/ Motoring

Are Korean cars finally desirable?

New Hyundai i30

It’s no secret that Korean cars from Hyundai and Kia have come on in leaps and bounds. But, not only are they now among the best value cars on the market, they’re also pretty dashing. Is it enough to catch your eye?

Models like the Kia Cee’d and Sportage, or the Hyundai i30 and ix35, have radically reshaped car buyers’ opinions of what Korean cars are all about – and probably left their owners feeling pleasantly surprised with their purchases.

More surprising still are some of the conversations we’ve been having in the Which? Car team lately.

Buying with our hearts or heads?

I still do an aural double-take when hearing comments such as: ‘I like the look of that Hyundai i40 Tourer outside’ or, ‘One of my neighbours has just bought the new Kia Rio in black, and it looks really smart!’

Is it just us? We have started to worry about whether something has changed in our collective aesthetic judgment, or whether Kia and Hyundai are now finally making cars that you might want to buy with your heart, not just your head…

For proof, look at the pictures of the new i30 above, versus the old model, below, or the new Kia Rio versus its predecessor. It’s almost as though they were designed two decades apart.

Old Hyundai i30

Old versus new

The old i30 was (and still is) a great car in many very rational ways, but good-looking it isn’t. It took many of the less popular design ingredients of its contemporaries and blended them into an unappetising dish.

The new one, on the other hand, is more eye-catching than the Ford Focus and more adventurous than a VW Golf. And it makes the new Honda Civic and Toyota Auris look awkward and aimless, in turn. Dare I say it, but Hyundai has just released pictures of the new i30 estate, and even that looks rather dashing…

So, either the Which? Car team has lost the plot, or Korean carmakers are finally throwing off their erstwhile image problem with gusto.

Of course, beauty is much more than skin deep, and our road and lab tests reveal whether these new models are able to keep pace with their established European and Japanese competitors. But, with market-leading warranties, and cars that you’d actually feel quite proud to park on your drive, surely there are now more reasons than ever to buy a Korean car?

Would you consider buying a Korean car? Or maybe you already own one? If so, please tell us what you think of it in our 2012 Which? Car Survey. You could win £10,000 for taking part.


I have to admit, the veloster is the first Korean car that I have contemplated buying. I love the shape of it.

New Kia Cars says:
27 February 2012

Hyundai make very good market but now kia is also improving its market because kia is also giving very good features and facility

Although I buy a car mainly on it’s practicalities & it’s performance (in my case that is comfort & MPG) I do see that the i30 I currently own doesn’t look as good as the new version. But, the price has moved up quite considerably, so both Hyundai & Kia’s Reliability has got to be better – as it tends to be now- in comparison with the likes of VW & Ford, plus of course their Extended Warranties.
Talking of Korean cars, I happened to note one of my local dealers now has Ssang Yong cars. I had a quick look at the Korando MPV whose style & lines appealed. In mid range version, it looked to be an excellent value for money vehicle at about £16-17,000, again compared with main stream manufacturers. I’d be intersted to see a test report on it.

I had a Hyundai i30 as a hire car last year and I must say that I absolutely loved it. It was a dashing looking car and had the smoothest ride of any car I’ve been in. I also appreciated the little gadgets and indicators too.

I have a Hyundai Lantra – done over 100,000 miles – spacious – takes three large greyhounds plus three adults – (a roof box is needed to carry the odd bits and bobs – first aid kit – survival material etc). Excellent road-holding, brakes. and acceleration – good reliable starting. Rust is not a problem. I will certainly consider buying a new one. I’m not really interested in shape or colour – though I like it’s shape and the metallic silver.

Car’s looks are deteriorating. They were once admired for their crisp, flowing lines. Now they look as if they were modelled in chocolate, and baked until they drooped. Much like myself.

I have a 1.6 litre petrol Kia Ceed from new. it’s 4 years old and have been flawless. I’m impressed with the build quality from the new fully robotised plant in Europe. The paint finish is fantastic and looks every bit as good now as the day I bought it. Any negatives? I can’t find one. Would I buy another? Yes definately, I’m promised a preview of the replacement when it appears this summer.

Dave says:
18 June 2013

We need to cease thinking about Hyundai and Kia simply as “Korean Cars” which is hardly relevant today. I have just bought an ix20 which was designed in Germany (by Peter Schreyer who previously designed Audis and VWs) and it was built in the Czech Republic – hardly Korean!
I bought my car after carefully viewing all the competition. I should add that I have previously owned Ford Cars exclusively for the past 50 years!

I can remember years back when Hyundia and Kia were jokes, but now they have become some excellent cars. A few months back I had a Kia Optima for a rental car and was quite impressed with it. I have considered buying one but the closest sealership is ove 100 miles away. The Kia Optima and the Hyundai Sonata are basically the same car except for the styling of the body The Hyundai has Japanese styling whereas the Ki has more of a european styling. Excellent cars.

Have had a KIA Ceed automatic for almost 3 years now & it has been without doubt, the best car I have ever driven in 40+ years of driving!!!!!!!!!!!

I bought Kia Rio 3 years ago one of the reason was the 7 year bumper to bumper warranty unfortunately I have just found out that any thing that can be consider as ware is not covered.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Traditionally, warranties have never covered wear and tear on obvious consumables like tyres, brakes, petrol and so on. One should always read the small print…

At work, Avis send us an assortment of Hyundai hatchbacks and cross-overs for us to use as hire cars. These also send us quite a lot of assorted Renaults, Citroens, Peugeots and Vauxhalls too, and a handful of Fords, Skodas and VW’s.

Of all these, I tend to like the Hyundais slightly more than average. My all time least favourite is the Mokka (but they’re OK on motorways and in town) and, so far, my all time favourite has been a nice simple gadget free Octavia (with an i30 not far behind).