For many successful manufacturers it’s easy to point to their breakout car – Ford has its Model T, VW has the Beatle and Golf, Toyota the Corolla. What about Hyundai, currently the world’s 4th largest automaker (along with Kia)? There are a few candidates: there is the 2nd gen Santa Fe, as well as the 6th gen Sonata, but for me it’s the current (5th gen) Elantra that really stands out. While the previous generations of the other two cars were still pretty good, the current Elantra was a giant leap over its dowdy predecessor. With a giant injection of style the car went from an also-ran to close to the top of the US compact class, jumping over cars such as the Corolla and Civic in tests if not quite in sales. Still, as the chart below shows the sales of the 5th gen grew quickly and peaked at double that for the 4th gen model.
So, what can we expect from the 6th gen Elantra? The signs are not too promising – the 7th gen Sonata is a dull follow-up to the swoopy 6th gen, and the sales have been slow as a result. And the spy shots of the Elantra are not exactly promising either, with the stylish lines of the 5th gen will replaced with a more blocky design in an attempt to appear more “premium”, while the front grille seems to cross that thin line from “characterful” to “too big”. This is the car Hyundai should not screw up, but while the technology will doubtless take a step in the right direction, I’m afraid the unique style that made the current car a firm favorite of mine will be gone.
UPDATE: just after I wrote this the supposed image of the new Elantra leaked online, confirming my fears: