I’m here out in a fancy hotel in the Arizona desert, listening to the scratching of the sand weasels on the balcony doors, and thinking about something a member of the Hyundai Ioniq 6 design team told me while at dinner tonight. The Ioniq 6 is a really striking design, feeling different from most of the cars on the road today, and not just because it’s a new EV sedan in a sea of crossovers and SUVs. The look seems to be inspired by some novel cars, and in speaking to the designer I realized that the obvious one I was thinking of really isn’t part of the thinking, but there is one truly unexpected car that was brought up as a major design inspiration, so let’s talk about that.
This designer will be giving a full presentation tomorrow morning, so I expect I’ll learn a lot more then, but this little detail was exciting enough to me that I wanted to share it with you now. I’ll hold off on giving the designer’s name just in case Hyundai is fussy about when these details get discussed – I don’t think this information is any big secret, but I’ll play it safe for the moment even though embargoes usually only apply to driving-impressions, why not?
[UPDATE: I’m in a meeting now, and I think it’s safe to give a name and credit to the designer whom I spoke with: Hak Soo Ha, head of Hyundai Design in Irvine. He’s great to talk to!]
Anyway, as we were talking about the novel look of the car, I mentioned that I saw a lot of Porsche 911 in the front end design, mostly because of the shape of the hoodline and the grille-less front end. It’s not exact, of course, but it definitely reminded me. I also couldn’t help but find a similarity in the rear end design, especially the shape of the full-width heckblende taillight and overall slope of the rear, to that early Infiniti, the J30. Really, look:
It really does feel like a modernized J30, right? It’s not just me, is it?
The J30 was not confirmed as an actual design inspiration, but the designer did show me a car that was definitely used as design inspiration. He pulled up this image of the car on his phone and showed me:
I’d know that sleek loaf of car anywhere: a Stout Scarab.
A Scarab! Knowing this, I can absolutely feel the Scarab’s influence in the Ioniq 6, though it is not a car I would have expected to be a design influence here. The design vocabulary feels inspired by the look of the Scarab, though the proportions are, clearly, very different.
The Scarab was a rear-engined, one-box design, sort of an early ancestor of the minivan, especially rear-engined ones like the Volkswagen Microbus or the Fiat 600 Multipla. The interior of the Scarab was designed to be flexible, with re-configurable seats and a little fold-out table. You’d think that a car inspired by the Scarab would be a minivan-type vehicle, so the fact that the Ioniq 6 is a sedan is interesting.
The Scarab was designed by John Tjaarda and came out in 1936, boasting a lot of innovations: unibody construction featuring lightweight materials like aluminum, a full-width design that eliminated separate fenders and running boards, and detailing that was very much in keeping with the then-current Art Deco movement. Does this suggest that the Ioniq 6 is an Art Deco-inspired car, even obliquely? If so, that would make this design likely the first Art Deco-inspired design for decades.
I was surprised to hear, frankly, any modern carmaker cite the Stout Scarab as a design influence, but I’m pretty delighted about it. The design vocabulary of the Ioniq 6 seems initially to be, in the details, sort of 1980s inspired, with the pixel-design lighting equipment, but the overall flowing curvy look of the design does seem at home with an Art Deco aesthetic. It’s not a mix of influences I’d expect, but so far I think I like it. I’ll know more in the morning, when I get to really look all over the car and, of course, drive it.
I’m going to guess they didn’t benchmark a Scarab for the driving dynamics.
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I’m not a fan of the Ioniq 6’s ‘saggy ass’ look. It also reminds me of the old saggy ass C219 Mercedes CLS:
it reminds me more of the mess that was the second generation Mercedes CLS, or whatever the name of that 4dr coupe was.
It is such a sensible piece of packaging.
Now I once again want to go drinking and ice fishing again on Lake Simcoe.
Someone far more skilled in image manipulation that I am should take an image of the Scarab and just squash until it is about the height of the Ioniq to see what that looks like. I do see the Scarab in the Ioniq in the windshield to front bumper overall form, just squashed.
I’ve been obsessed with the Stout Scarab for years, DECADES. I actually incorporated it into a story I wrote set in an alternate modern day wherein Scarabs were used as taxis in lieu of Checker Marathons. As rolling offices I think they would have been a far superior alternative. The Iconiq is a fine looking car but if it looks anything like the Scarab, someone clearly licked off all the frosting. Aside from its completely unique shape and approach to carmaking at the time, it’s its graceful Art Deco details that make it a masterpiece. Just imagine a gritty city in the 1940s with hundreds of Stout Scarabs worming their way through the streets like gigantic robotic cockroaches.
P.S. I’m no fan of Kinja, but I really wish this comment plugin had a way to subscribe to articles and receive notifications when someone replies to a comment. It would really drive engagement.
The Scarab is cool. The Ioniq 6 just looks like their clay models melted due to an unfortunate HVAC incident in the design studio.
Styling cues that work on one type and size of vehicle don’t always translate to other types and sizes of vehicle. We see this all the time with corporate styling that works better on a small car and looks dumb on a 7 passenger crossover (and vice versa).
While I applaud Hyundai’s tradition of taking chances with their styling, I’m about 50:50 on whether it works or not. This is firmly in the “not” category.
Huh, I thought its overall silhouette was most reminiscent of the Citroen DS. I admire it for its funkiness, but what weirds me out about it is that from the back and the side it looks great, but from the front it looks like it’s being sucked tail-first into a wormhole. It looks distorted and warped. The design of the nose doesn’t look bad either, it’s just weird how different it looks from different angles, and how some of those angles are beautiful and others are just confusing.
Now I can’t unsee the DS. And yes, the attractiveness fluctuates wildly from one angle to the next.
So they are replacing the G70/KIA Stinger sport sedan with an all electric shrunken version of a 1930’s Minivan? and they wonder why it is so polarizing?
It also puts off Tatra vibes I think
Saw one for a few seconds the other day going the opposite direction. Now I want to see one in a parking lot so I can walk around it for a minute. The very brief viewing I had did confirm-for me-that it looks as good irl as it does in pictures.
I, too, immediately thought of the Dymaxion when I read the headline.
When I saw the silhouette and 30’s my immediate response was “Dymaxion,” but the Scarab is certainly much easier to draw parallels from.
I had forgotten what the rear of the J30 looked like. I would also not claim that as an inspiration.
Ditto the comment about creating a full line of cars inspired by the Scarab.
Creating/Recreating an aerodynamic small electeic van that can carry 6-8 people is a current opportunity gap in the market.
A few on the horizon… (though not in production yet…)
XBus though it is doubtful when it starts production we’ll get it in the states probably largely bc of its unique (vs. US market vehicle classification).
There is Canoo, which looks bonkers in a good way. And then there’s the (projected) Tesla van, which is (for now) vaporwear
I like the unique design of the Inoiq 6.
Anytime a major automaker goes outside the box is a good thing. For me though, Hyundai looked to the wrong Tjaarda for inspiration.
Wow. On it’s own, I like the Ioniq 6 design. But it gets 10x ugly when its put directly next to the scarab. What a beautiful design that was.
I guess for the sake of marketing they had to come up with a cool “inspiration” for that bland lump of a design. It’s fugly.
I love the design of the ionic 6 except for one detail: the door frames. The doors on this car should have been frameless, instead the frame wraps up onto the greenhouse like a first gen ford edge or early 2000s Mercedes. It’s all I can see when I look at this car. To my eye, it almost ruins what is a very slick and unique design.
Jason, can you ask them why the door frame isn’t better integrated into the greenhouse?
Those front 3/4 views are not doing the Ioniq 6 any favors. Those views really accentuate the droopy, almost lazy-looking rear end. Very bulbous and wilting. Like someone held a heat gun on the rear end of the clay model until it started to sag. But a full side view doesn’t look nearly as bad. The car looks pretty good from the straight side view and even rear 3/4 views. The front end…eh, it looks very “economy car” to me. By-the-numbers and bland. Nothing offensive, just nothing to get excited about. Like something I’d find in a Hertz rental car fleet in the economy class.
The original Porsche 911 avoided the sag by having the rear side window sweep *up* slightly, and by having rear fender “hips” that draw some attention away from the sloping rear deck. The Ioniq seems to have an illusory attempt at hips but ends up looking more melted than muscular.
It also looks like a Lucid Air
Rear 3/4 view definitely has a J30 vibe but it also has kind of a ‘What if Porsche made a modern 4-door 911.’ look too with the whale-tail-ish wing under the rear window and heckblende in the taillights.
Front reminds me of Droopy Dog for some reason.
I like most everything about the Ioniq 6 design except for that black valence that wraps the bottom of the tail from behind the rear tires and also that it’s not a hatchback. I don’t care for the light show gewgaws built into it either and, frankly, would rather not have to pay for extraneous bullshit like this on a car, but they’re not showstoppers.
If he’s already got the Scarab on the brain, why not run with it and do a Scarab-inspired Entourage replacement? Make a whole family of vehicles with the aesthetic
I just cannot decide how I feel about the Ioniq 6 design. I like the IDEA of it and applaud them for taking risks. I just don’t know that I actually like it.
I’m the same. It’s interesting and different, but I don’t love it as I do the Ioniq 5, nor can I forget the wonderful Precept concept that ‘previewed’ the 6, except it didn’t, which led to my (perhaps unreasonable) disappointment.
It messes with our idea of what a sedan is supposed to look like, and I too admire the boldness. But I’ve long believed that the C-pillar can make or break any design, and this is no exception. It’s just a little too chunky. So close to success, but not quite.
Something is just off about it. I’m not crazy about the front end at all. The rear is pretty neat, but they also screwed up not making it a proper liftback. It’s not fast or powerful.
I mean the styling is a little out there, but aside from that it is A Car.
I think I figured out (part of) what’s been rubbing me wrong: Look at how busy that rear quarter is! You’ve got the fender/haunch and then the rear deck, the two intersecting but never really uniting. Maybe it could work if it weren’t for a million panel gaps: I guess most of them are associated with the rear door and trunk, but geez oh man, those flowing shapes just keep getting interrupted by VERY pronounced gaps. There’s also the spoiler, the ducktail, and a pronounced bumper lip. Maybe it’s properly aero, but it’s hard to square with the *feel* of aero smoothness.
More broadly, I feel like the design language can’t settle between flowing aero shapes and sharp angles, and it doesn’t pull off the contradiction in any satisfying way (eg, look at the inside corners of the headlamps). Maybe I’ll like it better IRL, but so far it bugs me in every picture I’ve seen.
I want to see one in person, I hope it’s more compelling than the photos suggest.
Yeah, I appreciate it but don’t really love it — sort of like I am with various schools of fine art. To me modern cars (as opposed to those from the 30s and 40s) that taper in the rear or even slope downward look like the ass is drooping, or that they ran out of car as it was extruded.
I like the design overall, but I think you have a good point. It seems like today’s cars have a lot more bulk in the rear — possibly due to crash protection structures? — and it makes this look very difficult to pull off. It ends up looking like a wombat’s butt instead of a duck’s butt, if that makes any sense. (Ducks are sleek; wombats are … not sleek.) I think current Porsches really suffer from this problem.