After a few rough years for sales in China, Hyundai is fighting back with a new model offensive, a more dynamic design approach that both challenges existing proportions and corresponds closely to Chinese consumer tastes.
Auto Shanghai 2019’s important releases included the Chinese version of the company’s flagship Sonata sedan, as well as the next generation ix25 compact SUV – both with distinctly new shapes.
Hyundai released images of the new generation of its flagship Sonata in March, showing a clear development from the Le Fil Rouge sedan concept and the company’s new global ‘sensuous sportiness’ design language, in particular its coupé silhouette. The Chinese version features a 90mm longer wheelbase and larger wheels. This extension benefits the design by accentuating the car’s low-slung look, broad stance and muscular shoulders.
Both the global and Chinese model introduce interesting new light architecture, with a chrome strip that starts from the windows and moves through the bonnet, turning into LED daytime running lights. The line is picked up again in the rear, with taillights the full wide of the boot and cutting up into the spoiler.
While the Sonata was designed in Hyundai’s South Korean studio, Simon Loasby, who has led design for Hyundai China for the past two years and has just been appointed to lead global styling for Hyundai, pointed to important translations for future Chinese models.
“The whole push was to redo proportions as we know it,” he said. “We want to try and get the company to understand proportion, so fight the overhang at the front, give us a coupé roofline, and bring the eyeline down on the side see its super muscle, and between the wheels to the long wheelbase.”
A sporty jump for the ix25
The ix25 compact SUV – which is also sold in Russia, India and Brazil as the Creta, and not offered in the US or Europe – is an example of the new direction set by the Sonata, including a sleeker, slanting shape. It has chunkier proportions but is less boxy compared to its original version, while the team has added more obvious SUV characteristics. “We wanted to give it more solidity and more of a sporty vertical, which makes it look wider, solid and strong,” Loasby said.
From the side, the SUV has a somewhat muscular body, with wheel arches that reach to the shoulder and contribute to its solid, broad stance. It features an enlarged, vertical roof in two tones of black and silver side panels with grey outlines around the darkened window graphics. The DLO narrows slightly from front to rear, rising in a sharper swoop to close.
The front and rear ends feature strong graphics and lighting that give the car a certain playfulness, including splitting the front and rear lights into three volumes that contribute an expression similar to an animated face.
“The graphics are completely unique, and unmistakable,” said Loasby. “The drivers behind will ask, is that a cartoon character driving in front of me?”
The ix25 has a dominant grille with a 3D pattern and a chrome top. “You will see this type of pattern more in future products too. We call this parametric design, like jewellery,” he said. “It is a delight factor, where we want to add more value and detail into every area.”
The interior features a more premium feel than the original model, including a large vertical screen running seamlessly into the centre console, while more controls have been digitised. Trapezoidal airvents and subtle graphics on the centre console complement the ‘floating’ main element. A Baidu-based connectivity system provides many specific digital features for China.
Hyundai China’s studio in Yantai, Shandong Province played an important role in the ix25, in particular front and rear styling, lighting, and the interior (including UX, colour, trim and materials).
“We did a lot locally with team in Yantai. The fresh look at the back and refining the front, some quality work at the side, and extra attention to detail such as the taillight,” said Loasby. “For the interior, we changed everything a tiny bit, looking to make it more harmonious and simple.”
Loasby was optimistic that Hyundai is now building a line-up and design language that will capture attention in China, with models more individualistic and differentiated, while still belonging to the same family, like a set of chess pieces.
“We want to give people both a logical and emotional reason to buy something,” he said. “People in China are very expressive; they don’t want to do the normal thing.”