Separated at birth?

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?

8 responses to “Separated at birth?”

  1. I’m totally the same way with Subarus and Miatas. Although Miatas aren’t all that hard to pick out, Subarus can be sneaky, especially the newer ones without the hood scoop.

  2. Do you go “Subie!” when you see one? ^_^ Speaking of spotting Subarus, there’s a guy around our neighbourhood with an SVX. What a strange car.

  3. I have also noticed the similarity of the new Elantra to the Saab’s body style. The first couple of times I saw it I found myself reacting like an elementary school student: “Hey! Hyundai copied!” It was like they were trying to fool people into thinking they were quality. Not that I know much about the quality of either Saabs or Hyundais, but Saabs always struck me as being, as you say, in a different class than the Hyundai.

  4. Most car manufacturers copy each other, and draw popular features. Look at the front and rear of the Lexus LS 430, and the front of the Kia Amanti, both draw heavily from the Mercedes S-class designs.

  5. Most of GM is dead, they don’t really have the money to do anything.
    Look at most gm cars, the interior is heavily filled with cheap plastics, the outside body paneling are plastics that have been glued to the sheet metal.

    Especially look at the side view mirrors, almost always plastic, poorly mounted, and frequently break in car washes. Cars from other companies in similar price ranges often have folding mirrors instead of molded mirrors.