SLK Style For Half The Price
Not content with copying the style of a Ferrari, Hyundai has now borrowed the folding hard-top from a Mercedes SLK! The firm is to reveal this head-turning convertible version of its Coupé at the Frankfurt Motor Show early next month, and it's set to go on sale within the next two years - at half the price of its Mercedes rival.
Although the model, which will be Hyundai's first-ever convertible, is officially still dubbed a concept, it is already signed off for production and set to be launched in mid-2004.
As with the successful tin-top version, most of the Coupé Cabrios are expected to find homes in the US, but Britain is the biggest market for convertibles in Europe and it's expected to be extremely popular here as well. A soft-top concept of the previous gen- eration Coupé was shown at a Korean motor show in 1997, but was never intended for production. The company promised it would create a convertible version of the new car instead, and has kept its word.
Hyundai had intended to use a conventional fabric roof, but the increasing number of rivals using retractable hard- tops forced a rethink. Although the styling is the work of Hyundai's California Design Studio, the engineering of the complex roof mechanism was entrusted to German expert Karmann, which created the SLK's revolutionary roof and has just begun production of Renault's new Mégane CC.
The mechanism works in a similar way to those of the Mercedes and Renault, both of which use a hinge above the rear window and a complex mechanism which opens the boot backwards to swallow the folded top. Unlike the Renault version, though, the Hyundai's conversion has robbed the Coupé of its rear seats. There is however a surprisingly large boot, even with the roof stowed. Extra strengthening in the sills and bulkheads has made the whole body structure stiff enough to cope with the loss of roof, while reinforced pillars in the windscreen support the car in the event of a roll-over. The Frankfurt show car uses a range-topping 2.7-litre V6 with standard six-speed manual or five-speed auto transmission.
Engine choices in the eventual production models will closely resemble those of the Coupé. The entry model will feature a 103bhp 1.6 taken from the Elantra, while mid-rangers will use the standard Coupé's 136bhp 2.0-litre unit with manual or auto transmission.
The drop-top's launch will coincide with a minor mid-life facelift for the entire Coupé range, which includes changes to the interior trim and redesigned lights. A new, direct-injection petrol engine, called TCI, is also due.
As with the rest of Hyundai's line-up, the Coupé Cabrio's main attraction will be the price. The 1.6-litre variant is expected to cost around £16,000, which is less than the 2.0-litre version of the smaller Peugeot 206 CC and half the cost of a Mercedes SLK 320. A top-level 2.7-litre V6 Coupé Cabrio is likely to be around £20,000