Japan, Watch Your Ass.

Hyundai Sonata

Korea is known for Communism (well, the Northern portion), the city of Seoul, Kimchi, my friend Daniel Rascon, and rice fields. Oh, and cheap crappy cars. Kia, Daewoo, and Hyundai all hail from the land of opportunity: South Korea. These cars have been typically little more than large tin cans affixed to roller skate wheels and sent out to the unsuspecting young women buyers of the Western world.

But not anymore. At least one company, Hyundai, is moving forward at an alarming rate. Alarming if you happen to be an engineer at Lexus or one of the boys over at Honda. Hyundai’s fellow countrymen at Daewoo have gone the way of Russian Communism, completely depleted with no widespread vocal support. Kia is still around and trying to be inventive, but falls short with their terrible German car knockoffs. Hyundai is really the only promising of the three. But all Japan needs is one major competitor. Hyundai has figured out a plan of attack- copy the best cars Japan is producing and make them more affordable. And it’s working.

The latest generation of the Hyundai Sonata is an exact ripoff of the Honda Accord. The wheelbase is similar, the cars are in the same class, the styling is identical if you squint, and the interior layout is very close. Now here’s the blasphemy: The Hyundai is better. Granted, Hyundai has no idea how to pull off the tiptronic (or manu-matic or auto-stick, or whatever you call it), but everything else is way above anything Hyundai has done before. The previous generations of Hyundais were terrible, thin, frail, sad machines. The latest Sonata is responsive, fast, chalked full of options, and doesn’t look half-bad (well, not as ugly as the Accord at least). After driving many examples of both, The Hyundai is the better car. Cheaper, better warranty, and more fun. It costs $18,600-$29,400 for the various trims of Accord and $17,300-$23,400 for the range of options offered with the Sonata. The Hyundai is a better deal.

Another Hyundai that catches the eye is their latest SUV. The sport utility vehicle is still unfortunately named after a Southwestern US city, yet the styling and manners have taken a very pleasing turn. The 2006 Santa Fe is gunning for the Japanese small SUVs, taking cues from the Toyota Rav-4 and the Honda CRV. The quality on all fronts has heightened: better radio capabilities, automatic windows, nicer seats, more leg room, and overall just better looking. It used to be embarrassing to own a Hyundai, but now it’s economical. There are still haters, but the next generation of wanna-be-land-of-the-rising-sun-autos is very promising. The recent Veracruz (a state in Mexico, incidentally) SUV and the rear-wheeled drive Tiburon are going to create a real-life, money making car company out of Hyundai yet.


One Response to “Japan, Watch Your Ass.”

  1. […] The car is a bit heavy as it sits (3300 lbs) but in the fall we’ll see a track version that costs $3,000 less, weighs less (no sunroof, no blue tooth, powerless seats), and features a torsen LSD and Brembo brakes.  All from the factory, all under warranty.  Hyundai, who do you think you are?  Honda? […]

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