Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept
Well, it should have been the main attraction at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, rather than that vulgar, glitzy, warmed-over American icon that hogged all the publicity.
This is the first time in over a year and a half that this blog has highlighted a vehicle made by the South Korean giant, but with their HCD-14 Genesis Concept, they’ve earned some attention. A fascinating blend of American, British, German and Asian design themes, the HCD-14 takes styling cues from many different sources and fuses them into something that stands confidently on its own four tires.
The influences are obvious. The nose treatment and return on the back edge of the rear window are lifted from Aston Martin and the slope of the decklid very much resembles that of Audi’s gorgeous A7. Furthermore, most of the (few) chrome details draw from Asian design history and the whole car’s slab-sided “pillbox” proportions pay homage to classic American cruisers like late-’40s Hudsons and Buicks and more recently, cars like the Chrysler 300.
All that said, the HCD-14 creates an identity beyond the pastiche of influences by virtue of its emphasis on proportion over decoration (a common refrain around here), an achievement remarkable given the incredibly overwrought and at times head-scratching designs Hyundai has produced lately. It’s distinctive without being tacky, and exaggerated enough, in classic show car fashion, such that elements like the front end design and overall shape would hit the bullseye if toned down just enough for the production line.
For its part, the interior fails to break any new conceptual ground, but is understated (for a concept car) and quite inviting-looking, with themes that could translate easily to a road car.
Most significantly for Hyundai’s future design direction, the HCD-14 features a number of elements that could be easily incorporated into cars of different sizes and proportions, in the same way that BMW’s signature kidneys are versatile enough mesh with a variety of bodystyles. Take the simple, near-vertical grille shape and the way the inside apexes of the headlights relate to its upper corners—that design detail is very “portable” in the sense that, say, a sports car’s low, rakish shape could feature headlights of nearly the same shape paired with a similar, but lower and wider grille. The family resemblance would be present, and the sports car’s styling wouldn’t be compromised by having to graft an out-of-context “corporate identity” onto the fascia. The HCD-14′s shapes and details represent the first real, golden opportunity for Hyundai to build a long-term brand image. For that reason, among others, it’s a true standout.