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Korean cars in U.S. cited for interior design

Korean carmakers have come a long way since the days of the Hyundai Pony, the first locally developed automobile to be exported.

The days of being widely perceived as makers of cheap but unreliable vehicles are long gone with overseas surveys and consumer research showing vast improvements in their quality rankings.

Despite such developments, local carmakers’ design capabilities appeared to be lagging behind their technological prowess.

However, local carmakers including the two leaders Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. began to pick up the slack in recent years, with Kia going on to win a number of international design awards.

Now it appears that local carmakers’ design efforts are beginning to show on the inside as well as the outside.

On April 7, the U.S.-based automotive industry publication Ward’s Auto announced this year’s Ward’s 10 Best Interior list, three of which were developed by or had a significant contribution from a Korea-based carmaker.
Interior of the Chevrolet Cruze. (GM Korea Co.)
Interior of the Chevrolet Cruze. (GM Korea Co.)

The publication’s editors drove 51 models whose interiors had undergone full overhauls or had significant improvements to decide the winners.

The Korean models included in the list are the compact car Hyundai Elantra, known locally as the Avante, and Kia’s midsized sedan K5.

The other top 10 qualifier with Korean connections was the Chevy Cruze.

The Chevrolet Cruze was developed as part of GM’s global small car project, in which GM Korea Co. played the lead role as the U.S. auto giant’s home room for mini and small cars.

For Kia, the interior design award is only the latest in its growing list of international design awards it has won since it began to place increasing emphasis on design, beginning with the creation of the post of the chief design officer, which is filled by Peter Schreyer, in 2006.

As a result, Kia vehicles have been among the winners in the Red Dot design awards for three consecutive years with the latest honors having been won by the K5 and the sport utility vehicle Sportage R.

According to Kia, the K5 was selected as the Best of the Best award winner in the automobiles, transport and caravans category, while the Sportage R was a winner in the same category.

Among the others, three spots were taken by European models ― Audi A8, BMW X3 xDrive35i and the Volvo S60 ― while an equal number of U.S. models, excluding the Chevrolet Cruze, were chosen for the award.

The three U.S. models were the Dodge Charger Rallye Plus, Ford Focus Titanium and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit.

Honda’s Odyssey Elite was the only Japanese model included among this year’s winners.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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