South Korean carmaker, Hyundai, officially entered the US market in 1986 with a bang. While they may have been well received in the beginning, they soon became the butt of many jokes with people saying Hyundai is an acronym for “Hope You Understand Nothing’s Driveable And Inexpensive”.
Safe to say, the Hyundai cars did carry some faults with them. To counter, Hyundai heavily invested in quality and soon re-established itself as well as its sister brands Kia and Genesis in the US market. Here are 10 Hyundai cars (including Kia and Genesis) that everyone should have steered clear from, for sanity's sake.
10 1986 Hyundai Excel
We begin the list with Hyundai’s very first entrant in the United States market – the Hyundai Excel. At launch, it became a bestseller, selling some 168,000+ models in its launch year. And this was the highest of all car sales of the year, leaving even American cars behind.
Despite heavy sales, people soon realized the car was faulty and plagued with problems that came from extensive cost-cutting on Hyundai’s part. Sales plummeted and people began to consider the Hyundai Motor Company nothing more than a bad joke. Despite this, Hyundai stayed put in America, extensively investing in better cars and tech. But the Excel was a disaster that took a long time for them to mitigate.
9 2006 Kia Rio
We put Kia on the list because it’s a 32% owned subsidiary of Hyundai, and technically, almost a Hyundai itself. A subcompact car, the Kia Rio was introduced in North America in 2006, then in its second generation. It also shared its platform with the Hyundai Accent at the time and was considered a sister car of the same.
Needless to say, it had terrible safety ratings with everything about it being shoddily built. An overall two out of five stars, everything about it was rated poor to average when it came to safety. This improved when Kia came out with its 2012 model.
8 2019 Genesis G90
Genesis is the wholly-owned luxury subdivision of Hyundai, and its flagship model is the G90. A full-size four-door luxury sedan that comes way cheaper than its competitors, the G90 seemed to fail in 2018, with the 2019 model selling only 2,136 examples.
With the 2020 model being given an extensive facelift, we can only hope that the new and improved G90, which is being built from scratch will revive flagging sales. But why was the G90 badly sold? The car did not garner much interest because the price difference wasn’t attractive enough for people to drop one luxe brand, and opt for a new one.
7 1998 Hyundai Accent
With the Excel being booted out of the US due to poor sales, Hyundai brought in the Accent in 1994 – also known as the Pony or the Excel in other markets. When crash-tested in 1998, it was found that the passenger compartment became extremely unstable during a collision.
With an increased risk of chest injury during a side impact, the Accent did not even make the legal requirement limit which is why it was pulled in 1999. Despite the mistakes they made with the Excel, Hyundai continued to disappoint US markets with another shoddy product.
6 2015 Hyundai Equus
Before there was Genesis, there was the Equus – because we are talking cars here people, not Biblical stuff. The Hyundai Equus was one of the finest luxury cars of 2015, that still came with a kickass price tag of $60,000+.
Now while the Equus was feature-loaded, ponying up this much for an unproven horse proved too dear for many and it didn’t sell well, at all. Plus, Hyundai didn’t seem to care all that much because marketing was at a minimum, and enough of these were being grabbed by Korean and Chinese diplomats to make a difference to Hyundai in any case.
5 2006 Kia Amanti
The Kia Amanti was designed by two designers we think – one very impressed with the Jaguar S-Type of the 90s, and the other besotted with the Mercedes E-Class. Both these idols were poor designs in their own right, and when you take visual cues from such cars – you get the very ugly Kia Amanti.
But the car didn’t fail because of looks alone, the V6 under the hood did not give it great power and sounded harsh when redlined. Then there was a rather shoddily built interior that belied its “luxury” tag – and so the Amanti turned out to be an overall bad car.
4 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport
Perhaps not so much a bad car as it is a boring car, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is rather unsporty, as described by many previous owners. The car is okay enough for a daily commute with a quiet cabin that can make same-road traffic-filled drives comfortable, but the “sport” tagline is a bit misleading.
While the car is powerful enough for an okay drive, there’s nothing particularly sporty about it and most would call it a rather boring and uninspiring drive. It did come cheap, was an average if comfortable drive but otherwise, it was just another car, period.
3 2003 Hyundai Tiburon
The 2003 Tiburon model was recalled nine times, which is a pretty high number. The reason was a suspension issue – specifically, road salt would corrode and thin down the front lower control arms, to the point where they could weaken and become perforated.
This consequentially increased the chances of a crash and the risk of injury for the driver as well as passengers. The problem was prevalent in states where snow was plentiful in winters, and roads would be salted to avoid skids and slips. The Tiburon, a sports coupe, was recalled and fixed at no cost – but slipped several notches from an owner’s viewpoint.
2 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe
Since 2014, the Santa Fe seems to be doing well in the US, selling well over 100,000 models a year; far bigger numbers than what they sell in South Korea. But the 2008 model was another one of those disasters which led to Hyundai recalling models of the Santa Fe some eight times in entirety.
Once, there was a problem with the airbag deployment which did not take a person of smaller size into consideration – fixed with a software update. Another time, there was a problem with brake pedals. Then an issue with cruise control. All in all, it took a while for Hyundai to launch a problem-free Santa Fe model, and for the US markets to start appreciating it.
1 2011 Hyundai Sonata
So Hyundai Sonata sales have suffered a little from the many problems the 2011 model seemed to have undergone. Numbers have dipped in the last few years with 2018 selling only about 100,000 examples from the nearly 200,000 sold in 2016. 2011 seemed to be a problem year for the Sonata, originally introduced in the US in 1989.
This is the year when many consumers complained about the erratic engine, with the engine seizing for no rhyme or reason. The 2017 model also seemed to be plagued with similar problems and many cars were recalled for safety issues as well.