This article refers to the rear-wheel drive Hyundai Pony. For the front-wheel drive car that was sold in Europe from 1985 as the Hyundai Pony, see Hyundai Excel.
The Hyundai Pony (Hangul: 현대 포니), was a small rear-wheel drive automobile produced by the Hyundai Motor Company from 1975 to 1988 (until 1990 in South Korea).
When Hyundai wanted to develop their own car, they hired George Turnbull, the former Managing Director at British Leyland. With his experience with the Morris Marina (see Korean connection), engines and transmissions from Mitsubishi, some parts from the Ford Cortina they were already producing, and a hatchback body styled by Italdesign Giugiaro, they developed the Hyundai Pony.
The Pony was presented at the Turin Motor Show in October 1974, and the car was introduced in December 1975 as a 4-door sedan. Hyundai began exporting the Pony to Ecuador in 1976. In 1978, Hyundai began exporting to Europe, starting with Belgium and the Netherlands. Later on, the Pony was exported to Greece. A pickup truck version was added in May 1976, a station wagon in April 1977, and a 3-door hatchback in March 1980.
In January 1982, the Pony II was presented. It was a facelift from the previous model. Quoting a sales brochure: "You'll see New Pony luxury in such things as rectangular halogen headlamps, fitted in a smart new radiator grille. You'll see it in the wrap-around indicators, completely re-styled rear lamp clusters and neatly designed instrument panel with easy-to-read gauges. These new refinements are just part of many distinctive features of the New Pony." the Pony II was only available in 5-door hatchback, and 2-door pickup versions. With the Pony II, export also began to the United Kingdom in 1982. The Pony was also exported to Canada from 1983, but not to the United States because the Pony didn't pass emissions standards there. Canadian sales greatly exceeded expectations, and it was at one point the top-selling car on the Canadian market. The Pony afforded a much higher degree of quality and refinement in the lowest price auto segment than the Eastern-bloc imports of the period then available.
Canadian-spec (Non-ECC LHD) Pony
The Canadian version of the Pony had to be changed slightly to meet standards of that country. the Pony was released for sale in Canada for the 1984 model year and ended in 1987. Differences between the Canadian Pony versus its European counterparts were left hand drive, 8 km/h bumpers, sealed-beam headlights, different locations of marker lamps, and slight alterations in interior instrumentation and trim application. Initial projections for 1984 called for 5,000 sales, but the final total was an astounding 50,000, and it incredibly became Canada's best selling car that year.
For 1984, the Pony came only with a 1439 cc (88ci) 4G33 engine I4, rated at 70hp (52kW) and 82 ft·lbf (111 N·m) of torque. This engine was available with either a 4-speed or 5-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic transmission. The 1206 cc (74ci) 4G12 engine was not available in Canada. This engine was retained across the line until 1986, after which only the 1597 cc (97ci) 4G16 engine (74 hp (55 kW), 93 ft·lbf (126 N·m) torque) was available. In mid-1985, the door handles were blacked out, chrome was removed from the windshield wipers, and the "HD" badge was removed from the centre of the grille and replaced with the lettering "Hyundai" off to the left side. A 1.6 liter model 4G32 engine became available in 1985, with optional air conditioning. These powerplants had hemispherical crossflow cylinder head, 2 valves per cylinder (chain-driven SOHC), a two-barrel downdraft carburetor (manual choke) and breaker point-type ignition.
From 1984 to 1986, trim levels were L (standard), GL (deluxe), and GLS (glorious). L featured vinyl seats, a fold-down rear bench seat, and usually a 4-speed manual transmission mated to a 1.4 L I4 engine. GL included vinyl/cloth seats, a standard clock (which was mounted in the instrument cluster) rear wiper, passenger-side mirror, tinted glass, lockable fuel door, standard door guards, upgraded interior trim, and (from 1985) an available 1.6 L engine. GLS included the above with the option of a tachometer, passenger-side vanity mirror, full cloth seats, 50/50 fold-down seats, and (from 1985) a standard 1.6 L engine.
Only L and CX were trim levels for 1987. L was the same as the previous L, however the clock was now digital and the CX had a standard tachometer. From 1986 to 1987, interior colors available were tan or blue. From 1984 to 1985, it was grey.
Options included rear window louvres, a front air dam, rear spoiler, GT package (which included a leather-wrapped MOMO 3-spoke steering wheel), tachometer, different trim and badging, fog lamps, and extra lights in the rear. All GTs came with the more powerful 1.6 L engine.
Canadian Market Notes
The Hyundai Pony at this point was seen by many Canadian consumers as an older Japanese Dodge Colt, made not in Japan, but South Korea. Quoting Road and Track's 1985 review of the Hyundai Pony (which dominated the other 4 cars in every category: Dacia, Innocenti, Lada, and Skoda, interestingly enough none of which are around on North American roads) "Many did not care that the Hyundai was a rear driver"
South Korea at that time was referred to in terms of trade duty levels as a third world, rather than a modern manufacturing society such as Japan. However, having tooling and expertise from Ford, management from Leyland, and drivetrains sourced from Mitsubishi (as well as Girling double piston caliper brakes on most non- EEC models) and styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the car was quite reliable, pleasing to the eye, and sold very well. Canadian consumers rationalized that they were obtaining a similar quality basic Japanese quality car which escaped trade duties and was a real bargain. And they were not wrong. At $6,400 entry level, it provided a more than sturdy chassis, thick steel construction (subcompact weighing 2310 pounds, net), proven Mitsubishi technology, simple to maintain engines capable of exceeding their service limits manyfold, and low-maintenance, easy to care for drivetrains.
The early Hyundai's suffered from rust problems, as well the cars could not have been tested over the long haul in the colder Canadian climates. One of the apparent issues with the Pony's that was an ongoing problem was of a plastic heater core which would freeze in the cold Canadian winters. This was finally solved by a third party auto parts company (quotation needed - aluminum cores are available through dealer network, as of April 3, 2008) which produced an aluminum (rather than plastic) heater core for the Pony which would not have the same problems.
In all respects, the vehicle was solid, simple, and enjoyable by most consumers: a great platform from which to grow, which can easily be seen by noting the number of Hyundai vehicles driving on today's Canadian highways.
First generation Pony
The 1st generation Pony's lineup is a sedan to other same for coupe, wagon, pickups.
Second generation Pony
In Europe, the Pony was replaced in 1985 by the Hyundai Excel (in Europe the Excel was badged as the Pony), but the Pony was sold alongside the Excel in Canada in 1987. the Pony Pickup was sold in Europe (only) until the end of the 1980s. the Pony ceased production in 1988.