Hyundai has built a solid reputation with well-built, affordable vehicles. Their first models suffered from quality issues, which have been addressed over the years. A strong emphasis on research and development over the past decade has made Hyundai one of the best-selling foreign automotive brands in America by also making quality, safety and design top priorities. It sells a range of cars, utility vehicles and minivans.
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Korea's largest auto manufacturer began selling cars in Canada in 1983 (three years before it entered the U.S. market). Leading the charge was the Hyundai Pony, a small five-door RWD hatchback that appealed to many first-time car buyers, and it gladly filled a void in the inexpensive, entry-level basic car category. The Pony was Canada's best-selling car in 1984 with more than 50,000 units sold, 900 percent more than forecast.
Hyundai continued its success by launching the Stellar mid-size sedan in 1985 and, in 1986, the Excel, which replaced the Pony in 1987. The same year, Hyundai took a major step forward in its North American expansion with the launch of the Sonata mid-size sedan. The Stellar was killed off here in '88 and, in the following year, Hyundai opened an assembly plant in Bromont, Quebec to build up to 2,000 Sonatas per week. Sales were unable to support the plant, however, which closed in 1993.
Production moved back to Hyundai's plant in Ulsan, Korea and the Sonata was continually redesigned and facelifted over the next decade. The fifth gen's total redesign in 2006 finally started to get Sonata the respect it deserves. The award-winning sixth-gen Sonata launched last year should ensure its continued success with improved fuel economy and sleeker looks.
Launched in 1992, the compact Elantra remains a top-seller. Five-door hatchback and wagon models appeared over the years, but were dropped afterwards. An entirely new model is now on sale with class-leading space and advanced safety equipment, while a spacious wagon called the Touring reappeared in 2009. The popular Excel, meanwhile, was replaced in 1995 by the subcompact Accent and ensures the future of Hyundai's hatchback.
The sporty Tiburon coupe came out in '97 to attract a different buyer to the brand with some success. It replaced the Scoupe, a two-door version of the Excel that was available for a while with a turbocharged engine. The second-gen Tiburon was much nicer to look at, but its full performance potential wasn't realized until its successor – the Genesis Coupe – took over in 2010 with a two-litre turbo or 3.8-litre V6 powering the rear wheels. The sports car was well-received by consumers and journalists.
The Genesis is also a full-size luxury sedan that competes with the world's leading premium sedans from Germany and Japan. With comparable capabilities and features, and an available 4.6-litre V8, Genesis was the 2009 Canadian Car of the Year as awarded by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). The new Equus is essentially a clone of the Genesis sedan, but bigger and more luxurious.
The Santa Fe signaled Hyundai's entry into the sport-utility vehicle segment in 2000. Initially offered with a 4-cylinder engine, V6 powertrains appeared afterwards and three-row seating was available from 2007 to 2009.
The compact Tucson SUV came out in 2004 and was AJAC's 2005 Best New Crossover Vehicle. The redesigned 2010 model also received much acclaim with more standard safety features.
In 2007, Hyundai's mid-sized luxury crossover, the seven-seat Veracruz, as well as the Entourage minivan, were both launched. The latter was only offered for two years.
The new Sonata Hybrid is a first for Hyundai and it's only a matter of time before this technology migrates to other new and existing models. Hyundai's current line-up of cars includes the subcompact Accent, compact Elantra, mid-size Sonata as well as full-size Genesis and Equus sedans, while the sporty Genesis Coupe and more utilitarian Elantra Touring, Tuscon, Santa Fe and Veracruz models are suitable for those with active lifestyles and/or big families.
If you are car-aware, seeing a Hyundai Veloster on the road likely makes you reflect on a few questions such as "why?" "who?" and possibly "what were they thinking?" The 2013 Hyundai Veloster is unlike anything on the road today.
Hyundai is one of those manufacturers having had a very good run recently. Why? Because they're releasing well-made, well-designed and well-priced products appealing to a wide audience and for all the right reasons.
The Equus is Hyundai's flagship, even though the automaker seems reluctant to let it lead the flotilla. Hyundai hardly advertises the vehicle and seems content with its low profile and modest sales (116 units sold in each of its first two years on the market).
Hyundai is giving us a sneak peek at the all-new 2015 Sonata ahead of its world premiere at the Korean International Auto Show later this month. The North American debut will take place in New York in April.
Hyundai finally introduced its much anticipated Intrado concept at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show.
Hyundai Motor America president and CEO Dave Zuchowski told Automotive News there have been conversations about adding a third luxury model to the lineup, which already includes the Equus and Genesis, "within a couple of years."