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Hyundai’s concept cars: A history of the future

SEOUL, Korea/OFFENBACH, Germany – Hyundai Motor recently revealed its latest concept EV Prophecy, the latest model to embody the what the automaker calls its ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design which is said to offer clues to how future Hyundai models might look.

”Concept cars,” the Seoul giant told The Corner, ”allow automakers to push the boundaries of car design through exploring new ideas or styles.

”Traditionally, many automakers have used such studies to gauge consumers’ reaction to radical features but they rarely reach the production line.”

LATEST MODEL: Hyundai Prophecy supersaloon. Image: Hyundai

Nevertheless, Hyundai has presented a number of concepts that have informed the design of subsequent production models. Such as…

2012 – the i-oniq…

…at the 2012 Geneva auto show, an electric sport hatchback with a range-extending petrol engine that was designed and developed at Hyundai’s European research and development centre – it features the now common ‘cascading grille’ features on Hyundai vehicles.

”Its design,” Hyundai said at the time, ”showed gentle feature lines and muscular surface treatment with premium and athletic qualities.”

HYUNDAI i-ONIQ: Image: Hyundai

It eventually became a parent model to the Hyundai Ioniq, launched four years later as the world’s first car to have a choice of three electric propulsion choices.

2014 – the Intrado…

…concept was unveiled at the 2014 Geneva show to show a new direction for the brand; ”a vision of how cars will meet future mobility needs”.


”The vehicle,” Hyundai says, ”emphasised our belief that advanced vehicle technology and intelligent design could combine to engage more effectively with its driver and passengers.

”It was named for the underside of an aircraft’s wing and combined distinctive minimal detailing with aerodynamic efficiency.”

It eventually influenced the design of the Kona, launched in 2017 as the brand’s first sub-compact SUV. It used a bold front and rear and a wide stance with sharp shapes.

2016 – RN30…

…arrived on the scene at the 2016 Paris auto show as ”a motorsport-inspired racing concept based on the Hyundai i30 and developed in close collaboration with Hyundai Motorsport and other arms of the automaker.

”The RN30,” Hyundai says, ”was praised for combining an aerodynamic design alongside specialised high-performance technology with the promise of thrilling high-speed driving.”

It is said to have become a forerunner to design elements inherited in both the i30 N and the i30 N TCR which included the triangular lighting and headlight outline and blue exterior colour, as well as a rollcage instead of a bench, and an N-mode button. The RN30’s lightweight philosophy was carried over to the i30 N TCR.

2017 – FE Fuel Cell…

…a concept vehicle said to have been a step forward for hydrogen-fuelled vehicles at its debut at the 2017 Geneva auto show to re-affirm its commitment to fuel-cell vehicle development.

”Its minimalist, clean, and calm design,” Hyundai said at the time, ”emphasises its non-polluting nature. Its minimalist style was exemplified by the dramatic rear aerofoil which provided aerodynamic efficiency through intelligent engineering.”

Hyundai’s second-generation fuel-cell vehicle, the NEXO, was unveiled a few later but inherited the model’s SUV stance and design features and ”an organic and flowing form while its thin floating roof was emphasised by a large rooflight and slim D-pillars.

2018 – ‘Le Fil Rouge…

…concept arrived at the 2018 Paris auto show to, Hyundai said, ”to reflect Hyundai’s belief that the brand’s past, present, and future designs are connected and was influenced by the company’s Pony Coupe concept from 1974.

COLOUR ME RED: Hyundai Le Fil Rouge. Image: Hyundai

”It had a fastback shell,” Hyundai says, ”and achieved proportional uniqueness through a long wheelbase, large wheels, and short overhangs and represented a new beginning for Hyundai’s design.”

Design cues from Le Fil Rouge were been carried forward to the  Sonata and the Elantra.

2019 – “45”…

This Hyundai was unveiled as the “45” EV concept at the Frankfurt auto show in 2019. “45” as, its maker says, ”a homage to the brand’s heritage re-imagined for the future to foreshadow a new era of our automotive design focused on electrification, autonomous technology, and intelligent design”.

HYUNDAI 45 CONCEPT. Image: Hyundai

It was a then modern interpretation of the Pony concept first show way back in 1974, which was presented 45 years previously in 1974 with a light and aerodynamic monocoque-style body inspired by aircraft from the 1920s.

The car’s name also owed itself in part to the 45-degree angles, front and rear, that formed a diamond-shaped silhouette used later in more electric models.

Its design was said to have celebrated the clean lines and minimalistic structure of the original coupe concept. Like Le Fil Rouge, it ”represented an evolution of Hyundai’s Sensuous Sportiness design”.

2019 – Vision T…

…which arrived at a Los Angeles auto show as a plug-in hybrid SUV concept intended to offers a vision of a new urban adventurer SUV using ‘Sensuous Sportiness’.

LOOKING FORWARD: Hyundai Vision T concept. Image: Hyundai

Its long bonnet,  flat roof, long wheelbase, and short overhangs, Hyundai said ”showed its dynamic character”.

Despite prevailing compact SUV designs, the Vision T uses crisp geometric angles and sharp edges to create a striking contrast between a sleek silhouette and masculine wedge lines.

2020 – “Prophecy”…

… was revealed in March 2020. ”In sharp contrast to its predecessor 45, Prophecy has smooth curves and flowing lines and few sharp angles or hard edges”.

LATEST MODEL: Hyundai Prophecy supersaloon. Image: Hyundai

”Its neo-classic shape,” Hyundai says, ”gives a nod to the luxury cars of the 1920s and 1930s while unique features such as pixelated lighting and aerodynamic wheels make it seem like something from the future.

The name, the automaker says, ”is a clear hint that this car is a teaser of things to come”.

The Prophecy is said to be the latest embodiment of ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ through a perfect marriage of aesthetic harmony and aerodynamics.

Hyundai enlarged: ”The design identity can be seen in the car’s perfect silhouette, one streamlined curve sweeping front to rear. The smooth lines and sweeping curves give the Prophecy the look of a perfectly-weathered stone.

”This can be summed-up in the guiding design concept “Optimistic Futurism”.

And, The Corner says, there you go…

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