Korea shall inherit the Earth…..

2 Nov

From this......

.....to this

*N.B. I’m going to just blaze straight through the division between North and South Korea for ease of writing. I appreciate that this is politically and geographically ignorant…..

Time was when all Korean cars were, to quote a phrase, “f**king awful”. In the 90s there was a seemingly endless barrage of horrible-looking, horribly-named, drab, dreary, awful, terrible cars that emerged from the teat of Asia’s eastern breast (am I going to get murdered for saying this? Keep an eye out for me, Readers!). Some names come to mind at this juncture: the Kia Pride (setting yourself up for a fall there). The Daewoo Nubira. The Hyundai Atoz. The Ssangyong Korando. Are you enjoying this little trip down memory lane? Me neither.

Whatever you do, take Pride. Or not, as the case may be.

The image conjured up in my head when I think about this veritable chamber of horrors of the automotive industry is similar to the image I see in my mind’s eye when I recall Kieslowski’s great movie A Short Film About Killing – I just picture a lot of grey, various barren landscapes and some dead people. The Korean car industry in the 90s and the early part of this millennium was, frankly a joke.

Korean car industry circa 1997

But something weird has started to happen. Korean cars have started becoming…..OK. I have a mate who drives a 2005 Hyundai Getz and it’s pretty good. The interior plastics don’t feel like a BMW and it’s not the quickest car I’ve ever been in, but it does its job as a small hatchback remarkably well, without making my friend, or me when I travel in it, want to kill ourselves. More recent offerings are even better. I did some work experience for a big UK car magazine and they were good enough to let me have a runaround in the new Kia Piccanto and I have to say, I had a cracking time in it. I mean, the 3-cylinder engine was a bit comical – it sounded like a V12 heard from about a mile away – and the steering and brakes were both over-servoed, but it was a hoot! At the Frankfurt motor show in September, the Korean cars all looked excellent, even the Ssangyongs, despite the company’s crappy, depressing stand. The Kia GT concept? As good looking, I would say, as Jaguar’s C-X16 concept. The Hyundai i40? Looks to be a great real-world alternative to a Mondeo (although you have to say, Hyundai have shamelessly aped Ford in improving their brand, which is no bad thing).

Picanto. We like.

i40. We also like.

One must assume, then, that Korea are just going to keep moving up in the car world in the same way as Skoda have done, until they are perfectly viable options, not just for cash-strapped pensioners, but for everyone. Carficionado might even end up buying a Korean car one day – and that will be a world gone topsy-turvy! Not only that, but what nation is the most advanced on hydrogen fuel-cell technology? That would be Korea. Get ready, dear Readers, to see them become a really, really dominant force in the car industry.

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