Hyundai, Year 33

It is past time to discuss Hyundai. The Korean conglomerate has been making cars for the US market since 1986, but the upcoming third-of-a-century mark is going to be an era to remember.

The first stories that caught my attention came about in late August, when the usual outlets got their hands on the newly redesigned 2019 Santa Fe. I’m fairly sure I remember my sister owning a mid-2000’s Santa Fe at some point, and I think I rode in it once. It’s all fairly foggy and forgettable, and honestly, I was not even sure, based on that experience (or lack thereof) why I was even bothering to read about this particular redesign.

But then I looked at the exterior—and hey, that’s crisp! The interior shots looked solid, too, with the obligatory infotainment screen looking very neat and Honda Accord-like in its role as the centerpiece of a pleasingly styled cockpit. The real kicker, though, was that kudos about the Santa Fe’s all-wheel-drive system kept managing to crop up in various reviews. “AWD coupling, controlled braking, and some nifty torque vectoring voodoo…the Santa Fe is a hoot to drive and impressive for a small SUV,” said Automobile.[i] “There’s no doubt the Santa Fe can handle far more than any realistic owner would throw at it…the Santa Fe showed its SUV guise is more than just an act,” wrote, going on to call the Santa Fe a “strong contender in a crowded segment.”[ii]

The 2019 Santa Fe.

Color my curiosity piqued. And then, around the same time, or perhaps shortly later, there came a flood of reviews featuring the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N. The top-end trim of the newly-redesigned oddball 3-door Veloster, the N (with optional Performance package) sports a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four belting out 275 hp (at 6000 rpm) and 260 lb-ft (at 1450 rpm). It comes only with a six-speed manual transmission, 235-width 19-inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4s (specially made for the Veloster N Performance), vented discs front and rear, adaptive dampers, and an electronically controlled limited-slip diff. All for a mere thirty or so thousand dollars!

“The N’s punchy turbo four responds quickly and pulls strongly…and it sounds sexy doing it,” opined Car & Driver. “One of the best-sounding four-cylinder engine notes this side of a vintage Alfa,” C&D continued, adding that the N “wraps its substantial performance in an engagingly aggressive persona that never wears thin.”[iii] In a separate comparison test against the much-ballyhooed Honda Civic Type R, the N acquitted itself well in its second-place finish, especially when considering the two burdens the Civic places on its owner: eye-searing visual brashness and ten thousand additional dollars in price.

The 2019 Veloster N.

Further underscoring these strong statements of approval was the news that Bryan Herta Autosport would campaign a Veloster N TCR in the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series.[iv] Bryan Herta is not someone whose opinions in the matters of fast cars should be taken lightly—among his countless other motorsport successes, his team secured Team and Manufacturer Championships in the series last year whilst campaigning the Hyundai i30 N TCR.

Finally, at the Los Angeles Auto Show (ongoing as I write this), Hyundai delivered the final phase of its plans for world domination: the Palisade.  A full-size, three-row, eight passenger SUV—the aspirational vehicle for so many Americans—that somehow manages to look quite shapely given its bulk.[v]

The 2020 Palisade.

And to think, I have not even mentioned the 250-plus mile range of the 2019 Kona EV.[vi] Or the fact that the 2019 Nexo Fuel Cell vehicle will be sold, not leased, to customers.[vii] Or the captivating lines of the Santa Cruz small-pickup concept, recently green-lighted for production.[viii] Nor have I breathed a word about the entire Genesis luxury brand, parts of which seem to have already overcome competitors who have been in the luxury arena for much, much longer.[ix] If you’ve long dismissed Hyundai’s passenger vehicle offerings, you might want to consider stopping by your local showroom soon. Year 33 looks like a promising one.

2019 Genesis G70. (Courtesy Autotrader Canada)