2011 Hyundai Curb Concept: 2011 Detroit Auto Show

January 10, 2011

In just a few years, Hyundai has developed a real design presence, going from derivative to different (as evidenced by the 2012 Hyundai Veloster also making its debut at Detroit).

Now, the automaker is taking its 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language to new places with its Curb Concept, shown for the first time here in Detroit; designers aimed to evolve the look to represent a tech-laden vehicle "that was at home in an urban environment with potholes and densely packed nightclubs on the streets." It's more Brink's truck than Rubicon trail crawler, according to Hyundai, and on this concept a host of 'technology rugged' design details incorporate impact and shock resistance—combining a high-tech interior with exterior ruggedness.

Designers liken the Curb's front-end design to a sport bike helmet while a striking, 'boomerang trajectory' bodyside line "reinforces the feeling of strength." Rocker panels flow through to the interior of the vehicle, while 'open-truss' front pillars allow improved visibility while also forming a strong structure as they're from a single milled piece. There are some lighting tricks, too; the Curb's rear lights sequentially illuminate from the outside in, and the Curb badging itself illuminates through the paint, thanks to a special one-way paint developed by Shamze Custom Coatings.

Among many concept-car details: The seats are upholstered in fast-drying board-short material, while the thin cushions employ advanced materials modeled after those used in running shoes, with an Air Bladder system from Finn Tech that's less than two inches thick—maximizing space while allowing the comfort of thicker seats. There's innovation in back, too, as the rear seat slides fore and aft, while rear headrests are anchored to the ceiling, not the seat, allowing the seat to fold forward fully. A pop-up roof rack and touchpad-operated clamshell hatch are other noteworthy details on the outside, and there's a third access door for backseat occupants. And in a nod to Gen Y hipsters, exhaust vents pop out to reveal a bike rack "so the owner could park and ride a 'Fixie' (fixed-gear) bike to the rest of his destinations as an alternative transportation source."

The Curb Concept might preview an upcoming Hyundai vehicle that's a little longer than the Kia Soul but shorter and more city savvy than the Hyundai Tucson. With the same 103.9-inch wheelbase as the Tucson, the Curb might be likened to what Mitsubishi has done with its Outlander and Outlander Sport: shorten overhangs, cut some weight, and create a shorter, more maneuverable, and more economical city vehicle without giving up a lot of passenger space. Curb weight is about 2,800 pounds for the Curb concept, which is about 164 inches long 71 inches wide, and 63 inches high.

The Curb promises to be quite fuel-efficient, thanks to a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with gasoline direct injection (GDI), making 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque, and a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). Hyundai says that in adding an idle start/stop system, the Curb could get more than 30 mpg in the city and top 40 on the highway.

Hyundai says that connectivity is the theme of the Curb's interior, which centers around the instrument panel's huge 12-inch touch-screen display, running on a Continental AutoLinq operating system and also matched with a Continental Reflective Technology head-up display (HUD) to help keep eyes on the road. And, taking a nod from the MyFord Touch system—along with nearly all of today's top smartphones—Hyundai uses touch sensors in its instrument panel. The steering wheel itself has an opaque screen, and the backs of the headrests have auxiliary monitors.

The Curb concept also serves as a testbed for a number of Hyundai's Blue Link features that were unveiled recently at CES—like remote lock/unlock, remote vehicle start, stolen vehicle recovery/slowdown, valet and curfew features, and various alerts, as well as Turn-by-Turn Navigation, traffic conditions, gas prices, weather info, and an Eco-Coach feature.

Hyundai gives the example: "Inside the Curb, a driver could be listening to their favorite station on Pandora, cruising the city and get a phone call from a friend. Using Blue Link, the caller's location shows up as a Point-of-Interest (POI). The friend tells the driver that he just discovered a great band playing at a local club and invites him to come. His location then becomes the destination for the turn-by-turn directions."

The Curb is a concept, so there are no production plans; but the given its very relevant place in the market, it's looking like much more than a pipe dream.

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