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What Car Got the Worst Facelift?



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Image: Hyundai

In the wonderful world of car design, you have generational changes — you know, “all-new” models — and then you have those slight, mid-gen updates, to tide over vehicles that have gotten a bit long in the tooth, a bit dated looking. Some of those facelifts work wonders, as we’ve discussed. Some, regrettably, do quite the opposite. Today we’re discussing those unsuccessful attempts.

History provides us with so many examples. One of the poster children of this phenomenon, in my opinion, is the first-generation Hyundai Tiburon. The original design wasn’t profoundly special or anything, but it was acceptable for the time and blended in reasonably well with other entry-level coupes of the day. For the refresh, however, Hyundai decided to get weird.

The first-generation Hyundai Tiburon, pre mid-cycle refresh.

The first-generation Hyundai Tiburon, pre mid-cycle refresh.
Image: Hyundai

The big changes came to the front- and rear-end designs. And while neither was good, the face of the “RD2” Tiburon, pictured at the top of this post, is just perplexing. At the time, Mercedes was doing the quad-round headlights thing, and the Toyota Celica and Acura Integra had them as well. For that reason, the Tiburon’s sudden change strikes like a desperate attempt to provide an upmarket flair to a car and make that — let’s be honest — never had any hope of fooling anyone. Look, Hyundai has come a very, very long way. They weren’t there yet in 1999.

But the bigger issue is the hood cut line, and the way it rises to accentuate the larger of the headlights, which is positioned closest to the grille for some reason. The ordering is strange enough, but without that line, I think the face of the Tiburon might’ve worked. With that line, it just sort of looks like it’s just overheard some really troubling social or political opinions at the Thanksgiving table. Get ready, folks — that blessed gathering is just around the corner.

Enough from me, though. What mid-cycle refresh got it all wrong, in your opinion? There are never any wrong answers in the realm of car design.

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