Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Wall Street Journal likes the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, I think.

There's a pretty universal theme running through the press about the Hyundai line-up these days: lots of car for a lot less money, but not in a cheap way you should be embarrassed by.

Quoting the WSJ:
No one will ever write erotic poetry about the Hyundai Sonata. No courting suitor ever promises a woman, "Darling, I'll give you the moon, the stars, a Sonata with cloth seats..." Snooki from "Jersey Shore" will be named secretary of agriculture before a Sonata crosses the field at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance classic-car show. These things are appliances, disposable widgets, destined to wind up as brightly colored cubes of crushed and fused metal, the unlamented scat of our mobility society.

But for now, be amazed. Be amazed that any company can put together a car with this much raw, unmitigated content—a 2.4-liter direct-injection four cylinder with variable valve timing on both cams; six-speed automatic with manual shift mode; iPod/USB/AUX jacks and Bluetooth; stability control and smart ABS; airbags and power amenities galore—wrap the whole thing in a 10-year powertrain warranty and push it out the door for $20,195. That's ridiculous, ridonkulous. This is the sort of scorched-earth pricing that makes other car makers consider a change in strategic direction. Perhaps there are some openings at Hardees? ...

This is a nice-looking car, and for all the blathering about remote keyless entry and the like, the styling—thoughtful, attractive, premium, by several degrees above the call of duty—is the feature that impresses me most. Wrought in what Hyundai calls "fluidic styling"—trademark alert!—the car does have a handsome, hydraulic wholeness to it, like water flowing over a river rock. The bold "light spear" along the side (the shallow draft under the accent line broadens as it goes back along the side of the car, creating a spear-like shadow) plays nicely against the back-drafting energy of the roof line. A little bit of Volkswagen CC in there, a little Mercedes-Benz CLS. The most sophisticated exterior touch is a thin chromic bow that runs from the headlamp to the C-pillar along the belt line, a brightwork meteor across the car's firmament. Lovely.
Maybe they need to dust off the "Hyundai. Yes, Hyundai" slogan. The article certainly makes the case that it deserves a second look. Mercury ran an ad campaign a year or so again imploring that "You've got to put Mercury on your list," but it seems Hyundai is the one actually succeeding in that department. (If my mother is any indication, Hyundai has a bright future: My parents, siblings, and I have exclusively been drivers of Hondas, Toyotas, and Chryslers for the past three decades, but she is seriously looking at a Hyundai Veracruz or a Kia Sedona.)

Ah, but the article does take a look at the deep underbelly of Hyundai's success:
Of course, all cars are in some sense political, since country of origin and economic policy are inextricable. And here the story turns a bit melancholy. The Sonata's awesome pricing occurs at the whip end of a long chain of factors, including the fact that it's built in a place with low wages, a low standard of living and an indifferent attitude toward workers' rights. Someone really should take up a collection for Montgomery, Ala.
It's funny, but I always thought that WSJ's core readership wouldn't see that kind of stuff — if Hyundai is in fact abusing its workers by building factories and giving them jobs — as a bad thing.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really proud of the Korean auto industry (mainly Hyundai) and the steady progress that's been made. I remember when I was growing up and my Chinese friends would make fun of Hyundai and the "Pony" (as if Chinese made decent cars). It now looks like Japan has to keep a close eye on their rearview mirrors as Korea is steadily on its tail.


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