Chicago Auto Show 2011 Roundup: Hyundai and Kia

Hyundai came out swinging at the Chicago Auto Show, making a bold statement of sporting intent with two new cars.

The first vehicle was a halo car of sorts for Hyundai’s forthcoming Veloster. Teaming with long-time Hyundai partner Rhys Millen, Hyundai introduced the Red Bull/Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai Veloster Rallycross car. The Veloster rallycross wields Hyundai’s roaring 2.0 liter turbocharged Theta motor, with a larger HKS turbo helping to kick out 500 horsepower and a whopping 600 lb-ft of torque.

Impressively, the Veloster Rallycross also uses the stock chassis from the Veloster road car, albeit with some limited stitch-welding for additional strength over jumps. Adding to this structural strength is a carbon-fiber body, which also reduces the weight of the car to a shade over 2600 pounds. To better handle the power and to improve traction, the Hyundai employs an all-wheel drive system.

This car boosts the sporting credentials of both the Veloster and the brand itself, but Hyundai wasn’t done with their sporting announcements, as they also announced a new sporty Genesis sedan. The Genesis 5.0 R-Spec dispenses with the standard car’s 4.6 liter Tau V8 in favor of a new, more powerful 5.0 liter unit. How powerful, you may ask? 429 horses and nearly 380 lb-ft. of torque. From a Hyundai.

Now, given that the company’s 25 years old in the US this year, it’s incredibly impressive to see how far they have come. If you had told anyone who had a Hyundai Pony in the mid-eighties that we’d see a Hyundai with a 430 horsepower V8 in the conceivable future, nobody would have believed you. Heck, if you’d made that same assertion six or seven years back, it would have still seemed a bit implausible. Yet, here we are.

Hyundai also showed off a brace of pre-production Velosters. It was comforting to see that the original bold styling of the Veloster concept had actually made the jump to the production car, with big alloys, aggressive grilles and the odd, but useful third door.

Strangely, Hyundai also placed the Azera prominently on their stand, wedged between the two Velosters. The Azera, which I had literally forgotten was still on sale, seems to be surplus to requirements in Hyundai’s current lineup, which sees it squished between the higher end models of Sonata and the base Genesis. Whether Hyundai will bring the new Azera, just released in Korea, to the US remains to be seen, but few will miss it if the model dies.
Also on display was Hyundai’s new micro-SUV concept. Slotting in below the Tucson, the HCD-12 Curb packs a turbocharged version of the Veloster’s 1.6 liter inline four and will use the double-clutch transmission pioneered in the Veloster. A design that brings the Elantra and Sonata’s design cues to Hyundai’s SUV line, the Curb likely foreshadows redesigns to the Veracruz and the Santa Fe.

While Hyundai brand-mates Kia didn’t have such exciting announcements, they showed off their new KV7 concept. A minivan-slash-SUV, the KV7 distinguishes itself with its gullwing doors, massive touchscreen table in the second row of seats and funky design cues. What bearing this concept will have on Kia’s line is entirely unclear, though.

Few would argue that Hyundai and Kia seem to have grasped the automotive zeitgeist of the moment. Their products are well-constructed and they’re proving that they can compete with their Japanese and American competitors. Whether they can maintain this vein of good product remains to be seen, but it seems that Hyundai and Kia have announced their rude health in triumphant fashion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. vwminispeedster Avatar

    KIA says, "Nice Ford Mustang 5.0. I'll use that in my Genesis."
    KIA says, "Nice Ford Flex. I'll use that in my KV7, but with gullwings."

    1. JacobDFriedman Avatar

      Yeah, but the Tau 5.0L somehow out-powered the stang's 5.0. I was impressed. As for the flex, it looks a good deal boxier than the KV7, which is really rounded at the corners for some reason.

    2. jaime Avatar

      if copying ford means nicer korean cars, then im all for it. I dont think anyone should be upset with more v8 rear drive cars….

  2. Black Steelies Avatar

    I don't know if the Veloster's exterior styling is supposed to be aerodynamic or bring to mind an ergonomic mouse. Either way it isn't terrible and their attempt to throw some sport into their lineup, especially into the rwd models, gives me piles of hope for the brand. I have to say if I were considering a new car, the Korean's wouldn't be far from the top of the list. I will be all the happier when the domestics can figure out this quirky but winning formula.

    1. facelvega Avatar

      The problem I foresee with the Veloster is that it would be dead easy to breathe on it and make it faster than, say, a GTI (because it's smaller and potentially much lighter), but Hyundai's lineup can't let it get too close to the almost-ran Genesis coupe 2.0T, or it will make that car redundant. If it wasn't for that model in the way, the Veloster could be a damning indictment of Honda, as even in its defanged state it is much more a successor to the CRX than is the CR-Z.

  3. LTDScott Avatar

    Hey, the Veloster logo is in the Hooniverse font.

  4. omg_grip Avatar

    The more I see of the new Veloster, the more I like it.

  5. Novaload Avatar

    I used to make fun of Kias, but we got a slightly used Spectra and I'm impressed. It had nicer features than its peers, like sun roof, two aux plugs, and very good CD/speakers, tire pressure display on dash, very peppy, light, decent 139 HP and a Lotus tuned suspension. It's unforgiving on the steering and really makes you pay attention in twisties–where it remains very tight and flat. Compared to the 97 Marquis, it is known as "Little Feller" in Slingblade-ese. It's as much fun as the old 78 Fiestas. I know I sound like a shill, but it was one very pleasant surprise.