When you drive a car that’s a bit uncommon your eyes sort of develop the ability to pick them out on the road, and both Candice and I tend to see Saab 9-3s from miles off. But lately my Saaby-sense has been fooled regularly by Hyundai Elantras. I was curious how much of this was real similarity and how much of it was “4-door with an angled hatchback”, so I dug up some pictures, and I don’t think it’s just me. 2001 9-3 on the left, new Elantra on the right:
Now, the 9-3’s got kind of a weird tail-heavy shape, and the Elantra’s got the same thing going on. And hatchbacks where the glass is closer to horizontal than vertical are pretty rare, and they’ve got the same angle and the same little bulge. The trim along the sides is about the same, and the B- and C-pillar plastic is the same. The hatchback part is particularly odd, because Saab discontinued the hatchback in 2001 because GM thought hatchbacks were past their time. It got even stranger, though, when I saw the Elantra’s dash. Here’s a 2001 Saab 9-5 dash on the left, new Elantra dash on the right:
Now the Elantra and the Saabs are different classes of cars, sure, but the similarities are a bit too similar, and too unlike other cars (Saab reviews of that era always talked about quirky styling) to just come around because of design constraints.
The Elantra’s doing pretty well these days. I wonder how much of the 9-3 design’s popularity problem was marketing failure instead of a tired design?