Car spy mystery: an unknown car prototype spotted in South Korea

One of my Korean colleagues sent me a candid photo of an unknown prototype vehicle that has been spotted in South Korea just recently. Since it’s been caught in Korea, the prototype must be belonging to one of the Korean car brands.

Besides Kia and Hyundai, it’s possible that the vehicle is also badged either as Daewoo, Samsung-Renault or Ssangyong.

Majority of exterior body parts, including badging on rear trunk-lid, which could possibly reveal us it’s origin, have been covered with heavy camouflage. But the black plastic vinyls applied to the car are typical Hyundai-Kia coverings used to hide the final shape touches of the group’s future vehicles. That indicates us this could in deed could be one of the upcoming future Hyundai-Kia mid-sized four-door sedans.


I did a quick research on some of the upcoming mid-size sedans from Korean carmakers. In the works are next generation Hyundai Sonata, Kia VG, Hyundai Grandeur, Kia Optima, Renault-Samsung SM5 and Daewoo Leganza sedan. Based on some visible design elements and other facts (read below) I narrowed my choice to two vehicles: the 2011 Kia Optima (TF) and 2010 Hyundai Azera (HG).

Next generation Optima sedan, is rumored to make it’s official debut late in 2010 or early 2011, so I think it’s still a bit early to see prototypes doing the real-life testing. Based on the B-pillar design, which is similar to the one at Hyundai Genesis sedan, it seems more likely that this is an all-new Hyundai Grandeur (Azera in the US). The new Grandeur, codenamed HG, is expected to be unveiled sometime next year, just a few months after it’s sibling Kia VG  model.

Those are just my thoughts based on the image we got here. Now let me hear yours!

27 thoughts on “Car spy mystery: an unknown car prototype spotted in South Korea

  1. I wouldn’t go with a Kia as the vehicle doesn’t appear to have the “check” mark design on the side that has been used on all the vehicles lately

  2. I agree with colby. I doubt that the optima will be changing anytime in the next few years. From what i am told its going to be the bench mark look for all new kias. I suspect its a Hyundai.

  3. I actually have a feeling it’s from Renault as the side line that runs down the door handles is just like the one on the latest LAGUNA (by Renault) – which is a mid-sized saloon.

  4. The Exhaust piping and shape are Genesis, which lead me to believe this is an Azera. The rear lights dont convince me though. The rear lights dont look like a Hyundai Brand signature, as a matter of fact the rear lights look like a KIA stilying exercise, or a remote possiblity an Infinti G35. The G though doesnt share the same B-pillar.

    This a Hard one to tell, though. The hardest Ive ever seen. However, I dont see this as a Samsung/Renault vehicle though.

  5. it seriously reminds me of a G cuz of d lights and the camera mounted on the spoiler.

  6. First, I worked for Samsung Motors – currently Renault Samsung Motors – for a few years as a test engineer, and I have encountered many prototype vehicles from various makers in Korea. Hence, I can say with a little more credibility what this vehicle is.

    As Forte and Boris said, this is very likely the Infiniti G35. The wheels , the rear exhaust, and the rear combi lights all point to the current G35. Second, it ain’t Hyundai-Kia prototypes. Any prototype vehicles in Korea have a white plate with ‘?’ starting in the plate number. ‘?’ means ‘temporary’, which is bestowed ONLY for prototype cars. Even a Porsche Panamera that roamed in Korea a few months back – early 2009 – had the white, temp plate issued by the government. Also, reference vehicles bought by Korean car makers for test purposes have the same white plates. All the rest cars driven by the public are given green plates, which the car in the picture has. So sorry, this ain’t one of Kia-Hyundai’s secretive cars.

    So why the heck is this car? It could either be a facelift version for G35 being tested in Korea, which I don’t get it because G35 recently became the G37 with upgrade engines and transmissions. Or, somebody is playing some joke on people – which again I doubt, because such camouflage covers are sold by very limited companies in Korea and only for Korean makers.

    May be, just may be, this is a hybrid vehicle that has been sent to Korea for testing to be used for Renault-Samsung Motors… Nissan does send its vehicles to Renault-Samsung for testing: I know, because I was one of those people.

    In the end, this vehicle is highly likely involved with Renault-Nissan alliance that includes Renault-Samsung Motors. I am 100% sure this ain’t H-K or any other companies’ car. Ciao.

  7. Thank you for your insight. It makes quite a bit of sense, and kind of clears up the question of what this vehicle actually is. Thank You!

  8. guys just because this car has the wheel of Azera, doens’t mean it belongs to Hyundai. Remember when VG used Genesis wheels ???

  9. Jason – those are Infiniti wheels.

    Samsung Engineer – the white “Euro style” plates are standard issue now and are used for all NEW cars now. This has been the case for around two years now. The “new” plate is white with black letters and start with two numbers followed by a Korean letter, followed by four more numbers.

  10. They said this was supposed to be an Equus in that link I presented, but we seen the Equus and this car in the pics in my article aint it. The car in this article here is the same car I presented in the Link. So, its a Hyundai.

  11. Patrick,

    I am currently in the States having left my company as well as Korea two years ago: I do realize that new license plates should be in white, as they were in a transition phase back then. This makes it more clear that the vehicle in the photo is an old car. Hence, thanks for the clarification. Nevertheless, ‘?’ is the first Korean word that is given out to any test cars. That one in the picture ain’t it. Also, you are right about the wheels: that is an Infiniti.

  12. Yeah the letter is definitely for the prototypes… I didn’t know this until I looked around a bit more and noticed that all of them had the single character and a series of numbers after that! Cool thing to know~

    HyundaiSmoke… I honestly don’t have a clue as to how you got to the conclusion that its a Hyundai. The Equus is already in production and sale in Korea and it looks NOTHING like this car. The C pillar is more like the Audi one which extends beyond the rear door and ends in a triangular shape. It isnt a Sonata as that also looks completely different in that it looks like a coupe. The new Azera isn’t even in testing yet and neither is the rumored 3 Series-sized Genesis. So no this isn’t a Hyundai. It is most definitely an Infiniti G37 Sedan (which is also on sale in Korea).

    These are most likely old photographs that someone decided to show off as Samsung Engineer said.

  13. Partick:
    This photo is really strange. If the operator of this site is correct, this photo is relatively new, although I do not see any recent car models in the background. And also it should be very difficult for a civilian to buy the camous from the camouflage makers: I know there are very few in Korea, and the camou on the Infiniti fits on the car very well, meaning that it was custom made for the car. And a general license plate…Something is not right about this car, as it is the first photo of a car in Korea that has a general license plate and in a camou. Something is really strange here. Who knows.

  14. Dirk is Right, Iam convinced. This has to be a Nissan Skyline Sedan.

  15. Patrick is was the rear window that threw me off. However that pic in my link is still not an Eqqus though, so I dont think we have solved the msytery of that pic. But the pic in this article, yes I have to agree with Dirk.

  16. himi, your “informant” was clearly misinformed. This image is from a thread in Bobaedream in which the creator intended to trick viewers into seeing it as a Hyundai/Kia prototype. It was merely a “Guess the Car” thread and after a member said it was the Infiniti G35, the thread creator stated that he was correct.

    In simpler words: it is an Infiniti G35.

    The image is also from a long time ago (when the 2nd gen G was still in testing stages). Infiniti fares well with the G in the South Korean import market.

    Seriously himi, you didn’t even have a hunch? I don’t believe it one bit…

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