Korean automakers roll out concepts at Seoul show

While much of the auto industry’s attention is focused on the New York auto show, South Korea’s automakers have been rolling out a crop of concepts at the Seoul auto show. Here’s a look at several of the unveilings:

Hyundai Veloster

One of the few remaining holes in Hyundai’s lineup is that of a young person’s small sports car. The Veloster concept won’t fill that hole, but the company says it is “keenly aware” that it needs to develop something that will. The Veloster takes its name from the words “velocity” and “roadster” and was designed at Hyundai’s Design and Technical Center in Namyang, South Korea. The fwd Veloster has a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai says the car is only a concept to see what it should do about its need in the United States and Europe to compete against similar minicars, such as Toyota’s Scion lineup.

Hyundai H-1 Van

The latest H-1 van, code-named TQ, comes in passenger and commercial versions and seats as many as 12 people, depending on the layout. The van, with a 2.5-liter diesel engine, is set to go into production in August for Europe and Korea. The van will not be produced for North America. The H-1 competes with the Toyota Hiace in Europe. The new H-1 has a 128-inch wheelbase, 4.8 inches longer than the previous model. The overall length is 205 inches, and the height is 77.2 inches.

Hyundai FD Estate Wagon

The FD Estate Wagon complements the new i30 five-door hatchback family that Hyundai introduced last month in Geneva. The wagon and hatchback were designed in Hyundai’s European Design Center in Ruesselsheim, Germany. The wagon is a must for this hotly contested European segment, says Hyundai. The front-wheel-drive wagon is powered by a four-cylinder gasoline engine or a 1.6-liter turbodiesel. The wagon goes on sale in Europe in November, while the hatchback goes on sale in July. There are no plans for North American sales of either version.

Kia KND-4

Kia looks to build a youthful and sporty image. The KND-4 SUV is the third in a trilogy of sporty vehicles the company has displayed at auto shows this year. The Kue compact crossover debuted in Detroit, and the ex_cee’d convertible appeared in Geneva. The Kue and ex_cee’d were developed in the countries in which they both first appeared. The KND-4 comes from Kia’s Namyang Design Center in South Korea. It has a 2.2-liter diesel engine that drives all four wheels. The KND-4 is purely a concept, but its muscular lines contrast with the soft shape of Kia’s top-selling SUV, the Sportage, which is due for a redesign.

Ssangyong Kyron

Ssangyong’s new Kyron SUV is on sale now in South Korea, with European sales soon to follow. The original Kyron went on sale in 2005 and it, along with other Ssangyong SUVs, have seen increasing sales in Europe. Ssangyong expects strong growth in Europe in 2007. The Kyron comes with a Mercedes-Benz five-speed E-Tronic automatic transmission that Ssangyong buys from DaimlerChrysler. Two diesel engines are available. The 2.0-liter engine is rated at 151 hp, with front-drive or four-wheel-drive configurations. The 2.7-liter engine is rated at 176 hp and offered in four-wheel- or all-wheel-drive.

Ssangyong Wz

The Wz concept points in a new direction for SUV-maker Ssangyong. The company has only one car — the Chairman sedan — among seven SUV or crossover models. But the company’s midterm strategy is to begin making a full lineup of cars for Europe and China. The Wz is wide (74.6 inches) with a high beltline and a wheelbase of 117.6 inches. The concept points to an “experimental luxury” sports sedan, the company says. The Wz’s stance is backed by a 3.6-liter, twin turbo V-6 rated at 365 hp, mated to an all-wheel-drive drivetrain. The Wz is unlikely to resemble anything that goes into production, but it’s an interesting study for a company that makes SUVs and one standard-looking sedan.

April 5, 2007 | Automotive News