HYUNDAI has taken the covers off its fastest ever hot hatch at the Detroit motor show overnight, the Veloster N.
It promises to be the most exciting Hyundai ever built, with a sleeker and lower slung body that weighs less than the Hyundai i30 N hatchback, with which it shares its underpinnings.
However the Hyundai pocket rocket is yet to be confirmed in Australia; for now it is a US-only model.
Hyundai is the third biggest selling car maker in Australia but the Veloster N would add some much needed polish - and street cred - to a brand still trying to shrug off its bargain basement image.
Hyundai executives in Australia have already put in an urgent request to get the flagship sports coupe down under.
The Hyundai Veloster N was instigated by the former head of BMW M division, Albert Biermann.
It was one of the first projects he pushed for when he arrived at the South Korean car maker four years ago. The company was originally going to produce only one hot hatch, the more conventional Hyundai i30N.
Biermann even convinced Hyundai to make structural changes to the regular Veloster - such as a wider track, room for better cooling, and extra body strengthening - to benefit the performance edition.
However, Biermann says a Veloster N is not guaranteed for Australia even though the turbocharged engine and other performance parts are the same as those used on the Hyundai i30N, which goes on sale in Australia in March.
"We need to find a business case," says Biermann. "The … Veloster (range) doesn't go to Europe at all, so to (build a special model for Australia) will be pretty challenging. You need to (sell) a lot of Velosters to make that business case go."
Over the past six years Hyundai has sold 170,000 Velosters in the US and about 18,000 in Australia, about 10 per cent of global sales.
But the flagship performance model in the Veloster range would account for a fraction of the versions sold in Australia.
In the meantime, the regular editions of the second-generation Veloster are due to arrive in Australian showrooms in the second half of this year.
Priced between $30,000 and $40,000 they will be powered by either a smaller, 1.6-litre turbo or regular 2.0-litre four-cylinder with a choice of automatic or manual transmissions.
As before, the sleek compact coupe has one door on the driver's side and two doors on the passenger's side to make it easier for passengers to get in and out. It is the only car on sale with this asymmetric door design.
Despite trying to draw attention to the mainstream Veloster range, most of the hype on the Hyundai stand at the Detroit Auto Show was over the Veloster N.
Named after the demanding Nurburgring motor racing circuit in Germany, the formula for the Veloster N is a simple one: turbocharged 2.0-litre power and a six-speed manual transmission powering the front wheels through a limited slip differential that provides extra traction in tight corners.
As with the Hyundai i30N, the Veloster N is designed to compete with models such as the VW Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type R.
However, Biermann concedes Hyundai N cars are skewed more towards track driving rather than the overall comfort offered by the VW Golf GTI.
"What character do you give your first car?" he says. "For the N we clearly wanted to be more suitable for track driving than the (Golf) GTI and give it more character. Most important thing: give it much more fun to drive."
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