Heart and Seoul

VALUE-FOR-FOR-MONEY KOREAN CARS COME OF AGE AG

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

CARS from South Korea no longer can be passed off as ‘‘cheap in price but not good enough for me’’. Many of the cur­rent mod­els are fine look­ing, well made, clev­erly en­gi­neered but still ex­cel­lent value for own­ers who do not care so much about the snob­bery of what badge hap­pens to be on their key fob.

An ex­am­i­na­tion of ve­hi­cles from Korea can be a head­line writer’s dream – My Bril­liant Korea, Korea Path, Cars with Seoul – but equally, a re­minder that Korea has many mar­ket sec­tors cov­ered in Aus­tralia, with the value-for-money fac­tor fea­tur­ing in all.

Small and medium-size hatch­backs or sedans, four-wheel-drive SUVs, tradies’ and farm­ers’ utes to dual-cab recre­ation 4WD utes, peo­ple movers, de­liv­ery vans, light trucks, very good look­ing two-door sports coupes and even a large ex­ec­u­tive saloon are among the of­fer­ings off the fre­quent ships from South Korea, h o me to t h e n e wes t Grand Prix in the For­mula One world cham­pi­onship.

Hyunda i – in the high­ex­pec­ta­tions spot as it is, s a n d wi c h e d in the au­to­mo­tive lex­i­con be­tween brands HSV and Jaguar – prob­a­bly did more than any other brand to get Korean cars into Aussie drive­ways with its small Excel 1.5-litre, 52kW job, from 1986. Hyundai now is ahead of Mit­subishi and Nis­san as the No 5 sell­ing brand in Aus­tralia.

Kia, too, is now a brand well known on Aus­tralian roads; Ssangy­ong hasn’t soared to the same de­gree but it has a pres­ence. We’ve said be­fore on these pages that it prob­a­bly was the Kia Sorento that proved Korea could make cars that held their own against ri­vals, yet still were less in price.

What’s not widely known is that a num­ber of Holden mod­els come di­rectly from Korea, in­clud­ing the Ba­rina range and its new Spark, the Epica, Captiva SUV and, most suc­cess­fully, the Holden Cruze.

Since be­ing launched last year, Cruze has be­come one of the biggest­selling cars in Aus­tralia, ri­valling the Ford Fal­con in new-car sales and not far be­hind Hyundai’s i30 as the topselling Korean car here.

Holden used to im­port small cars from Europe but now has all its im­ported mod­els from Korea, such is the faith it has in the en­gi­neer­ing and build qual­ity. ‘‘We be­lieve the value equa­tion con­tin­ues to at­tract cus­tomers to our im­ported prod­ucts,’’ Holden se­nior man­ager of prod­uct com­mu­ni­ca­tions Jonathan Rose says.

‘‘Ve­hi­cles such as the Cruze, Captiva and the re­cently launched Ba­rina Spark of­fer great styling and a long list of fea­tures as stan­dard, at an af­ford­able price.

‘‘The com­bi­na­tion of those el­e­ments are prov­ing very pop­u­lar in the mar­ket.’’

Mr Rose says the cars are ‘‘global’’ rather than tied to one nation. ‘‘Cars like Ba­rina Spark pro­duced by GM’s global small-car team aren’t Korean cars; they’re global and will be made and sold on vir­tu­ally ev­ery con­ti­nent.’’

Hyundai, mean­while, has be­come the fastest-grow­ing car com­pany in the world and has a good spread of a dozen mod­els on sale here: the i20, i30, i30cw, stylish new i45, Getz, Elantra, Tiburon coupe, iMax wagon, ix35, Santa Fe, iLoad and lux­ury Grandeur.

Its sis­ter maker in Korea, Kia, leads in peo­ple-mover sales with its Car­ni­val and Grand Car­ni­val and has the ex­cel­lent-look­ing Koup two-door among its line-up.

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