For those who still associate Hyundai and Kia with what reviewers euphemistically refer to as "cheap and cheerful" products like the old Pony subcompact, the new K900 might come as quite a shock. When it goes on sale early next year the big Kia sedan is expected to carry a price tag that could nudge up into the $70,000 range.
Hyundai, meanwhile, is getting ready to roll out a completely restyled version of its big Genesis sedan, taking aim at entrenched luxury competitors like the BMW 5-Series, Audi's A6 and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Korean cars "used to be one step above a Yugo," said Joe Phillippi, a longtime automotive analyst and head of AutoTrends Consulting. "They've totally turned the company on its head," he said, referring to Hyundai and its smaller, sibling brand Kia.
(More from The Detroit Bureau: More automakers suffer shattering sunroof problems)
That's not to say either of the two marques are walking away from their traditional audiences. But even their most basic models, such as the $15,340 Hyundai Accent and the $14,400 Kia Rio have recently gone through stylish remakes and offer the sort of performance and features one traditionally wouldn't expect of the econoboxes that once dominated the lineup of the Korean carmakers.
"They've made remarkable strides in terms of fit, finish and design," added Phillippi.