I see a lot of car enthusiasts online complaining about how every car is the same, and that everyone is just making SUV/CUVs and blah blah blah. So in your opinion, what manufacturer is actually taking risks that are paying off? I’m talking specifically about the U.S. market, where almost no cars are sold with sticks and most of them weigh about the same as a small elephant. While the U.S. certainly gets some exciting cars that other markets don’t, i’m talking about cars that are interesting rather than exciting.
Full disclosure: I bought my Hyundai Elantra Sport 2 years ago and have had no issues with it and i’ve enjoyed driving it a lot more than I thought I would, so my opinion might be biased, but i’ll still be as neutral as possible. I should also disclose that I just started working at a hyundai dealer, but that was a result of me enjoying the car so much. The opinions stated in this article are entirely my own, nobody has paid me or even suggested that I write these.
My argument is going to be for the Korean power duo, Kia & Hyundai. They might have not been doing great in the market until recently, but that’s because until recently they didn’t have quite so many cars that normal people would be into. Don’t get me wrong, the Venue and the Palisade are great SUVs, but they’re not really exciting. I was flipping through the Veloster informational booklet, when I noticed an interior that stood out to me, the interior of the Veloster Turbo R-Spec. The contrast stiching is a CAUTION tape! It doesn’t actually say “CAUTION” on there, but it has the very distinct yellow and black pattern! It’s also available only as a manual, and comes with Michelling PS4 summer tires from the factory.
I wish I could find actual numbers for it, but given that a search on CarGurus came up with just 2 results for used Veloster Turbo R-specs, I figure they’re not exactly selling like hot cakes. (Also, who even buys hot cakes anyways?). I couldn’t find any good images of it, but heres a screengrab from the Hyundai car configurator that really shows it off
I never even knew the Veloster Turbo R-Spec was a thing until two days ago, and about 75% of the media I consume is related to cars in some form or fasion, so it’s fair to say that this car is a little underrepresented.
Another super interesting Hyundai is the Ioniq. I’ve driven a couple hybrid Toyotas, but the Ioniq definetly felt like a unique hybrid. Instead of a CVT, both the regular Ioniq and the plug in version use a dual clutch. So the car... still drives like a car! Plus, these things are dirt cheap. Low milage and fully equiped hybrids can be found for around or under 20k in the used market, in certain states you can lease them for almost nothing with incentives, and they’re loaded with tech. They can come equiped with fully adaptive cruise control, including lane keep for an Autopilot-esque experience. The car doesn’t drive itself, but it can come about as close to it as any other techy car, and for a lot less. In terms of tech, there isn’t a whole lot missing compared to something costing even 5 times as much. Nothing worth quite that much anyways.
Of course, there’s also the Kia Stinger, a car that shocked the market when it debuted. Who knew Koreans could build an executive sedan comparable to the long standing German competion? This one has been beat to the ground by journalists, so I won’t say too much about it. Another hot-hatch that I feel isn’t talked about enough is the Kia Soul. Now that Hyundai discontinued the Elantra GT for the US market, a Kia Soul equiped with the same 1.6t from the Veloster Turbo is going to be your best bet for a practical alternative to a Veloster Turbo. It still has fun & funky styling, but four actual doors. Contrasting roofs are also very cool, and make the Soul really look like a fun little car.
To me, the Kia soul is to a modern MINI what the Miata is to classic British roadsters; a more reliable, more affordable version. My only hope is that they stuff the 2.0L turbo from the Veloster N into one of these to make a JCW competitor, but unfortunetly the market probably wouldn’t be there for it. Regardless, the Soul is a quirky but realitively succesful car.
Let me know what car brand you think is still making weird and interesting cars, because i’m bored at work and cars are fun.