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Hyundai Overview

Hyundai, which loosely translates to “modernity,” has been an entity since 1937 when founder, Chung Ju Yung, opened a rice store. The car part of what had grown into a massive conglomerate started when the Hyundai Motor Company was founded in 1967. For Canada, the defining moment came in December 1983, when the 1984 Pony arrived. With an asking price of $5,795 it started a revolution!

Contrary to popular belief the Pony was not based on a ’70s Mitsubishi. Rather its origins can be traced to the Morris Marina with a few Ford Cortina parts thrown in for good measure. The mechanicals sat beneath a body penned by Giorgio Giugiaro of ItalDesign. As a teaser, Hyundai showed a Pony Coupe concept at the 1974 Turin motor show. Some credit the futuristic design as influencing the De Lorean DMC 12. In a twist, Hyundai now has a retro-styled EV concept car in the form of the RN22e — it shouts Pony Coupe! There are also shades of it to be seen in the Ioniq 5.

Ten-years later, Canada got the face-lifted five-door Pony II. It arrived with a 70 horsepower, 1.4L Mitsubishi four-cylinder that drove the rear wheels through a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. At the time, the hope was to sell some 5,000 of these thrifty runabouts. Given the selling price was significantly less than that of a used Corolla at the time and the Pony came with a new vehicle warranty, the first year netted just over 25,000 sales.

In 1985, the Pony was joined by the Stellar. While this iffy sedan arrived with yet more ’70s Ford Cortina parts, it did manage to help push Hyundai sales to almost 80,000, which gave the fledgling company almost 10 per cent of the Canadian market. Hyundai had arrived!

The company’s meteoric rise up the sales charts did not sit well with some makers. Ford and GM filed a “dumping” charge in 1987. It claimed Hyundai was ditching its cars here for less than it cost to make them. Revenue Canada (now CRA), said the prices averaged 26 per cent less in Canada than in South Korea, which lent some credence to the complaint. In the end, however, the Canadian Import Tribunal (now the Canadian International Trade Tribunal) sided with Hyundai ruling the “Canadian subsidiaries of the Ford Motor Company and the General Motors Corporation had not been injured by Hyundai's policy of selling its cars in Canada at lower prices than it charges in South Korea.”

So far, Hyundai had relied on other manufacturers for know-how and parts for its automotive endeavours. That changed in 1988 when it became a stand-alone maker using on its own in-house engineers, designers and technology. The Sonata became the first real Hyundai. In 1991, Hyundai produced its first in-house engine and transmission, which gave it true independence. The rest, as they say, is history.

One of the fruits of the independent initiative arrived in Canada in the summer of 1989. Hyundai opened an assembly plant in Bromont, Quebec. The plan was to produce up to 2,000 Sonata sedans a year. The experiment lasted five years closing in 1994. Sadly, the aluminum wheels being produced by the company’s Newmarket, Ontario facility also closed when the assembly plant was shuttered.

While Hyundai’s initial product did suffer from quality issues, its unerring emphasis on in-house research and development has seen the company soar from humble beginnings to become, according to Forbes, the world’s fifth-largest automaker when you factor in Kia and Genesis. That’s astounding when you consider many of its rivals have been around for more than 100-years. Today, the company offers a diverse range of cars, crossovers and electrified units.

Hyundai Car lineup

The car side of the business starts with Elantra. It has been a popular choice through seven generations. Reworked in 2021, the Elantra is now offered four ways. The mortal gas-powered version along with a hybrid alternative. The latter boasts a solid average fuel economy of 4.7 L/100 km. The other two models are part of the growing N portfolio. To set things straight, the N Line is really just a cosmetic package; the N Series is the real deal. In this case, the Elantra N Line gets a better 1.6L turbo-four with 195 hp. Good, but it pales when compared to the Elantra N Series and the hot 276 hp, 2.0L turbo-four under the hood. It whisks the riders to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds! The N Series also gets a reworked suspension and brakes.

The family sedan is found in the Sonata. Again, it comes three ways. The base gas-power model, a fuel-sipping hybrid and the N Line. Of the trio, it’s N Line that’s the smart deal. Price-wise, it sits between the gas and hybrid models, and it comes with sharper looks and a more enjoyable driving style thanks to the 290 hp 2.5L turbo-four.

Hyundai Crossovers and SUVs

The crossover starting point is the Venue, a ride that packs a lot into a city- and wallet-friendly package. It will not wow you with its performance, but it excels at everyday chores and it has the wherewithal to cope with a longer trip comfortably. Entry-level does not get much better.

Next up is the Kona. Along with the gasoline version, it has two significant bookends — the all-electric Kona EV and the full-on Kona N Series. Ironically, and perhaps a sign of the times, the Kona EV is more affordable than the N Series after the $5,000 federal rebate has been applied — those from Quebec and other enlightened provinces enjoy a double helping of rebate, which really seals the deal! Go figure, an electric vehicle that’s quick and has a lower operating cost than a gas-powered ride. That said, the Kona N Series is a hoot and a half to drive!

The fourth-generation Tucson, introduced for 2022, and larger face-lifted Santa Fe, introduced in 2021, are both offered as gas, hybrid and PHEV models. The similarities continue with seating for five, technology-rich cabins with an available 10.25 infotainment screen, comfortable heated/cooled seating and an eager driving ethic. The Tucson gas models use a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. All but the first two models drive all four wheels. Santa Fe uses the same base engine, but gets standard all-wheel-drive and offers a 281 hp, 2.5L turbo-four option.

Both the Tucson and Santa Fe hybrids and PHEVs use the same basic powertrain — a 1.6L turbo-four that works with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission to drive all four wheels. The hybrid’s electric side uses a 59 hp electric motor that works with a 1.49-kWh battery. The PHEVs get a larger 13.8-kWh battery and a more powerful 90 hp electric motor. It also delivers up to 53-km of electric-only driving and gets the full $5,000 federal EV rebate.

Rounding out the crossover lineup is the three-row, eight-seat Palisade. Introduced in 2020, it gets a facelift this year. The cabin is first class all the way, in fact, it does a credible job of blurring the line between near-luxury and luxury, especially the top Ultimate Calligraphy — just about anything any luxury car offers you’ll find here. There’s also plenty of room in all seating positions, including the third row. Folding both rows down opens up 2,447L of cargo space. All models use a 291 hp, 3.8L V6 and an eight-speed automatic to drive all four wheels, and it will tow a 2,268-kg trailer.

The oddball is the new-for-2022 Santa Cruz. It is best described as an open-back crossover, as it’s really not a true truck. This is a plus, as it has better ride and handling than is normally expected of the breed. It’s also pretty quick thanks to the 281 hp, 2.5L turbo-four under the hood. It can also haul a 2,268-kg trailer, which is up significantly from the Tucson upon which it’s based.

The Ioniq 5 was all-new when introduced in 2022. It’s not to be confused with the Ioniq hatchback, which was phased out just before the 5 arrived. The new Ioniq EV is offered as a rear driver with a 58-kWh battery and 354-km of range. The smart money will opt up to the long-range version of the base unit. The use of a larger 77.4-kWh battery bumps the range to 488-km and allows for a 225 hp electric motor, which is up 57 hp. The range and perky performance in a well-equipped package make it a solid alternative to a PHEV. For those looking for some driving spice there’s the two motor Ioniq. It adds all-wheel-drive and ups the output to 320 hp. The sacrifice is the driving range drops to 414-km. Hyundai's electric range will grow again when the Ioniq 5 is joined by the super-swoopy Ioniq 6.

Finally, the Nexo fuel-cell electric gives a nod to the post-battery era, if it ever arrives. It replaces the large battery with an electricity-producing, hydrogen-powered fuel cell. The plus is the refuelling time and driving range is similar to that of a regular car. Sadly, the non-existent refuelling infrastructure limits its availability and, ultimately, desirablity.

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All Hyundai Models

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