Strong in the USA, South Korea, India and many European countries, Hyundai still cannot crack the Chinese market. In the first two months of 2019, it remains well outside the top ten and is a way smaller brand even than Mercedes, BMW and Audi. At least there was good news in February as sales rose at long last. 

The largest of Hyundai Motor Group’s three passenger car divisions lost momentum in North America and China over recent years for various reasons. Holding its nerve, Hyundai did the logical thing to fix the problem: investing in ever more and ever better engineered cars, crossovers and SUVs.

The brand is doing very well again in the USA thanks to a raft of product launches, many of which are SUVs in various size categories while in the People’s Republic, the Beijing Hyundai JV is quietly killing off ever more old, cheap models and bringing newer, more attractive ones to market. The hope for the joint venture is that the Chinese public will begin to notice that Hyundais now stand out – in a good way – and do not have to be sold on low price alone.

In Europe, one of the fascinating things to witness is how Kia has overtaken the parent brand in multiple countries, although this hasn’t happened in the region’s largest market, Hyundai being especially strong in Germany.

Kia Motors is firmly in second position in North America and in China plus of course, any threat to Hyundai in South Korea would be as unthinkable as Citroen closing in on Peugeot in France: the founding family’s brand must always be in first place. Nonetheless, as the example of what has happened in Europe shows, internal competition works as an incentive for both divisions to push one another.

The really interesting thing about Hyundai’s reversal of fortune in two of its largest markets has been the continuation of investment in cars. As with Toyota, Nissan and Honda, Hyundai Motor America has adopted a strategy which goes against what GM, Ford and FCA have been doing, namely not putting all its eggs into light trucks.

Profits for the parent company have taken a hit partly because Hyundai-Kia is hedging its bets by spending to expand the model lines of its brands, knowing that if the tide ever turns against SUVs in the US, as happened in China last year, then it will be ready with alternatives.


The Santro model name was revived for a 3,610mm long five-door hatchback. This car is built in India and is mainly for that market, production having commenced in October 2018. The standard engine is a 1.1-litre four-cylinder petrol unit with CNG power an option. A small future crossover in the style of the Renault Kwid is said to be closely related to the Santro. Its project code is AH.

The third generation i10 is now only some six months away. It will share a platform and much else besides with the Santro. The world debut will probably be at the Frankfurt IAA Cars in September with production to commence in Turkey and India during the fourth quarter.

HMG’s KP platform has only been around since 2015, so HMG will inevitably use the same architecture when it comes time to replace the IB series i20. That should happen in early 2021, India likely being the first market, with cars for Europe likely by the middle of that year. These are the i20’s main markets, India being the larger of the two. The i20 is not available in South Korea and neither are the Santro or i10.

Hyundai Motor India might keep the old model in production as a cheaper model, which is what it did when the current i20 arrived in 2015. This is why the newer car was called Elite i20. There may well be an electrified version of the future i20 too.

The HB20, a B segment model range (hatchback, sedan and crossover) designed especially for Brazil, is now fading, which is not surprising given its age. The first car came off the line at the Piracicaba plant in the state of Sao Paul in September 2012. A new model should appear soon.

The Verna, a B segment car range launched in 2016, is in its fifth generation. In some markets, the Accent, Grand Avega, Solaris and i25 model names are used. Production is in Korea, China, India and Russia. The carry-over platform is also known as K2. After a facelift in 2020, the seventh generation model should appear from 2022 but the current model will likely continue to be available in many markets. North America’s version of the latest generation Accent was new for that region’s 2018 model year so the successor is probably as far off as the 2024 model year.

In the C segment, Hyundai’s main model for Europe is the i30. The third generation of Hyundai’s rival for the VW Golf, Ford Focus and others in that size class was revealed to the media in September 2016, just a few weeks ahead of its public debut at the Paris motor show. The three-door bodystyle was not replaced, but a five-door Fastback announced in July 2017 supplements the five-door hatchback and estate. The current car uses an updated version of the second generation’s platform.

The Fastback is marketed as a five-door coupé: the effective replacement for the old-shape three-door. At 1,425 mm high, the Fastback is 30 mm lower than the five-door body type and has an overall length of 4,455 mm – 115 mm longer than the five-door.

The i30 is exported to North America and sold as the Elantra GT, this car having had its debut at the Chicago auto show in February 2017 (2018MY Elantra GT).

Hyundai Motor Europe announced a minor facelift for the i30 five-door and wagon range in September 2018. The changes were timed to coincide with the introduction of engines compliant with the EC’s Euro 6d Temp emissions norms. The only exterior change was a new grille which makes the cars’ front end identical to that of the i30 Fastback. The i30 N was unchanged. There should be a more comprehensive facelift in the final quarter of next year and then a successor in 2023.

The Celesta is a special model for China. Available at first solely as a 4.5m long sedan, the car is positioned between the Verna and Elantra and powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine. Its debut was at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2016.

Despite going on sale in March 2017, the Celesta was not a new car. Instead, it was a new body on the Elantra Yuedong. That vehicle was South Korea’s fourth generation Hyundai Avante (Elantra in many countries) and the Yuedong was built in China for six years after it went out of production in South Korea.

The Chinese name for the Celesta is Xin Yuedong (‘New Yuedong’).

The Celesta RV, a wagon-hatchback designed to compete with the Volkswagen Gran Lavida, was revealed at the Chengdu motor show in August 2018. Sales commenced during the following month.

Europe has the i30 but Hyundai’s main model in the C segment in other regions is the Avante, also known as the Elantra or Elantra Lingdong. The sixth generation of this sedan had its world premiere at an event in South Korea in September 2015 and was the first model for HMG’s KP architecture. Its motor show debut was in LA two months later, where it debuted as the (2017 model year) Elantra.

Chinese production commenced in February 2016. When Beijing Hyundai introduced this car it meant that the JV was building four generations of Elantra. The oldest model, which dates to its introduction in Korea in 2000, is sold mainly as a cheap car to Beijing taxi drivers. The other generation models were or are sold as the Elantra Yuedong and Elantra Langdong, plus the latest car which is the Elantra Lingdong. The Yuedong went out of production in December 2016.

A facelifted Avante was announced by Hyundai in August 2018. HMA also announced the update, which was part of the changes for the 2019 model year Elantra. The next generation model is due from the third quarter of 2021.

Project DN8, the eighth generation Sonata, was influenced by the looks of Le Fil Rouge, also known as HDC-1. This strikingly elegant concept premiered at the 2018 Geneva motor show. Sonata 8 was revealed online earlier in March ahead of its debut at the Seoul motor show.

Production should again take place in South Korea (Asan), the USA (Montgommery), and China (Shunyi). Build at Asan gets underway in April just ahead of the car’s sales release in the home market. Hyundai says it wants to sell 70,000 units in South Korea during 2020. Hoping to change the image of the Sonata, there will not a taxi version of this generation.

The 4,900mm Sonata is 45mm longer and 25mm wider than the seventh generation model. According to Hyundai, the car uses a new platform for the Group. This will obviously be rolled out to Kia Motors as well, with the next K5 one of the first models to use it. As for the DN8 series Sonata, it should be facelifted in the final quarter of 2021 and replaced during the first half of 2024.

The Grandeur is the best selling vehicle in South Korea. The latest generation of this big sedan was revealed to the media in November 2016. In many countries, the Azera model name is used – examples include markets in the Middle East but as the previous Azera was not a strong seller in the US, the replacement model is not offered there.

Hyundai gave the Grandeur an early facelift, the updated car going on sale in South Korea during October 2017. There should be another one in 2020 and then a replacement in 2023. That vehicle will use the same platform as the latest Sonata.


OS is the development code for what might come to be sold as the Carlino. This small SUV for India was previewed by the HND-14 Carlino, a design study which had its world premiere at the New Delhi auto expo in February 2016. The production model should be just under four metres in length so as to offer buyers a tax advantage. The Carlino would be positioned below the Creta. It should be revealed later in 2019 and be in production at HMIL’s Chennai 2 plant by year-end.

‘QXI’ or ‘QXi’ is said to be another code used for this model, while ‘NU’ might be a related variant for China. Indeed, some believe that QXi and OS have been merged. We will know for sure soon enough as the QX will likely be revealed at the New York auto show in a few weeks’ time. Model names of Styx and Leonis are also rumoured. It is thought that both Hyundai and Kia now have special low-cost versions of future models planned where relevant and that the additional i or I refers to those vehicles which will be made in India.

NX4 is the project code for the next Tucson. The fifth generation of this SUV is due out from 2020 (South Korea) and 2021 (North America and China) and it will be slightly larger due to a request from Hyundai Motor USA. Expect a five-year life cycle.

The big news is that the new model will be manufactured in the USA for the first time. The Montgommery plant, which had a capacity of 390,000 on three shifts as at the end of 2018, is expected to be expanded to 500,000 for this model and the Santa Cruz, a Tuscon-based pick-up. The Tucson should take up some of the capacity freed by falling sales of the Elantra and Sonata. The Santa Fe, which is also made in Alabama, is expected to have either stable or rising production.

The TM series Santa Fe, which is the fourth generation model, was revealed in South Korea in February 2018, a few weeks ahead of its public debut at the Geneva motor show. At the Swiss event’s press preview day, Hyundai told the media that hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains would be added to the line-up but did not say when. Production in South Korea commenced in May 2018.

This 4,770m long SUV uses the UM platform that was introduced by the Kia Sedona/Carnival in 2014. The styling is similar to the Kona, especially at the front end.

In North America, the former Santa Fe Sport became the Santa Fe. Confusingly, the previous model remains in production for this region in seven-seater form. The confusion arises from the vehicle’s name, which changed from Santa Fe to Santa Fe XL for the 2019 model year in September 2018. The Palisade replaces the Santa Fe XL for the 2020 model year.

China’s Santa Fe premiered at the Guangzhou motor show in November last year, going on sale locally earlier this year. All global plants making this SUV will produce a facelifted model from the final quarter of 2021 before switching to the fifth generation in 2024. That vehicle should use an evolution of the just-announced platform which is debuting with the new Sonata.

The Palisade is one of Hyundai’s newest models. This 4,981mm long front- and all-wheel drive SUV has eight seats and is aimed mainly at the US market where it will be a rival for the Honda Pilot and others in that size class. It is closely related to the Telluride, a big SUV for the Kia brand. Unlike that model, the Palisade is made in South Korea. Sales commenced there in December. In the home market, this vehicle replaced the Veracruz, which had been discontinued back in 2015.

As noted above, Hyundai kept the seven-seat version of the Santa Fe in production for North America’s 2019 model year, changing its name to Santa Fe XL. The Palisade is the replacement. This model should be built for just shy of seven years, which means a facelift in mid-2022 and a successor in the fourth quarter of 2025. Right-hand drive production for Australia and certain other countries is said to be planned.


The TN project is a monocoque architecture front-/all-wheel drive pick-up. Still two years away, TN was first suggested by the Santa Cruz, a concept revealed at the Detroit auto show in January 2015. Series production is said to be due to start in May 2021, with the Santa Cruz likely adopting the same platform as the new Sonata. A seven-year life cycle is expected, with a facelift in early 2025.


The Ioniq is a three-vehicle range of electrified cars, each of which has the same body style but different propulsion systems: hybrid, PHEV and EV. The car has been around for just over three years now so it will be due for replacement in 2022: facelifts for the Ioniq Hybrid and Ioniq PHEV were announced in January. Hyundai said that an updated Ioniq EV would be revealed later in the year.

An electric version of the Kona crossover was revealed to the media at an event in South Korea in February 2018. Its motor show premiere took place in Geneva during the following month. There are two powertrains with claimed maximum ranges of 300km or 470km. The respective battery packs are 39.2kWh and 64kWh.

The powertrain of the Kona EV (Kona Electric in some countries) employs a 150kW (201 horsepower) permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor supplied by a high-voltage lithium-ion battery. The motor develops 291 lb.-ft. of torque distributed to the front wheels through a 7.981 axle ratio. The powertrain inverter has a power density of 25.4 kVA per litre. The LG Chem battery system is liquid-cooled and operates at 356 volts. The pack’s energy density is 141.3 Wh/kg.

The replacement for the Kona EV is due in 2024 but there will be a facelift for the existing model in 2021.

The Nexo is Hyundai’s low-volume fuel cell vehicle. This replacement for the Tucson ix FCEV/ix35 Fuel Cell was revealed at CES in Las Vegas in January 2018. The hydrogen-fuelled crossover went on sale in South Korea in March 2018, just after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. It should remain in production until 2023.

Compared to the power unit in the Tucson ix FCEV, the Nexo’s fuel cell is smaller and requires less platinum in the catalyst. Meanwhile, the battery is larger and the electric motor is smaller and lighter but has a higher output. The car’s range is up to 600km: the old one had a range of 415km.

The production model is available in many export markets. That includes the USA (new in January for the 2019 model year, with California the only state at first) Canada (from earlier in March), as well as certain European nations (Norway, France, Denmark, the UK and Germany).

The car uses a number of ecological materials in its construction, including soybean-oil based polyurethane paint, bamboo-thread-based bio fabric, along with bio-plastic and bio-carpet extracted from sugar cane.

In early January 2018, Hyundai noted that it was working on Level 4 autonomous drive technology with Aurora, a specialist firm based in Silicon Valley. The fuel cell vehicle is the first model to be used to test the specific systems. Hyundai wants to bring this technology to mass production by 2021.

HMG is expected to add not only a fuel cell model for Kia Motors but potentially, a second Hyundai model. In June 2018, Hyundai told the media that it would enter into a partnership with Audi AG for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE. That includes various other models not mentioned above, including the Santro Active, Veloster, ix25/Creta, Kona, ix35, Reina, Lafesta, i40, Santa Fe Hybrid & PHEV, and Grandeur Hybrid.

This was the first of three features looking at the present and next generation models for Hyundai Motor Group brands. After this one will come an examination of what’s on the way and when for Genesis, the series then concluding with a focus on Kia Motors.