Hyundai whetted our appetites at last year’s Geneva Motor Show when it displayed the stunning PassoCorto concept, a mid-engined coupe penned jointly with Turin’s Istituto Europeo di Design. Executives seriously considered putting the show car on the fast track to production to take on the Alfa Romeo 4C, but a new report says the project has been put on an indefinite hiatus.
“Not many people make money out of sports cars. The sports car market is shrinking dramatically, and even firms with heritage and a great product are struggling. Aside from the Audi TT and Mazda MX-5, it is a tough place to be,” explained Tony Whitehorn, the head of Hyundai’s British division in an interview with Autocar.
Hyundai is not the first mainstream automaker to hold off on launching a sports car due to the segment’s shrinking size. Chevrolet recently came to a similar conclusion when it announced its long-rumored Scion FR-S-fighting coupe would never seen the light of day. FR-S sales have been slow at best since the beginning of the year, and the Subaru BRZ has fared even worse.
That doesn’t mean Hyundai is giving up on sports cars altogether. Enthusiasts likely remember that the South Korean car maker introduced a performance sub-brand called simply N in late 2013, and it has promised to build a slew of enthusiast-focused cars in the coming years.
However, Hyundai’s N-badged rockets will all be based on existing models in order to keep development costs in check. Notably, the company’s European division is said to be designing a range-topping version of the i20 powered by a Veloster-sourced 2.0-liter turbo four tuned to deliver at least 250 horsepower.
Sources close to Hyundai have revealed the Volkswagen Gold GTI-fighting hot hatch will be the first member of the N family, but whether that’s accurate is anyone’s guess. For what it’s worth, Hyundai’s N sub-brand isn’t expected to launch until 2017.