By on August 18, 2021

There’s a great scene in The Commitments where Jimmy Rabbitte, the main kid, puts an ad in his local paper to recruit talent for his band. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s definitely worth the two-hour – a er, commitment (sorry), but that’s off-topic. Rabbitte puts out this ad, and would-be musicians knock on his door. When he opens the door, he asks them one question:  Who are your influences?

It’s a great question, isn’t it? It cuts through lots of the usual interview BS and small-talk and hand-wringing and gets right to the meat. In The Commitments, the right answers were Al Green, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Over at Hyundai/Kia, however, it seems like the right answers were Lancia Delta, Lancia Stratos, and Porsche 959.

What the heck is Jo talking about this time? I’m glad you asked.


Looking at the latest batch of Hyundai and Kia “concept cars” – a group that has already spawned the production Hyundai Ioniq 5 – I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen some of these design themes and elements before.

In the case of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, I see an awful lot of the Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned Lancia Delta. While not a commonly known car in the US, the Delta (especially in Martini colors) has been an enthusiast icon for decades, and the new Hyundai EV has a similarly purposeful stance. The most famous Deltas had roof-mounted spoilers and box fender flares, of course, but there’s a visual echo of those flares in the sharp body crease of the Ioniq, which creates the illusion of flares with its visual trickery.

Over at the sister brand, Kia, there’s a similar story. This time, it’s the work of another iconic 1970s Italian car designer I see: Marcello Gandini and the Lancia Stratos.

Looking at the Kia EV6 GT, the window/beltline looks unmistakably Stratos to me – even at the extreme rear of the vehicle, there’s a … I wouldn’t call it a wing or a spoiler, but there’s a visual kickup that looks every bit like a modern interpretation of the Stratos’ rear. The whole thing looks so much like a crossover Stratos, I’d bet that if you showed a design student pictures of a 2019 Mustang GT and a 2021 Mustang Mach-E, then a 1975 Lancia Stratos, and then asked them to give the Stratos a similar makeover, what you’d get would look an awful lot like the production Kia EV6 GT.

Going back to Hyundai’s upcoming electric portfolio now that I’m on a rant, I’m struck – more than before, even – at how Porsche-y the Prophecy Concept really is. I can’t look at that big rear … would you call it a vent? Whatever you’d call it, it gives me the same feeling as the rear of the Porsche 959. Not a regular 959, mind – but the Paris Dakar 959. The angrier, more intimidating twin brother to the road-going cars and source of the original lightning that guys like Singer and Gemballa are still trying to bottle, more than thirty-five years later.

Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t complaints. If anything, that weird sort of Porsche-istic vibe is one of the Hyundai Prophecy’s selling points. There’s a little bit of original Boxster Concept in the fenders, some Taycan in the headlights, and maybe even some 930 in the whale-tail spoiler at the rear. This is a great-looking car, IMO, and I might even say it does a better job of looking like a Porsche than a few of the actual Porsches you can buy on a dealer’s lot today.

So, not a list of grievances, then – what is this post supposed to be?

It’s a thank-you card.

Talk of the then-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata being “the first Hyundai that doesn’t look like something else” was a real thing, a decade ago. Back then, the Kia Amati was criticized for looking too much like a Bentley Continental, the Hyundai Tiburon was accused of trying to look like either a Celica or an Integra, depending on who you asked, and the Sorento was dismissed as a knock-off Lexus RX350. Kia and Hyundai were a long way from being seen as premium brands at the turn of the 21st century, and a lot of people thought their derivative designs were a part of that.

Fast forward to now, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t look at a Kia or Hyundai product as a serious contender in any class. Kia Telluride? People have been paying stupid dealer markups on those since well before stupid dealer markups went mainstream.

Hyundai and Kia stepped away from derivative styling and built themselves up on the quality of their products. Maybe the quality had always been there, but the “Generic level 3” styling kept us from seeing it, and maybe not, but it took real balls for someone over there to roll the dice on their successful march upscale and put out something that – maybe it’s not derivative of some of my favorite motorsports icons, but something that’s definitely influenced by them.

Here’s hoping they keep these designers for a while … and that they follow through and come out with something like the Kia GT4 Stinger concept from a few years back. I always did like the Opel GT in Rallye Gold, and I’d love to have a modern one.


I know that Hyundai claims its Ioniq 5 is supposed to look like the Hyundai Pony, but follow through. That car made its debut in Turin, Italy, built under contract by Italdesign. The designer’s name? Giorgetto Giugiaro – the same guy who would design the production Delta a few years later. And, come on, there’s no way the person who drew up the Ioniq 5 had a Pony poster on their wall, no matter how they pitched it to corporate. It’s a Delta.

[Images: Hyundai, Stellantis/Lancia, Porsche]

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26 Comments on “What’s Influencing Hyundai Design These Days, Anyway?...”

  • avatar

    The problem with the Ioniq5 and the EV6 is that their scale is bigger than one would expect. They are like Sportage/Tucson sized.

    In isolated pictures they look nice but I have a feeling in person or out on the road they’ll end up looking awkward.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Don’t forget how Hyundai/Kia’s fortunes went aloft with the introduction of the 2011 Sonata/Optima. Those were considered pretty original back then.

    As for the Ioniq 5, I was an early fan, but like ajla I’m not sure how its scale will work in real life.

    I agree with the Delta comparison for the Ioniq 5. Those side creases, however, can be found on the 22 Tucson which is already on the road. Perhaps that design language will make its way into all Hyundais.

    As for the Stratos, well, that’s one of the best-looking cars ever. I don’t see it in the Kia, personally. BTW, it would be helpful to actually have a photo of the Kia in the article for comparison.

  • avatar

    Hyundai hired an Audi designer a few years ago. He has the most influence and personally I see a lot of Audi/VW in these cars.

  • avatar

    The new Hyundai Tucson seems very much influenced by the Lamborghini Uris (from 2019). The side sculpting and wheel well shapes are nearly identical.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I see a lot of Pininfarina designed Peugeot in the styling of the Hyundai Ioniq 5,

  • avatar

    I didn’t notice the supercar influences or the subtle hint of Giugiaro, but these aren’t bad examples to copy. I’m not wild about everything they’ve tried, such as the current Sonata… too catfish-y in front for my taste. And the upcoming Kia Sportage is a little over the top, but I give them credit for trying to be different; they aren’t building Russian dolls. Can’t wait to see the Kia EV6 in person, it looks fantastic.

  • avatar

    Here’s and influence, Isuzu:

  • avatar

    “The Irish are the blacks of Europe, so say it loud. I’m black. And I’m proud.”

    Now, I need to dig it out and watch the Commitmentettes blast the Commitments when the start guyong around, especially the short-haired front singer.

  • avatar


    Fun fact. There are only 93 NA registered JR Isuzu Impulses left in the United States. This one is mine:

    • 0 avatar

      APaGttH: Thats’s an awesome car!! Good photo too. Definitely ahead of it’s time for styling. It still looks modern. The Ioniq 5 designer probably had a photo of an Impulse over their workstation when they drew it. I would bet money on it.

      I’ll have to look up the Ioniq 5 patent filing. They file prior art and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Impulse was there.

    • 0 avatar

      The Giugiaro designed Impulse was one of my favorite designs, it’s a shame that there are so few left. The only reason I did not replace my Giugiaro designed Scirocco with one was that the Impulse Turbo was not yet available at the time.

  • avatar

    In my opinion the new Sonata and Elantra are much uglier than the previous generations, some of which I thought were attractive.

  • avatar

    Hey Jo!

    Do you know that your Lancia Delta came AFTER Hyundai Pony?? Oh you said that already. But this part

    “And, come on, there’s no way the person who drew up the Ioniq 5 had a Pony poster on their wall, no matter how they pitched it to corporate. It’s a Delta.”

    That’s just an ignorance and a prejudice. Hyundai PONY is a car behind IONIQ5. Hyundai’s design team is quite fond of PONY, period. Not the Delta which came after Pony.

  • avatar

    IONIQ 5 looks like it’ll be my next car. Love the looks (and I’ve seen the original Concept 45 in person, best car design for a car in a long time IMO).

    EV6 : I can’t help but see an ‘09 Toyota Matrix in there from the front. Not the best inspiration. I’ll have to see it in person I guess.

  • avatar

    If drop-in replacement electric battery and motor kits come out, people won’t have to buy new cars. You can take your favorite pickup, gas guzzling SUV, 250K Honda Accord or old classic, replace the guts and drive something faster, quieter, smoother and cheaper to operate than what you have now.
    My old Toyota pickup would be perfect with an electric drivetrain, and nicer to drive, too.
    Fitting enough batteries into a Miata might be a bit of a challenge, though.

    • 0 avatar

      what an interesting thought, RHD. Probably not practical though, unless the car was designed on the get go for the continued swaps.

      This is an interesting, thoughtful article, Jo.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      There are a drop-in kits available for a few vehicles, but they are very expensive. To be fair, none are truly ‘drop-in’, and sometimes you give up something of value (like heating) to do the conversion.

      People often forget about accessories like power steering, HVAC, power brakes, cooling, suspension changes, instrumentation, and safety. The drivetrain itself is relatively straightforward.

      If I was trying to keep an old car on the road, it would be a lot cheaper and more satisfying to do a complete restoration than to convert it to electric. Dropping $30k into a tired Accord to convert it might produce a novel car, but it won’t be better than a used EV.

  • avatar

    What went so wrong with the latest Hyundai Sonata then? Quite possibly the ugliest car of the past decade, only beating out Infinitis by being utterly disjointed and incoherent in design. No trained designer or artist with any talent could have possibly had any input on that car.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay


  • avatar

    Hyundai had a design resurgence 5-10 years ago, lately they’ve just been going back to their old ways. The Palisade was designed with the same attititude and restraint as the XG350, and the Sonata defines “only looks good in pictures”, and it looks like a beauty compared to the Elantra, definitely in the top 5 ugliest car designs of the last 30 years.

    The Genesis range looks like a mishmash of Bentley and Mercedes cues, with Infiniti thrown in for the G70.

    Also the 2011 Sonata was a blatant Mercedes CLS clone at the height of the “4 door coupe” craze.

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