Hyundai's Latest Tiny Crossover Gives Europe A Big Taste Of The Iconic Pontiac Aztek Design

Illustration for article titled Hyundai's Latest Tiny Crossover Gives Europe A Big Taste Of The Iconic Pontiac Aztek Design
Image: Hyundai

From the front, the all-new Hyundai Bayon is the latest micro-hatchback to be stilted up and sold as a crossover in Europe, along with other new cars like the sporty Ford Puma. But from the rear, the Bayon appears to be a well-executed homage to one of the most loathed American designs of all time: The Pontiac Aztek.

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We now have a world full of Pontiac Aztek apologists, but I am not one of them. It’s a bad idea made up of further bad ideas, slapped with a disrespectful name to top it off. Everything wrong with marketing and business at the time, in my eyes. But I wonder what the designers of the new Hyundai Bayon see when they look at the Aztek.

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Photo: Pontiac
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Photo: Hyundai

Of course, I can not confirm whether or not anybody working at Hyundai was actually inspired by the look of the Pontiac Aztek. I highly doubt there was ever an image of a Pontiac pinned up in a Hyundai boardroom, but this world is increasingly chaotic and I’m convinced anything could happen. How else could you explain the distinct similarity of the harshly-angled sloping rear outline of the new Hyundai Bayon with the chunky slumped bosom of the infamous Aztek? Let’s compare them directly:

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Photo: Hyundai, Pontiac
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I just know some of you will try to tell me there is no similarity, but I see it, and on the Hyundai I like it. On both models, the rear window is angled in such a way to meet the rear frame of the each vehicle’s “hatch,” and is then bisected from another dark glossy body panel by either bodywork or a lightbar. Only a thin strip of color-matched bodywork is allowed to peek out in the layers of the rear design before black plastic cladding of near identical form on both crossovers comes up from the bottom and sandwiches everything in two very familiar visual stacks on the pair.

Look at a profile of both vehicles, though, and the illusion disappears almost immediately. The Hyundai shows that a few character lines feeding into the rear bend of the hatchback won’t make it look like pontoon boat from the side, but I guess it took a few generations for that sort of design thinking to be institutionalized almost entirely across the industry.

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Photo: Pontiac
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Photo: Hyundai
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If you scaled the Bayon up a few segment sizes, I think it would easily pass as a plausible refresh to the Aztec’s iconic shape from the back. Fortunately for the Bayon, the rear-view is the only real style similarity to the Pontiac — everything else is certainly an improvement to my eyes — and where the similarities end.

The Hyundai’s blackened panel on its rear hatch is solid shiny bodywork and not a glass window, which the lower segmented panel is on the Pontiac Aztec. That was the entire appeal of that design — to have more glass to see out of (even if the bisection was really annoying). The Hyundai makes no attempt at that functionality, and instead I guess it only wants to look like a Pontiac.

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Of course, other modern cars, like the controversial 2016 Prius for some reason, adopted a similar split rear window look:

Illustration for article titled Hyundai's Latest Tiny Crossover Gives Europe A Big Taste Of The Iconic Pontiac Aztek Design
Photo: Toyota
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But I think the Bayon is solidly the closest we’ve come to the Aztek in awhile. At least until the Tesla Cybertruck makes it to production.

The Bayon is named for some old, fancy part of France and the model sports a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine with a 48-volt mild-hybrid drivetrain system in two power options. The base trim gets 98 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, and a second version of the same engine gets a little more with 118 HP and the same torque figure. This being Europe, all cars come standard with a six-speed transmission and the 7-speed DCT automatic is a charged option. The weakest little champ takes about 10.7 seconds to get to 60 mph, if you wonder why it isn’t sold here.

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Photo: Pontiac
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Photo: Hyundai
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Perhaps it should be! Americans buy a lot of affordable cars, most of which are only ugly and ignored by shoppers because they are neglected by many dealers and automakers. The Bayon is already based on the i20 hatchback we somehow do actually currently get stateside, so it seems feasible. It also bewilders me why Ford did not replace the Fiesta with the Puma crossover, as both are about the same size and the Puma is just slightly lifted, essentially. I’m supposed to believe American’s won’t buy that?

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How affordable are we talking? Well the current Hyundai Kona starts at £21,060 in the UK, and this will be cheaper than that. Sticker prices are, generally, cheaper in the U.S. compared to Europe when the same models are sold here, so we could be talking about a potential top-three most-affordable U.S. car here folks.

If I could get a six-speed, I’d definitely take a look at some sort of N-tuned Hyundai Bayon, if only for the fun colors and personal shock of seeing it as an Aztec from the right angle every time I approached. I’d probably find a way to make that black panel a window, too, just for my own personal satisfaction.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik

DISCUSSION

nightfox1
300HP lover

There will be someone...and that someone is me.  There is NO similarity.