First Look: Hyundai Curb Concept

Sensory overload seems to be the name of the game with the Hyundai Curb concept at the 2011 Detroit auto show. The Curb showcases all the style and technology the Korean automaker can possibly stuff into one vehicle, it seems. It’s Hyundai’s attempt to catch the attention of easily distracted, city-dwelling, young college grads.

The Hyundai Curb is roughly the same size as the Kia Soul, another youth-oriented crossover. Hyundai designer Jason Brown explains that “We wanted it to be urban tough without looking like a Brink’s truck. City driving was going to be its forte, not crossing the Rubicon Trail, but we wanted it to have urban armor for daily driving on city streets. It needed to empower its passengers in this setting.” What is it with these types of vehicles being slab-sided? We need bigger greenhouses, not smaller, in our urban vehicles, to make it easier for drivers to see both other cars and pedestrians. End it with the tired urban armor theme, please. How many years have we been hearing this auto-designer bromide? Too many.

The Curb’s trussed A-pillars, supposedly inspired by Big Apple skyscrapers, are a better idea because they provide some measure of visibility through the A-pillars, just like the 2001 Volvo SCC concept did. Surrounded by a wraparound windshield, the open trusses visually counter the thick C-pillars, which are similar to those on the 2011 Ford Explorer. A sharp boomerang character line sweeps along the bottom of the pillars from the taillights to just shy of the front door cut. Adhering to recent concept-car custom, the Curb has no door handles, and the exterior mirrors have been replaced with cameras.

LEDs abound on the Curb. Both the headlights and the taillights are comprised of the diminutive diodes, and LEDs combined with one-way paint supplied by Shamze Custom Coatings take the place of traditional exterior badges. To open the doors you swipe your finger across a touchpad. We doubt that most of this lighting and swiping is ready for prime time, but, hey, this is a concept.

The interior gets a softer touch. A ceramic panel inspired by a river flows from the instrument panel into the center stack and continues down to the center console. The displays within the panel are all touch-screen. The entertainment system will be able to stream Pandora radio, play video on rear-seat video screens, and display a head-up display with navigation. The latest version of Blue Link, Hyundai’s answer to GM’s OnStar, shares your location and route plan with your friends; friends who reciprocate will show up as points of interest on your navigation screen. We wonder if Blue Link will check into FourSquare for you, too.

A turbocharged version of Hyundai’s all-new 1.6-liter Gamma engine, mated to an unspecified DSG transmission, is estimated to make 175 hp and provide at least 30 mpg. Chance of Curb production? Zilch. But most of its cool technical features will appear in production Hyundais within the next year or two, ready to overwhelm anyone over the age of 25.

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