IS BADGE SNOBBERY STILL A THING?
Are we missing out on some great cars because we can't see past their badges?
Back in the days of yore, when One Direction was a type of road sign, and a Tesla was a unit of magnetic energy. Hyundai and Kia made, it must be said, some fairly terrible cars.
There was the Hyundai Pony, which was actually the brainchild of a Brit named George Turnbull. In the seventies, he'd been lured to Seoul on the promise of untold riches by the then new Hyundai car company. But only after he'd finished working at British Leyland where he had overseen the curling out of the fetid brown log that became the Morris Marina.
Just imagine it. A car made in Korea, in the late 70's, designed by Marina Man. You can see why it didn't really fly out of the showrooms when it came to Britain in the early 80's.
Kia didn't get off to the most auspicious of starts either. The first car they imported into Europe was a supermini called the Pride, and yes, we could all see that Kia were very proud of it indeed. However, we could also all see that it was little more than a re-badged fifteen year old Mazda.
The first Kia sold in the UK, the Pride, didn't take the market by storm for some reason. Photo: Honest John.
However, we should've heeded a warning from history. When the Japanese first started importing cars to the UK back in the 1960's we all fell about laughing and pointing and saying things like "Ohh, those Japanese. Perhaps they can make dull runabouts, but they'll never compete with the likes of the Europeans and Americans." So, take a look at the new Lexus LC500 and tell me who's laughing now?
It was only really a matter of time before the South Korean giant that owns both Kia and Hyundai got their collective act together, and with the arrival of the Stinger and the new i30, on paper at least, they really have.
Both the Stinger and the i30 N are well-equipped, powerful, nice to drive and built just as well as anything from Japan and Europe. They are also very well priced and on the rare occasion something does go wrong, they both come with a manufacturers warranty that can be measured in aeons.
So why don't I want one?
Part of the reason, and I know this is rather personal to me, is that I'm not sure about the styling. The i30 isn't too bad, it's a bit chintzy, but without the kind reputation of something like a Golf GTi, which can only be earned over time, it can't afford to be a wallflower. But the Stinger is all wrong. It starts off alright at the front where it's all bonnet vents and naked aggression, but in profile it's bland and that fastback rear would have been a great idea if they hadn't give the boot lid that sort of downwards crease that makes it look like a particularly sad bloodhound. Note to Kia: See the Rover Vitesse for how to do a fastback that looks fast.
But is it more than that? Am I just so blinded by badge-snobbery that I recently bought a £35,000 Mercedes-Benz even though an i30 N would have probably suited my requirements perfectly well for nearly ten grand less? I'm not the only one either. I've spoken to loads of different people, from all walks of life about the Stinger GTS and the i30, and they've all said pretty much the same thing. "Nice car, shame it's a Hyundai." or "Wouldn't trade my Beemer for a Kia, people would think I'd gone mad."
For as long as I can remember Kia's and Hyundai's have been damned with faint praise by the motoring press. We were told that yes, they're reliable, and yes, they come with a long warranty. But they were never exciting. "They just make dull runabouts, they'll never compete with the Europeans, Americans and Japanese."
So what do you reckon, people of DRIVETRIBE? Are people so blinded by badge-snobbery that we're now missing out on some great cars? Or do the likes of Kia and Hyundai still have some way to go before they can match the heritage and prestige of Europe, America and Japan?