HYUNDAI is cooking up a whole host of sporty models to rival the likes of the VW Golf GTI and Seat Ibiza Bocanegra.
The firm’s UK managing director has admitted that the brand is desperately lacking performance variants in its range – and told Car Dealer it was working hard on changing that.
Hyundai chief Tony Whitehorn told us the maker was first planning to release an i20 with a turbo-charged petrol unit that would output around 150bhp.
‘The i20 is the car in our range that would really benefit from a sports halo model,’ said Whitehorn.
First though will be the launch of the manufacturer’s sporty VW Scirocco rival, the Veloster. This will feature a 140bhp 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine at launch in the early part of 2011 and will eventually boast a turbo-charged lump producing at least 200bhp.
The biggest highlight will be the doors – it’ll have three of them, one on one side and two on the other and, unlike the Mini Clubman which featured a similar set up, it’ll be reengineered for the UK. That means children sat in the back won’t be ejected into the road because the doors are on the ‘wrong side’.
‘We definitely need sporty models in our range that can occupy the top of the range slots,’ said Whitehorn. ‘But we need to convince buyers that we have the right credentials and the Veloster will be key in doing that.’
He also said he wanted to see sports variants of the i10 city car when the facelifted model arrives next year, as well as a powerful version of the Ford Focus-sized i30.
Although he wouldn’t reveal what it would be, Whitehorn did admit that the sporting variants would get special badging, such as GTI or SRI.
‘What we won’t do is a sports sub-brand like M Sport or VXR,’ said Whitehorn. ‘That would be too extreme for us. But we do want to give buyers the cars they’re missing out on – and that’s sport models.’
He ruled out motorsport as a way of promoting the cars. Rallying, even on a national level where Peugeot and Skoda have had success, is deemed too expensive.
Whitehorn added: ‘Motorsport is very costly and the question is does it really give you the leverage you require to sell more cars? You only have to look at the fact Toyota pulled out of F1 to see it probably doesn’t.’
by JAMES BAGGOTT