The Sonata has gone from a wannabe Camry/Accord into an impressive midsize sedan that stands on it's own merits. There's still a ways to go before it can match the big players toe-to-toe, but it's getting awfully close. Honda, Nissan, and Toyota have to be feeling the heat, never mind what the domestic Big Three are feeling.
My father had an early 90's Sonata, and it was decent but uninspired. The styling and performance have matured, and it's difficult to think the old and new versions come from the same company. Finally, the Japanese get some real competition, and consumers will be the ultimate winners in this battle. The midsize segment consists of each manufacturer's best seller, the car that truly is the physical representation of that company. There's been a renaissance at Hyundai Motors.
Instead of a little cute-ute as thir first foray into the SUV market, Hyundai shows off it's marketing savvy by producing the Santa Fe. Along the lines of the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner in dimensions, it's a serious choice in this segment. I'm not a big SUV fan, but the Santa Fe's styling is some of the best in the land. The only SUV that I think surpasses it would be the new Nissan Murano.
Six-Cylinder engine. 6-Speed manual transmission. The Tiburon firmly nails the sporty coupe target with a winner. The redesigned style is a little lacking, less avant-garde than the original, but the mechanicals are what really matter here. This is another segment where Hyndai really shines, even though it's not a huge market. It is important for image, though, and bravo to Hyundai to have the balls to put out an enthusiat's car.
For proof that Hyundai wants to be a world-class auto manufacturer, look no further than the XG350. Hyundai's going after the jugular with this one, and I wouldn't be suprised to see a luxury division emerge if this car is successful. From the Excel to the XG is a huge leap, but Hyundai has pulled it off.
Competition is such a good thing when it comes to cars. Now if only Kia would get serious.