2009 Hyundai HCD-11 Nuvis Hybrid Concept Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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If there is an automotive brand that has thoroughly and completely taken everyone by pleasant surprise over the last few years, including yours truly, it's Hyundai.  Gone from one-time producer of rudimentary economy cars and frumpy midsize sedans to entry-level premium upstart with performance car street and track cred, the Korean brand has shown that it's possible to radically change perceptions seemingly overnight. 

Truly, Hyundai must be enjoying itself lately.  With accolades galore for its full-size Veracruz and Genesis four- and two-door models in the higher end segments, and a new Sonata that is blowing right past all rivals in the entry-level midsize segment, it now appears that this was merely a warm up for its much more critical compact model lineup.

In Europe it's the recently introduced i20 hatchback that we can only hope is coming to North American markets as a sporty three-door Elantra to join company with the Elantra Touring (i30 in Europe).  Here on home soil (or closer to home at least) it's the replacement for the Tucson soft-roader in the entry-level crossover category that's got everyone abuzz, and not because Hyundai introduced it in New York earlier this year as some had hoped they would, and recently brought it to market with glowing reviews, but rather because a new concept that was unveiled simultaneously in New York is said to showcase new design elements that upcoming Hyundai crossovers will employ.

No one from Hyundai is outwardly connecting the new Nuvis concept to the Tucson directly, although a quick look at the Tucson shows some obvious influences.  Where the Tucson incorporates many of the design elements in a much more conservative fashion, albeit in a completely modern way that leaves behind traditional SUV shapes and embraces near fastback crossover lines that will be sure to lure in sporty moms, upwardly mobile dads and young-at-heart empty-nesters alike, the Nuvis borders on radical in the way a concept should. 

The sporty styling pulls cues from Hyundai's latest road cars and mixes them up with a totally new look that's both upscale, with chrome embellishment and fine detailing, and athletic, with a wide stance and short overhangs.  The long cat-like headlight clusters are a strong design statement that should appeal to most in the market for a compact crossover, although the unique pinched nose, which got the heave-ho for the production Tucson, was likely a split-vote in the collective consumer consciousness.

Obviously a concept, the Nuvis sports two side doors instead of the usual four, with Hyundai's design team stretching the fantasy envelope further by making them open "gull-wing" style, theoretically improving ingress/egress while looking Lamborghini-cool.  Gull-wing doors were a trend this year, with the only one really needing them, Mercedes-Benz' new SLS sports car, fortunately seeing them return for the first time in a production car since the 1950s originator. 

In the Nuvis, an extra-wide opening on each side sheds light upon a four-place interior that unusually needs three rows to accommodate.  Also concept car-like is a control panel mostly devoid of switchgear, with all controls available via iPod-like touch-sensitive smooth surfaces, similar in concept to Fisker's new Karma sedan. Cabin fabrics are made from 100-percent recycled materials, fitting for a vehicle with such a future-think drivetrain. 

Hyundai, a conservative company when it comes to drivetrain innovation, uses the Nuvis to show off the latest iteration of its BlueHybrid system, first introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November of last year.  A battery pack made from advanced lithium polymer cells makes sure that it's not only state-of-the-art but also as environmentally friendly as the newest technologies allow. 

The production version of Hyundai's BlueHybrid system will debut later this year in the new Sonata, and in the future is expected to enhance the brand's more popular models, such as Santa Fe. 

As for the Nuvis, enjoy the much less radical Tucson now. It's more mainstream for sure, but nevertheless incorporates the core design elements that make this concept so attractive from (almost) every angle, while cleaning up the more potentially controversial characteristics.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Hyundai, 2009, HCD-11 Nuvis Hybrid Concept, Hybrid,

Organizations: Hyundai

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