2016 Hyundai Sonata Eco – How To Follow-Up Success?

2016_Hyundai_Sonata_Eco_019Text by Gabriela Galvan, photos by Cor Steenstra

When the previous generation Hyundai Sonata was introduced it followed up a series of rather stale looking sedans which were getting of increasingly better quality, but were never a sight to behold. Suddenly they were. A very striking exterior design, dynamic, interesting and with innovative all in a perfect balance. It was unique. It managed to blend all that with excellent interior space, very good interior design, nice a spacious, well packaged, and everything with a very high level of fit and finish.

Yes, it was very impressive, did a whole lot to propel Hyundai into the mass market segment as a serious contender, and was clearly a sales success for the company.

So how do you follow up on that?To answer that you have to take a step back and look at what happened after the last Sonata was introduced: The Design team gained attention and was logically courted by other companies. Notably Joel Piaskowski was lured to Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design in Carlsbad where, within a year, he was ousted. He ended up at Ford and has been routing through several positions there. Joel had fought hard to earn his position within Hyundai, and had to wok hard to convince the Korean top that this was a good direction. They finally were convinced and it worked. Suddenly he was gone, and so was the trust.


Replacements came.., and went.., but that trust never seemed to have returned. So any proposal from that disloyal bunch was looked at with distrust. On the sales, marketing and engineering sides of course they LOVED the sales numbers, the success and the money, so they wanted to keep that momentum, so what was more logical than to put a brake on that risky design, since that most likely was nothing but a fluke, and lets play it safe with the things that really made it into a success……..

So here it is…

The Hyundai Sonata Eco is a good car. Good interior space, high quality in fit and finish, good options and a good price…

Sonata Interior 01

Design wise it is playing it very safe. I am convinced that Hyundai lost a lot of buying who were drawn to the exciting and dynamic exterior of the previous generation, but since a lot were in the showroom anyway, and with a very conservative, non-offensive design lures in buyers from other brands who finally felt convinced Hyundai could deliver something good. The design is nicely executed, with nothing wrong, but there is nothing outstanding on it either, no dynamic style, no strong character lines, no dynamic headlight units, nothing that conveys the passion we saw on the previous design.

It’s good.

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