 Hyundai i30 3D

While Skoda has long been the Cinderella story of the Czech Republic, Skoda could soon find itself deposed as sovereign of their domestic auto market.

In an effort to boost their market share in the Czech Republic to 15 percent by the end of the decade, Hyundai has pursued a “going-native” strategy. The strategy ranges from sponsoring the national soccer team and promoting its factory (where 72 percent of Hyundai’s models sold in the country are assembled, employing 3,500 to build 300,000 units annually), to dealers displaying Skoda’s new Octavia in their showrooms alongside Hyundai’s i30 and i40 models so consumers can comparison-shop right then and there.

The result? Hyundai holds 9.6 percent of the Czech market, up from 3.6 percent ten years prior. Skoda, on the other hand, fell from 48 percent to 30 percent in the same period. However, the original home team has pushed back hard with their own war plan, sponsoring the national hockey team, launching eight new models for the 2014 model year, and relying upon tradition to keep one-third of their homeland’s market.

Like Hyundai, Skoda has a goal of increasing their European sales to 5 percent of the market by the end of the decade; Hyundai currently has 3.5 percent, Skoda holds 4.1 percent.

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Chevrolet U.S. Marketing Chief Chris Perry Resigns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/chevrolet-u-s-marketing-chief-chris-perry-resigns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/chevrolet-u-s-marketing-chief-chris-perry-resigns/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 04:22:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=684242 General Motors Vice President Global Marketing Chris Perry

Following on the heels of General Motors CEO Dan Akerson’s recent resignation, Chevrolet’s chief marketing officer for the United States Chris Perry has called it a day effective immediately.

Perry came aboard from Hyundai in 2010 through former GM chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick, going through numerous title shifts until the automaker hired former Volkswagen of America executive Tim Mahoney as the Bow Tie’s global chief marketing officer last spring.

Prior to his hiring, Perry was Hyundai’s top U.S. marketing executive after Ewanick left for GM. The duo were responsible for the Korean automaker’s Hyundai Assurance program, allowing customers who financed or leased out a new Hyundai to return the model within a year should the customer lose their income.

Regarding Chevrolet, Perry spearheaded both the Tim Allen-voiced “Chevy Runs Deep” ad campaign — since replaced by the “Find New Roads” theme after customers didn’t take a shine to the depths of the golden bow tie — and the ongoing “Under the Blue Arch” retail campaign, where fictional characters promote Chevrolet’s lineup.

GM has yet to announce a successor.

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Hyundai Casts Aside Conquest For Quality in Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/hyundai-casts-aside-conquest-for-quality-in-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/hyundai-casts-aside-conquest-for-quality-in-europe/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:45:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678506 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior

Though Hyundai has set its sights on some sales gains in 2014 in the European market, the automaker has no plans to defend market share to the death, opting for repeat business rather than taking the Germanic approach of volume at all costs.

Hyundai’s European COO Allan Rushforth told Automotive News that the automaker is shifting from being a conquest brand to a loyalty brand, offering financing options for their European customers as one incentive in returning. Rushforth noted that Hyundai’s approach is on the cautious side, due mainly to the current competitive environment maintaining its stranglehold on the market for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, Hyundai aims to offer 22 new or updated models to the European auto market by 2017, such as new versions of the i10 minicar and Genesis sedan, with the goal of boosting their market and mind share to 5 percent. They also plan to build 90 percent of their European lineup in factories all over the continent by then, with 70 percent of the lineup’s components to be derived from local sources.

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Review: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-hyundai-santa-fe-limited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-hyundai-santa-fe-limited/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 14:05:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=669442 DSC_4453A recent conversation with a blubber-lined autojourno archetype:

He: “What’re you driving this week?”

Me: “2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited”

He: “I hate crossovers. People should just buy wagons. In Europe…blahblahblah…diesel…estate….shooting brake…nomnomnom…where’s the bar?”

Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo, my friend The Walrus doesn’t get it.

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I avoided conflict by changing the subject, but I should have told him this: “The 2014 Santa Fe Limited is not for you. Neither is that brown E-Class wagon you will never afford. If you like the European way of life so much, move there. They have funny underwear, so enjoy your man-panties. Over here, the crossover is sticking around for a while.”

The math is simple. People want crossovers. Car companies make money by building what people want. That means lots of crossover choices. The end.

Besides, if wagons all of a sudden became the next big thing, people would hate them. That’s how it used to be. If you hate crossovers or offer the “if you want a truck, get a truck, if you want a wagon, get a wagon” argument, they’re not for you. Crossovers like the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe are for THEM.

THEY are the folks with kids and dogs and fully-scheduled weekends. Rising stars who not only need to spend money, but have money to spend. Of course the Santa Fe isn’t likely at the top of any driving enthusiast’s list, but it ticks all the boxes for the Alternadult.

That word mashup is Hyundai’s own creation to describe the Persona used during the development of the Santa Fe. If that’s led you to ask “what’s a Persona?”, here we go.
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Personas are a way to humanize your target audience, and they’re widely used by makers of consumer goods. For example, Ford created 28 year old Antonella, a Roman club rat to help focus development of the Verve, a concept car that previewed the current generation Fiesta. That’s probably why it’s got neat little cubbies for your stash of Molly.

From toothpaste and orange juice (reverse that order for less gag reflex) to tablets and even tableware, bringing the demographic information to life gives everyone a bag of bones to develop products for and determine how to get them to buy. Personas are why bloviating car reviewers are peeing into the wind when it comes to crossovers. Hyundai did its homework, and it appears to be working. Just count the Santa Fes the next time you’re at the grocery store on a weekend.

Hyundai wants to boost its sales by 10 percent for 2014, and the Santa Fe is key to that. I’m noticing more of these because they’re selling well. Santa Fe sales are up significantly; 36 percent in October 2013, and nearly 20,000 more Santa Fes have found buyers this year.

So who is this Alternadult and why develop a vehicle for them? After all, the selfish-ass Baby Boomers are still exerting big influence over the car business. Here’s what Hyundai has to say about it:

Hyundai has historically done well with younger singles and older families, but an opportunity existed to create a vehicle that would capture younger, higher income families. We knew that Santa Fe could be that relevant and modern product for this emerging persona.

Translation: There was a lucrative hole in the Hyundai customer demographic. Poor youngsters and value-minded older families are steady, even loyal business, but that vast, meaty middle is where the money is drifted deep enough to shovel. These people have needs and the means to address them in a way that tickles their wants at the same time.

Hyundai continued:

The target for Santa Fe was someone we ultimately referred to as the “Alternadult.” They are Gen Xers who were “latch key kids” and gained independence early. That spirit of independence has brought them success in life; they are doing well for themselves but also have a strong family focus. For them, a successful life is measured by more than just money, it is also about being there for their kids to pass along their values and their passions. Exploring and learning together with their kids is key. It’s also important that their kids ultimately be “street smart” as well as “book smart.”

This persona needed a product that could deliver on all fronts and enable their active, family-centric lifestyle: distinctive styling, technology, quality, craftsmanship, a sense of premium-ness without stuffiness, spaciousness, and safety. That is what inspired Hyundai to set out to create a product that would deliver an uncompromised combination of class-leading design and technology, quality, durability, and functionality. It challenges what a CUV can and should be, uniting functional utility and style and sophistication – both interior and exterior.

So, the Alternadults are occupying the space in the marketplace Boomers did 30 years ago. Remember the early 1980s? Minivans. Crossovers are the minivan of the post-Baby-Boom middle-ager. For a family buyer who needs to take three different sub-ten-year-olds to two different schools for 9 months of the year and then traipse to soccer, gymnastics, and dance all back-to-back on the weekend, the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited delivers.

Don’t start with how your beloved Panther-platform Fords and fundamentally-horrible W-body Impalas with bench seats would work a treat for that. Because no. Families want more than just enough seats. They want space for the stuff of everyday life, plus maybe a dog with extra-humid breath, too. You know, features that make it easy to go over hill and dale, and wrap it in some style, too, please.

Part of the draw of the Santa Fe is the way it’s drawn. The crisp lines look expensive, and because it looks great in a vaguely-European luxury kind of way, and it’s outfitted well, it’s easier to have higher regard for the Santa Fe Limited. It’s a get up that’s equally stylish tailgating, or in the parking garage at Nordstrom, or with “SENIORS 2013 YEAAAAHAHHHH” written all over the windows. That’s good design. It looks like a million bucks but it sure doesn’t cost it.
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That doesn’t mean the Santa Fe Limited is exactly inexpensive. Mention that you’re driving a $41,000 Hyundai and people will roll their terrible eyes and gnash their terrible teeth. Of course, any Hyundai costing that much is loaded. The Santa Fe Limited starts at $35,540 with all-wheel drive. The same basic vehicle with fewer standard features and front-wheel drive is the $29,800 Santa Fe GLS. Regardless of trim, a 290 hp 3.3 liter V6 is your prime mover, the only transmission is a six-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive is a $1750 upgrade over front-wheel drive.

The Hyundai thing has long been the automotive version of a Golden Corral gut-busting dinner. Instead of steak, lobster, orca and mollusk for $9.95, the Santa Fe Limited I drove was a three-row crossover that will play nice and can stand up to the corrosive effects of children for $41,155. With features by the pound, the Santa Fe is very good at fending off competitors.

The Limited trim level’s standard features outfit you like a $40,000 vehicle for about $35,000. The Santa Fe Limited I drove also carried the Technology package, a $4,850 hunk of HIDs, LEDs, touchscreen navigation, ventilated seats, Infinity audio, panoramic roof, 115-volt outlet and parking assist that slides the price across the $40,000 threshold.

This used to be where the Hyundai story ended, “you get a lot of stuff for less money in a vehicle that’s also generally less good.” That is no longer the case. The Santa Fe is a strong competitor on price, and the technology and features you get are mature and well-developed. The touchscreen navigation is easy to use and the audio and climate systems have a mild learning curve compared to systems like MyFordTouch. The touchscreen doesn’t dim quite enough to satisfy me for night driving, but you can easily shut the display off to reduce cabin light pollution. The mind does wander to consider how long the leather-wrapped steering wheel is going to feel nice in your grip and just when the seats are going to start getting scruffy or the trim marred up, but the Santa Fe packs one of the nicer interiors in the class.

The 3.3 liter V6 has spirited enthusiasm, especially when you let it rev, and the six-speed auto is generally unobtrusive, The transmission thinks too much in situations you’d expect it to just bang through the gears, like merging onto a highway. There seemed to be some extra dithering going on with power delivery. THEY are probably not going to notice that, but I did, and I’m one of THEM. The Santa Fe isn’t going to win you any pinks, and it may feel winded if you drive the larger-engined competition back-to-back, but on its own, it’s at least solidly adequate if you don’t mind waiting.
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Another historical Hyundai shortcoming has been chassis tuning. The Santa Fe does not feel like the ‘92 Buick LeSabre was the benchmark, nor does it crash over bumps like previous attempts at chassis discipline. The structure feels more solid than ever before and the ride and handling balance is good. There’s the occasional jarring impact, stuff that doesn’t happen in the crushingly-heavy GM Lambdas, Camry-based Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer. The Santa Fe is lighter on its feet and more economical than the GM three-rows, miles ahead of the departing 2013 Highlander in terms of cabin materials and fit and finish, and more space-efficient than the Volvo XC90-based Explorer and its blatant built-to-a-cost first impression.

The closest competitor for the Santa Fe is probably the Nissan Pathfinder. Both have grown to fit the same niche of easy-living three-row. The Pathfinder returns better fuel economy thanks in part to a more hateful CVT centric driving experience. The Santa Fe is a winner in most other measures, from styling to price/features to driving dynamics. There’s something more like steering feel in the Santa Fe, partially due to the FlexSteer selectable assist, and it feels less like a relaxed-fit metal box than the Pathfinder.

You can love wagons all you want, you can hate crossovers even more, but in terms of being in the right place at the right time with the right product, Hyundai has a solid entry with the Santa Fe. In Limited trim, feature-conscious buyers have a place to go that’s not fraught with penalties for seeking value. It’s feature-packed in an environment where it’s hip to get more for your dollar. The Santa Fe even gets high marks for resale value. It’s nothing that’s going to send you over the moon when you drive it, but I didn’t hate life behind its wheel. It’s certaily set up as an ideal life-support vehicle for its Alternadult target, and at least now I have a markety-speak thing to call myself.

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Los Angeles 2013: Hyundai’s Veloster Turbo R-Spec “Reverses” Halo For Automaker http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-hyundais-veloster-turbo-r-spec-reverses-halo-for-automaker/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-hyundais-veloster-turbo-r-spec-reverses-halo-for-automaker/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:13:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=658594 Hyunda Veloster Turbo R Spec 01

Bowing at the LA Auto Show is the Veloster Turbo R-Spec, aimed at pulling in tuner-oriented shoppers through a halo inversion designed to, someday, have them drive away in a Genesis sedan.

The R-Spec is driven by a 1.6-liter turbo-4 pumping out 201 horses and 195 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels, and weighs just 2,800 lbs thanks to a severe dieting regimen that actually removed luxury amemities from the base Veloster Turbo. Not only does this diet keep the price down, but it also allows the R-Spec to do 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

In return, the R-Spec was given a B&M short shifter, higher spring rates all around, torque vectoring control to keep the turbo hamster from going off the road in a hard corner, and a healthy dose of red, from the front splitter to the leatherette seats.

The price of admission? Just $22,110, making the R-Spec the most affordable turbo Veloster around.

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Los Angeles 2013: Hyundai Triples the Fun in LA With Elantra Lineup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-hyundai-triples-the-fun-in-la-with-elantra-lineup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-hyundai-triples-the-fun-in-la-with-elantra-lineup/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 02:24:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=658154 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT 01

Hyundai unveiled their entire 2014 Elantra lineup at the LA Auto Show with the aim of introducing to the world their much-improved elements of fun driving.

At the heart of the improvement drive is the swap from the 1.8-liter engine to a 2-liter four-pot pushing 173 horses out the front door with 154 lb-ft of torque to back them up. The Elantras also boast sport-tuned steering and calibrated suspension for more go-kart handling down Highway 101.

For those opting for the coupe, only one trim will be offered, with the only options being choice of color and Hyundai’s Technology Package. The 2014 version of said package comes with Blue Link and Hyundai Assurance Connected Care, LED-accented lights up front and full LEDs in the back, and satnav with Pandora streaming radio integration.

Those who prefer more room in their Elantra will find the GT’s passenger and cargo volume to their liking, while the driver’s knees will be protected by a driver knee airbag in the event of a wreck. A hidden rear camera is also available for parallel parking.

Finally, sedan customers will have a sporty option with the Elantra Sport, which will come standard LED lighting, chrome belt line molding, and a single chrome exhaust tip.

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Review: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-hyundai-elantra-gt-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-hyundai-elantra-gt-video/#comments Fri, 02 Aug 2013 21:54:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497508 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block while the Elantra has been around for a few years. At this stage in life, Hyundai is trying to inject vitality into the Elantra name by adding new models. First we got the four-door sedan, then a two-door coupé followed by the Veloster which is just a four-door hatchback Elantra (yes, I know Hyundai calls it a three-door, but I know better). If you’re confused by door counts, the new Elantra GT is a five-door. Say what?

About “them doors.”  We all know a sedan is a four-door because a trunk isn’t a door. (Despite our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index testing.) Likewise we call the Elantra Coupe a two-door but toss a hatch into the mix and, hey-presto, your cargo portal is a door. How does the Veloster fit in? It has three regular doors (two on one side, one on the other) and a hatch. Thankfully Hyundai killed off the awkward looking Elantra Touring wagon leaving nothing to go head to head with the Mazda3 hatch, Focus hatch and Golf. That’s where the GT fits in.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Adding the GT to the lineup puts Hyundai in the unusual position of having more variants of their compact vehicle than any other brand in the USA, and that’s even if you don’t count the Veloster as an Elantra. Part of this is to give customers options the other brands don’t, but it is also to extend the life of the aging Elantra. In 2010 when the Elantra splashed on the scene it was new and exciting, but this is a fiercely competitive segment. In the past three years, the Civic, Forte, Golf and Mazda3 have all been redesigned bringing new and exciting shapes to choose from. In this light the Elantra’s front end is starting to look a old to my eyes, especially when you park it next to the aggressive new Forte. Speaking of that elephant in the room, that 2014 Forte 5-door looks all kinds of hot.

Park the GT next to an Elantra sedan and you’ll notice this isn’t a sedan with a hatch glued on. Instead, the GT rides on a 2-inch shorter wheelbase shared with the Veloster. Along with the reduced wheelbase, Hyundai sliced nearly 9-inches off this sausage slotting the GT between the Veloster and Elantra sedan in overall size. The shorter dimensions made parking the GT easy in tight urban settings even though the GT retains the Elantra’s 34.8-foot turning circle. Despite the platform nip/tuck the GT is the heaviest Elantra variant at a still svelte (well, relatively speaking) 2,745lbs with the manual transmission.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

I took me a few moments to figure out what was going on with the GT’s interior. At first glance the dashboard and controls are familiar, yet this isn’t the same dashboard the Elantra coupé/sedan, or the Veloster. Gone is the “hourglass” center console in favor of a HVAC controls that are larger and easier to use. Our tester had the optional dual-zone climate control system which rearranges the buttons and adds a large blue-backlit display. Although the steering wheel has simply been tweaked with satin “metal” trim, the rest of the interior trappings are a notch above the Elantra sedan and coupe and, depending on where your fingers brush, a notch above the Veloster as well. This is fortunate because with even the Civic going up-market for 2013, the GT could have left the gates at a disadvantage. Thanks to the plastic upgrades, the GT is firmly “middle of the pack.”

Even though the GT is notably shorter and slightly taller than the sedan, folks up front won’t notice much difference. The seats are still supportive and comfortable, but not as easy on the back as the 2013 Civic. You might think the wheelbase reduction would play havoc with rear accommodations but the back seats have slightly more room than in the sedan. Some of that room is thanks to rear seats with a more upright and comfortable profile and some of it comes at the expense of the front seats which get a one inch reduction in travel for GT duty. Getting in and out of those rear seats is easy thanks to large and fairly square door openings. With 23 cubic feet of widget space behind the rear seats and 51 with the rear seats folded, the GT is the most practical Elantra since the dowdy Elantra Touring was mercy killed.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Infotainment, Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The GT may be new for 2013, but the technology is a few years old. Base shoppers may not mind the lack of progress because the standard 6-speaker audio system is one of the best standard audio systems in this segment. The 170 watt system comes with standard AM/FM/XM radio, a single-slot CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth speakerphone and USB/iPod integration. Sadly you won’t find SYNC-like voice command of your tunes or Pandora streaming, but the system has a natural sound and is easy to use.

High-rollers (like me) won’t be able to live without a touchscreen nav unit, but I was disappointed to find the GT doesn’t get the new 8-inch BlueLink system from the Santa Fe. Instead we find the 7-inch “last generation” system found in the regular Elantra. It’s not that the system is objectionable, it just lacks the snazzy new voice commands and smartphone integration ability you find in other Hyundai products. That new Kia Forte hatchback keeps popping in my mind because the 2014 Forte models get the latest Hyundai/Kia infotainment software with smartphone apps, 911 crash notification, vehicle diagnostics and full voice commands for your music library.

Hyundai Elantra GT 1.8L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Hyundai

Drivetrain

Under the GT’s short hood beats the same 1.8L four-cylinder engine as the Elantra sedan. Unfortunately this mill doesn’t get Hyundai’s direct-injection sauce so power is rated at a middling 148 ponies and 131 lb-ft. In an interesting twist Hyundai allows you to select the 6-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic regardless of your trim level. This puts the Elantra a cog ahead of the Civic and a few other competitors. When you factor the additional weight of the GT model over the sedan it’s obvious performance is muted. When weight goes up, fuel economy goes down and so it is with the GT. The Elantra sedan scores a respectable 28/38/32 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the manual or automatic while the GT drops to 26/37/30 with the manual and 27/37/30 with the automatic. Our real world economy ended up a few steps lower at 28.2 MPG overall, notably lower than the Elantra sedan’s 32.1 MPG score last time I had one.

I spent most of the week inside the 6-speed automatic GT but I was able to hop in a manual equipped version for a few hours because I was intrigued by Hyundai’s decision to sell a row-your-own option on all trims. The automatic is obviously going to be the most popular option and will suit most drivers just fine. Hyundai has continually improved the feel of their slushbox and is now among the best in terms of shift feel and programming. While I like the feel of this 6-speed over Nissan’s CVT, 131 lb-ft would more easily motivate 2,800lbs if it was routed via a CVT. Just sayin… The 6-speed manual still lacks the refinement you’ll find in the VW Golf and the clutch feel is a notch below the Focus that’s a moot point if you want all the tech gadgets and a manual transmission in the same hatch. This is your only option.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture COurtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The manual transmission is worth noting because the Elantra GT is much more of a driver’s car than any other Elantra, including the coupé. This is primarily because Hyundai significantly improved torsional rigidity when compared to its platform mates. Also tweaked were the springs and dampers for a tighter and more composed ride than its siblings. The changes are noticeable and make the sedan feel like a damp noodle in comparison. Hyundai seems to have found the right balance between sporty and soft when it comes to the ride with the GT feeling neither jarring nor marshmallowy soft. If road holding manners matter the most, the GT slots below certain Ford Focus models and VW’s Golf. On the rubber front we get 205/55R16 tires standard and an optional upgrade to 215/45R17s (as our tester was equipped) to improve grip. The larger rubber is part of the $950 “touch-and-go” package which nets you keyless-go, the larger wheels, aluminum pedals and a leather wrapped wheel and shift knob. Out on my favorite mountain highway the GT was a team player with more grip and composure than I expected. The steering? That’s another matter.

The Elantra GT gets Hyundai’s latest personalization option: adjustable steering assist. By pressing a button on the steering wheel you can select from three different steering effort settings on the fly. Yes, even mid-apex. Let’s get one thing clear: none of the modes will do anything to improve steering feel. In Comfort mode the GT is hopelessly over-boosted at speed but oddly doesn’t make give you feather-light steering in the parking lot. When in this mode it is all too easy to crank the wheel too far in a corner and end up constantly re-adjusting. Normal is a hair better. Sport is lifeless but firm. I spent my week in Sport.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I notice most reviews of the GT bemoan the “unusually loud” backup camera that pops out of the Hyundai logo on the trunk lid. Bucking the trend I don’t see a problem with this given the GT’s price tag of $18,545-$25,440. Similarly equipped the Ford Focus 5-door lands $1,800 more expensive and the VW Golf is $3,000lbs dearer. If however you factor in the Focus and Golf’s more powerful engines and better road manners, I’d call that difference much smaller. The smaller the delta becomes, the harder it is for me to look past the small things about the Elantra GT that bothered me during the week like the older infotainment software. If you can look beyond all of that, the 9.05 second 0-60 score is something you have to keep in mind because the Elantra GT is among the slowest hatches we have tested in a while.

Still, the GT is a cheaper option and that speaks to my budget-minded nature. But there are still two problems: the 2014 Kia Forte hatchback and the 2014 Mazda3 hatchback. The Forte’s newer underpinnings, more powerful engine, sexier sheetmetal and snazzier infotainment options are likely to be priced neck-and-neck with the Elantra GT. In addition to all that the Forte is likely to be the more engaging ride on the road based on our time with the Forte sedan. Then there’s that new Mazda3 with a two-engine lineup, available iLoop “almost hybrid” system, class leading 30/40MPG rating and a Mazda reputation for excellent road manners. Yes, those cars are still a few months off, but that just means the Elantra GT in the unfortunate position of being a value leader for a limited time only. What could Hyundai do to fix it? If they could jam their 270HP 2.0L turbo under the hood at a reasonable price…

 

Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 9.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.84 Seconds @ 81.7 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 28.2 over 549 miles

 

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