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First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

Third-generation CUV should help redefine the brand

by on Jul.20, 2015

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson advances the Fluidic Dynamics design language.

Mention the name, Hyundai, and many American motorists will give you a blank stare. For its first two decades in the U.S. market, the Korean carmaker offered cheap, low-quality and largely forgettable products like the original – and oxymoronic — Excel. But if you’re one of those giving Hyundai the cold shoulder, it may be time to think again.

Along with Korean sibling Kia, Hyundai has delivered a series of surprises in recent months. They topped the charts among mainstream brands in J.D. Power’s latest Initial Quality Study, as well as AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. And one good reason is the Hyundai Tucson.

Reviews You Can Trust!

The second-generation crossover, launched in 2009, was stylish, sporty and surprisingly well-equipped. Now, Hyundai is back with a third-generation Tucson, and with the compact crossover segment becoming increasingly competitive, we headed off to Minnesota for a first drive to see how it stacks up.


Kia Shows Design Direction for 2016 Optima Remake

New sedan set for NY Auto Show unveiling.

by on Mar.19, 2015

Kia continues to go edgy with the 2016 Optima remake.

Five years after making its debut at the New York Auto Show, Kia will lift the covers on a new version of the Optima sedan. And the Korean carmaker is hoping that the 2016 model will live up to the brand’s ad slogan, “The Power to Surprise.”

The outgoing Optima was a breakthrough car for Kia, transforming it from a stodgy, value-focused brand to one pushing the boundaries of design. Preliminary renderings released by Kia suggest that the new 2016 Optima will maintain its edginess.

Auto Show News!

The two images released by Kia pick up on many of the design cues first seen at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month in the form of the Kia Sportspace wagon concept. That show car picked up on the familiar Kia “tiger nose grille, giving it an almost slit-like appearance, with quad LED headlamps. Like the Sportspace, the Optima renderings show a coupe-like curve to the roofline, with bolder sheet metal creases than the current sedan, as well as muscularly flared wheel wells.


Korean Carmakers Could See Growth Stall

Chairman forecasts tough year ahead.

by on Jan.02, 2015

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Mong-Koo Chung.

After nearly a decade of rapid sales growth, Korean carmaker Hyundai Motor Group could be facing some serious headwinds in the year ahead.

Chung Moon-koo, the chairman of the group that controls both Hyundai and its Seoul-based affiliate, Kia, forecast the group will see its slowest growth in a decade as it deals with increased competition and a weaker global economy.

The Last Word!

During a New Year’s speech to employees, Chung predicted the world’s fifth-largest automaker will generate only 2.5% more sales in 2015. He also warned that the Hyundai Motor Group will need to cut costs, increase productivity and take other steps to cope with competition from Japanese makers like Toyota, Nissan and Honda who are benefiting from a cheap yen.


First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

“An athlete in a tailored suit.”

by on Jul.10, 2014

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata's styling may be toned down, but it remains a striking entry in a segment that has typically emphasized bland design.

First introduced in 1985, the Hyundai Sonata was a largely overlooked entry into the crowded midsize market, but that all changed with the launch of the 2011 sedan which quickly put to rest all those bad jokes and nasty reviews the Korean maker earned – often deservedly – during its early year in the U.S. market.

The sixth-generation Sonata broke the rather restrictive mold carmakers used when designing the midsized sedans. Instead of a drab, boxy silhouette, the recession-era Sonata was sleek, curvy and nicely proportioned. And it marked Hyundai’s coming of age as a serious global player – suddenly a serious challenger to top-rated Japanese brands such as Toyota and Nissan.

Reviews You Can Trust!

Now Hyundai is rolling out the Gen-7 Sonata for the 2015 model year, and while it has actually toned down the over-the-top styling that made the outgoing model a visual standout, the Korean carmaker intends to build on the value story that turned Sonata into a major hit for the company.


Hyundai Moves Even More Up-Market with Gen-2 Genesis

Distinctive design, new features, improved ride and handling.

by on Nov.26, 2013

The new Hyundai Genesis, codenamed DH, will reach U.S. showrooms for the 2015 model-year.

In the beginning, there was Genesis.  The first effort by Hyundai to crack the luxury market was a shock to those who thought Korean carmakers could produce little more than econoboxes.  The big sedan – targeting no less formidable a competitor than the BMW 5-Series – went on to win the coveted North  American Car of the Year trophy after its debut in 2008.

In hindsight, while the original Genesis sedan was unquestionably a big leap for Hyundai, it probably wasn’t quite up to its European competitors.  Its design was generic, its ride was plush but hardly the stuff of a 5-Series when it came to flogging the Genesis around corners.  Value pricing was a critical part of the equation – much like the original Lexus models, nearly two decades earlier.

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But Hyundai’s aspirations are anything but modest.  During a recent visit to the maker’s R&D center in the Seoul suburb of Namyangju, senior company officials made it clear that they’re readying a number of additional entries into the luxury segment, including an update of their full-size 7-Series fighter, the Hyundai Equus.


First Drive: 2014 Kia Cadenza

The Korean maker targets the premium segment.

by on May.22, 2013

The 2014 Kia Cadenza.

Kia has grown quickly in recent years by offering consumers an array of interesting and well-designed vehicles that belie the brand’s original image as the maker of stripped-down econoboxes even while Kia maintains its focus on value.

The introduction this month of the Kia Cadenza is yet another big step in the evolution of the Korean brand, Kia taking its first step into $35,000-plus price range was once reserved for major luxury. Much like the Genesis offered by sibling Hyundai, the new Cadenza offers a level of refinement and features until now not associated with the Kia brand.

Global Auto Reviews!

Moreover, the Cadenza, like the Hyundai Genesis, is a very attractive vehicle. Its long, low silhouette endows the new Kia sedan with a long, elegant stance that conveys the sense this is a luxury vehicle. The front and rear fascias are very handsome with a nicely tailored appearance set off by the distinctive lamps at all four corners of the vehicle.


Kia Makes the Case for Cadenza

Korean maker aims for the premium sweet spot.

by on May.15, 2013

Kia hopes to fill the white space between mainstream and luxury with the new 2014 Cadenza.

As it rolls out the new Cadenza, Kia says it hopes to break into a new niche between the conventional mainstream and more luxurious segments.

The Kia Cadenza becomes the most expensive product the Korean maker has ever offered, with a well-equipped model pushing above the $40,000 mark. The launch echoes the strategy of Kia’s sibling brand, Hyundai, which has also expanded upwards from its traditional, econobox roots.

Stay in Cadence!

During the launch of the new Cadenza, Michael Sprague, Kia’s vice president for marketing communications, said the habits of American car buyers are changing. Fewer motorists actually want to move up and own a luxury brand, only 8% today compared to 22% before the recession undermined consumer confidence. Instead car buyers are looking for a good value and they want luxury features and the latest technology in a less ostentatious package.


Designing Men? Stylist Schreyer Named New Kia President

Credited with transforming the brand.

by on Jan.03, 2013

New Kia Pres. Peter Schreyer.

Given much of the credit from helping transform the brand’s traditionally cheap and dowdy image, German-born styling chief Peter Schreyer has been named one of three president at Kia Motor Corp.

It marks not only one of the rare occasions when a senior stylist has achieved such a lofty position at a major car company but also makes Schreyer the first foreigner to hold such a senior spot in the fast-growing Korean auto industry.

Come Along for the Ride!

“The promotion shows Kia’s key focus areas shifting from production and cost efficiency, which were traditionally considered more important, to design and research and development,” suggested Seoul-based analyst Shin Chung Kwan, of KB Investment & Securities. “It also symbolizes Kia’s urge to advance as a global company, showing a foreigner could make it to one of the top positions.”


Short of Inventory, Hyundai Adds 3rd U.S. Shift

Move creating 877 American jobs.

by on May.01, 2012

The new 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe with the already wildly popular Elantra sedan.

The good news: American motorists are clamoring for Hyundai products. The bad news: the Korean maker doesn’t have enough to go around, so it is adding a third shift to its Alabama assembly plant in a move that should squeeze out another 20,000 vehicles annually.

It will also add another 877 jobs at the Montgomery facility, one of two assembly lines Korean manufacturers operate in the United States.  And Hyundai joins an array of other automakers, domestic and international, who have been adding thousands of jobs in recent months as the U.S. new car market continues a stronger than anticipated recovery.

The Full Story!

Manufacturers are expected to report sales later today that, on an annualized basis would reach at least 14.5 million, more than 1.5 million more than in 2011 if that pace were to be sustained.  Koreans Hyundai and Kia have been posting some of the biggest gains of any makers; Hyundai set an all-time record last month, but it has been running into serious capacity problems this year.


First Look: Kia K9 Luxury Flagship

Is the maker barking up the right tree with its latest push up-market?

by on Feb.28, 2012

Kia will launch a new rear-drive flagship, the K9.

Kia has been doggedly moving up-market, in recent years, and with the launch of its new K9 luxury flagship it will mark a dramatic shift from the cheap-and-cheerful little econoboxes that used to define the Korean carmaker’s line-up.

The formal announcement of the rear-drive model echoes the strategy followed by sibling brand Hyundai, which scored big with the launch of the big Genesis sedan in 2007, and last year’s launch of the even larger and more upscale Equus.

While Kia isn’t releasing details on the K9, it’s believed to be sharing many of the same underpinnings – and powertrain options – of the rear-drive Hyundai line, such as the 5.0-liter direct-injection V-8 offered in both the Genesis and Equus.

News Now!

Though traditional Korea buyers might be surprised to see such a large and lavishly equipped offering at their local Kia showroom the new K9 won’t seem completely unfamiliar.  It features the brand’s stock pinched grille and fender vents.  But the overall design feel is more elegant if not exactly all-new.  There is at least one place where the maker nudges the cutting edge, opting for LED headlamps as well as taillights, technology the rest of the luxury market is just migrating to.