Hyundai’s next badge booster

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - News - RICHARD BLACK­BURN

HYUNDAI will launch a new tur­bocharged ver­sion of the Elantra small sedan in the se­cond half of the year as a fore­run­ner to the launch of a new per­for­mance sub-brand in the next two years.

The 1.6-litre four-cylin­der turbo will put out 150kW and wear an SR badge.

The model is ex­pected to come in below $35,000 as a sixspeed man­ual, with a sev­en­speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion adding roughly $2500.

The en­gine and trans­mis­sion com­bi­na­tions mir­ror those in the Veloster coupe. The new model will also have unique sports sus­pen­sion and steer­ing with in­put from lo­cal en­gi­neers.

A sports but­ton will al­low the driver to sharpen throt­tle re­sponse, steer­ing and gear changes. The SR will also be fit­ted with a body kit, while in­side there will be leather seats with coloured stitch­ing and a sports steer­ing wheel.

Hyundai ex­pects the model to ac­count for roughly 15 per cent of Elantra sales, or about 100 cars a month.

The Elantra’s hatch­back sib­ling, the i30, will not be fit­ted with the en­gine un­til its next model up­date, due next year.

Hyundai boss Scott Grant is keen to in­ject some ex­cite­ment into the brand in Aus­tralia and says the SR Elantra is an op­tion that car­ries very lit­tle risk.

“We felt it could add some siz­zle to the cat­e­gory and po­ten­tially move the cat­e­gory. We know that the seg­ment is in de­cline so part of the op­por­tu­nity with a new prod­uct is to change that,” he says.

Glob­ally, the brand is as­sem­bling a team of en­gi­neers to fet­tle hardcore sports ver­sions of Hyundais un­der the lead­er­ship of Al­bert Bier­mann, for­merly of BMW’s famed M per­for­mance divi­sion.

Bier­mann was hired at the end of 2014 to de­velop a per­for­mance arm for Hyundai and sis­ter com­pany Kia.

Hyundai is also de­vel­op­ing the Gen­e­sis lux­ury sub-brand in a bid to break into the pres­tige mar­ket, ini­tially in the United States and Korea. The brand is ex­pected to show the first of a new range of lux­ury mod­els at the New York mo­tor show next month.

Grant says the Gen­e­sis pro­ject is still in its in­fancy in Aus­tralia. The lo­cal op­er­a­tion has yet to de­cide whether to house the brand within ex­ist­ing deal­er­ships, or set up a sep­a­rate dis­tri­bu­tion net­work.

The for­mer Toy­ota ex­ec­u­tive is well equipped to work on both per­for­mance and lux­ury off­shoots, hav­ing worked with Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles and Lexus in the past.

It is likely that Aus­tralia will have to wait for both per­for­mance and lux­ury mod­els, as the US will take pri­or­ity over right-hand drive mar­kets such as Aus­tralia.

Hyundai also has no im­me­di­ate prospects of fill­ing two gap­ing holes in its lo­cal line-up.

Grant says lit­tle progress has been made in per­suad­ing the Korean head of­fice to build a work ute to com­pete with the Toy­ota HiLux and Ford Ranger, both top 10 sellers in Aus­tralia.

It’s a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion with plans for an SUV to take on the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V in the boom­ing baby SUV seg­ment.

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