Forbidden fruit, only in reverse this time.
There have been countless occasions over the years when overseas markets, especially Europe, received cool cars we never got to enjoy in the US. Examples include Alpine A110, Audi RS4 Avant, and the Suzuki Jimny. Heck, not all of those brands are even in the North American market. But during our conversation at this year's LA Auto Show with Mike O'Brien, Hyundai Vice President of Product and Digital Planning for North America, we learned something quite interesting about the Hyundai Veloster N hot hatchback.
To recap, the Veloster N's corporate cousin, the Hyundai i30 N hot hatch and i30 Fastback N are overseas-only. Although all three share a platform and powertrain, there are some mechanical differences aside from the different designs. As it turns out, it's the Veloster N that's winning European hearts and minds. They want it but can't have it.
"Because of all of our success in the racing arena last year [such as with the 350-hp Veloster N TCR], all of the forums in Germany and Europe are now screaming for the Veloster N," O'Brien said. "And of course on our formula, we say 'why not buy an I30 N,' so over there they all want the forbidden fruit thing."
Is there any chance Hyundai could please those Veloster N-loving Europeans? "They [Europe] sold the first generation of Veloster, but I don't really know what their [Hyundai Europe] plans are over there. We don't have any role in that. Separate part of the company. But I do know Albert [Biermann, global head of Hyundai R&D] was mentioning there was a lot of internet chatter asking for the Veloster in Europe, but that's only a point of interest at this time."
O'Brien pointed out the differences between the i30 N hot hatch and the Veloster N. "From a purely competitive and dynamic perspective it has a lower center of mass, a better polar moment of inertia, lower weight overall, and lower Cd. It's a lot better for managing aero. So from a purely competitive and a street dynamics perspective, Veloster is better for us," he added.
"In Europe, hatches are a thing, and in America hatches aren't a thing. So we have this vehicle with really two personalities. The idea behind three doors wasn't to be strange or different. It was about the idea that as the owner approaches the car, they see a coupe. It's a personal reward. When your friends or your spouse or your boyfriend or girlfriend approaches the car, they see a versatile car with two doors on the side. It's a car that really serves two masters."
The i30 N, by contrast, is a typical five-door body style. Combined with the Veloster N's unique three-door design and better dynamics, it's no wonder Euro hot hatch fans want it. For once, it seems, America got the better car.