Hyundai Wants to Be Sexier Than Alfa Romeo

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
hyundai wants to be sexier than alfa romeo

Hyundai’s vice president of design, SangYup Lee, says the brand should be more than just a value nameplate and is setting his target extremely high. He thinks the company should be producing vehicles that are “sexier than Alfa Romeo.”

While we used a photo of a 2011 Hyundai Accent to head the article as a bit of a goof, the idea is only patently ridiculous if you don’t give it any serious thought. Hyundai’s designs have historically been a festival of mediocrity, but that’s not really the case anymore. The Korean brand has stepped up to meet is rivals and has even managed to surpass them in some respects.

Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo continues to impress enthusiasts but that has as much to do with its greatest hits as its does the modern cars. There’s still over dramatic, oddly attractive, and exceptionally fun — sort of like someone you dated during college but outgrew when you amassed enough self-respect to finally break it off. However, with the exception of the 4C, we’re not confident Alfa’s current lineup is their best visual work to date.

If pragmatism were the only deciding factor in purchasing an automobile, Hyundai would win the battle with most manufacturers without breaking a sweat. Fortunately for car-lovers, that isn’t the case. Flair and fun still turns heads and the Korean automaker has been doing a lot to get attention over the last decade. Its cars are much better looking now than they were ten years ago. But Hyundai still wants more expressive styling, which is why it recruited a bunch of top-shelf designers and made Lee vice president of design in 2016. His credentials include the concept vehicles that ultimately led to the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro and C6 Corvette Stingray. But he’s also worked extensively with Audi, Bentley, Porsche, and Lamborghini.

In a recent interview with Automotive News at the Concours d’Elegance of America in Michigan, Lee expressed his intent to start pushing the brand’s “ sensuous sportiness” design language into production vehicles and gradually transform the fleet into something truly breathtaking. The wait, according to him, will be about a year.

chess. You see chess as a king, queen, bishop, knight. They all look different, they function differently, but when together, they became one team.”

While Lee wants all Hyundai Group vehicles to be gorgeous he noted that the core brand will not overlap with Genesis in terms of design. “Even though Genesis was born from Hyundai, Genesis has to be completely separate,” he explained. “I used to work with Bentley before joining Hyundai. When it comes to luxury brands, heritage is so important. When you design Bentley, you have to memorize the Bentley bible, every single year of the car, and then do the sketches. The first thing you must ask when you look at the sketch is: ‘Is this Bentley enough?'”

“At Genesis, we have freedom. We have a bible, but it’s filled with empty pages at the moment. Hyundai and Genesis can’t be comparable. One is a luxury brand out to write a new legacy of originality and consistency. With Hyundai being a volume brand, it’s a Jekyll and Hyde brand, having a broad spectrum depending on the customer’s lifestyle.”

We’re already seeing the uniform look between Genesis’ models while Hyundai continues expanding in multiple directions. That’s likely to continue with the cascading grille helping to bridge the gap between differently styled models within the mainstream brand. However, if the Nexo and Kona are anything to go by, you can also expect even narrowed faux headlamps on the SUVs with the real illumination coming from cleverly disguised units masquerading as fog lights. The rest of the fleet is a little harder to make assumptions about, but we’ll presume serious expressions on their faces with downturned headlights and flowing bodywork with enough hard angles to keep things interesting.

When pressed on the market’s shift toward crossover vehicles, Lee noted it would be a challenge to keep consumers interested in sedans but seemed convinced everything would be fine if Hyundai stayed focused on solving the problem. “The sedan is not going to die,” he said. “That means you’ve got to do more on the sedan than the conventional three-box with a boring look. What are you going to do to make your sedan special? The SUV has to be very distinctive and is very important. But where do you want to take the sedan in the future?”

“[Hyundai’s] value is a given already,” Lee continued. “I’d like to see people [say], ‘Hyundai has some sexy cars. Sexier than Alfa Romeo.’ That is the message I’d like to give to the world.”

[Images: Hyundai Motor Group]

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  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Aug 06, 2018

    If only Cadillac could do want Genesis has /will do in the next decade. I think they're trajectory is more upward than any other mass market brand.The G70 is going to get a good long look from me. When I was shopping for my G37S I didn't think the Coupe was comparable dynamically, or interior-wise, but the exterior design was pleasing.Apparently, they've improved dynamically based on G80 reviews.

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Aug 06, 2018

      Cadillac models are getting the Escala-treatment. The new CT5 (replacement for the ATS) looks very promising. The CT6 is getting Escala cues for its facelift and looks more elegant and sporty at the same time. On a side note, it appears that Reuss is really the new head man at Cadillac and he'll wind up getting the credit for what JdN had put in place before his departure.

  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Aug 06, 2018

    I fully expect Hyundai to be one of the few automakers still making enthusiast cars in 5 years. I'm watching them closely. Liking what I'm seeing so far.

  • Dukeisduke Why the hell doesn't Farley just resign? Why hasn't Bill Ford fired him? I lay all this at Farley's feet.
  • Dukeisduke I tried watching the livestream (I'm a MT+ subscriber), but after 15 minutes of jawing by the presenters, I got bored and turned it off. I may watch it this weekend, when I can fast forward through that stuff, to get to the reveal.
  • Dukeisduke Electric power steering, I assume. First-gen Chevy Cruzes can suffer from similar issues, usually traceable to a flaky battery negative cable, a $10 OEM part. Weird, huh?
  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.
  • Bobbysirhan I'd like to look at all of the numbers. The eager sheep don't seem too upset about the $1,800 delta over home charging, suggesting that the total cost is truly obscene. Even spending Biden bucks, I don't need $1,800 of them to buy enough gasoline to cover 15,000 miles a year. Aren't expensive EVs supposed to make up for their initial expense, planet raping resource requirements, and the child slaves in the cobalt mines by saving money on energy? Stupid is as stupid does.