Kia has big plans for America. The Korean brand that was written off in the 1990s, and is best known for making inexpensive cars with long warranties, isn’t planning an assault on the mass market. Kia has bigger plans: compete head on with Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. Say what? Yep. By 2017 Kia promises they will be ready. Rather than leaping right into the market, Kia is dipping their toes into the murky waters of the near-luxury pool. In many ways the near-luxury segment is a harder place to compete. This segment is full of aspiring brands trying to move up (Buick and Cadillac), brands that are floundering (Acura), brands that are treading water (Volvo and Lexus’s FWD models ), brands trying to expand down (Mercedes with the CLA) and brands that have no idea what their mission is (Lincoln). Into this smorgasbord lands a sedan that managed to be the most exciting car I have driven this year and the most awkwardly named. Now that I have that spoiler out of the way, let’s dive into the Credenza. I mean Cadenza.
The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a problem complicated by the re-invigoration of the large sedan market by the American brands. In hopes of resurrecting sales numbers, which have slid to 25% of their 2000 year shipments, Toyota has injected something hitherto unseen in an Avalon: style. Is it enough?
Welcome to Car Fight, the comparison test with no basis for comparison. In this edition, we join Editor-In-Chief Bertel Schmitt and Editor-at-Large Ed Niedermeyer in sunny Southern California, where they’re arguing over which sedan makes a better $35k-ish commuter chariot, the 2012 Hyundai Azera or the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Niedermeyer: Well, Bertel… you asked for it. You were the one who thought your overpriced, buzzy little hybrid could take on my BuickBimBap on the uncompromising streets of L.A. You picked this Car Fight, and now you’re going to lose. (Read More…)
Sometimes it’s a little difficult to style a car in a certain genre. Case in point, the “entry level” luxury car segment. And not because the cars are rubbish or the designers simply phoned it in, but because so much equity is on the line…on a budget! This is no audacious Maybach Exelero, here’s an ordinary platform given a few dimensional tweaks, a touch of class and a lot of tacked on “visual presence” in hopes of high volume (compared to an Equus) and high margin (compared to an Accent) successes. And while this Hyundai has one of the toughest acts to follow–after its Sonata brother blew the roof off the world of family car design–it isn’t a dog.
But it’s a good thing Hyundai never called it the Hyundai Grandeur here in North America. There’s nothing especially “grand” about it. (Read More…)
Hyundai has been doing a lot of things right lately, but one thing they can’t do is keep a secret. TTAC showed you this car, known as the Grandeur in Korea, a year ago, warning “Buick beware.” Now that it’s arrived stateside, the threat is real and Azera is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the Hyundai family. Hyundai says the new Azera’s design was pursued following the same “fluidic sculpture” theme as Elantra and Sonata, rather than aping the Genesis and Equus’s more formal design language… although to our eyes it almost splits the difference between the two looks. Meanwhile, its 3.3 liter, 293 HP V6 separates it from its V6-free Sonata cousin, while still providing what Hyundai claims is “class leading” efficiency.
Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik says they are transitioning Hyundai from a “Value brand” to a “Valuable brand” (yes, really), and this Azera is intended to help challenge cars like the Acura TL and Lexus ES as well as the Taurus and Avalon. And with no plans for new US production capacity, despite razor-thin inventories, moving the brand upmarket makes sense for Hyundai. And replacing the old dullard of an Azera was a crucial step in that direction.