Hyundai’s joy-inducing new minicar, the Casper, is the latest in a string of cool designs from the brand and the newest member of the cars-America-won’t-get club. Barely 140 inches long and powered by a runt of a 1-liter three-cylinder engine, the Casper likely won’t set your heart ablaze with performance, but just look at the damn thing. It’s too playful to ignore.


Judging by the photos,this is an extremely well-resolved, cute design. Hyundai says the Casper is a “mini SUV,” and it amounts to a city car with chunky fender flares, a boxy nose, and an off-road attitude. This is no Suzuki Jiimny, though, as you’d probably scratch up an oil pan or crack a control arm if you tried to take it into the wilderness. The Casper is more akin to the goofy Chevy Spark Activ, a city car with some cladding and a lifestyle marketing angle. 

And yet, I don’t care that the Casper has no off-roading capability. Look at the front fascia, with its round lights and contrasting relief space. It reminds me of a cheap boombox from Circuit City, in an endearingly charming way. At the rear, the circle theme is echoed.


Normally, I don’t like hidden and alarmingly low indicator and reverse lights, and yet I’m willing to let the Casper slide because it’s so damn cute. Adding to the weirdness, the taillights are integrated into the rear hatchback glass, a la, the Great Wall Ora Good Cat.

This mentality of calling everything a utility vehicle that has infected all automakers is a tired one, and this is about as stretchy as it gets. Dimensionally, the Casper is about two to three inches taller than a Chevy Spark and about the same length and width. The Venue, the Casper’s larger brother, is legally classified as a hatchback, and the Casper is essentially the same thing. In the city-car-as-SUV class, the Casper theoretically only has two competitors that offer an AWD option, the Fiat Panda and Suzuki Ignis. The rest? It’s all for show, baby.


The Casper is designed for South Korea and India, and there’s only a snowball’s chance in hell that Hyundai will ever bring it here, so don’t get too excited. If it somehow makes its way to America, though, I’d be first in line for a six-speed manual 1-liter turbo model. 


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