Here’s a fun and semi-obscure tibit of delightfully tedious automotive trivia: Hyundai could’ve made three-door and five-door Veloster hatchbacks this entire time, and it wouldn’t have even cost the brand that much money. Normally, drastically altering the appearance of an asymmetric car requires vast engineering expense, but the Veloster was subject to an odd decision that would’ve made more conventional variants relatively easy. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
[Editor’s Note: I think making the Veloster anything other than an asymmetric 3-door-plus-hatch kinda kills the car’s charm, but I admire this thought-experiment, so let’s see where this goes. – JT]
Recent history serves up no shortage of asymmetric cars, but rectifying asymmetry normally presents an engineering challenge. With the Nissan Cube’s asymmetry, different quarter panels and glass existed for left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive markets, but the side-hinged rear door assembly would’ve needed significant revision to work with an all-metal or all-wraparound C-pillar layout.
For the funky R55 Mini Clubman, things would’ve been even more complicated. Not only would new doors, new windows, a new quarter panel, and a new underlying substructure need to be styled and engineered, there’s the particularly tricky issue of what to do with the filler neck since it is, at minimum, extremely close to where a left-side rear door would’ve gone. If Mini wanted an extra door and needed to relocate the filler neck, the resulting challenge would’ve been monumentally expensive.
With the first-generation Veloster, none of these hard parts are issues. Here’s a comparison between left-hand-drive models with two doors on the right and right-hand-drive models with two doors on the left. Notice anything? Yes, left-hand-drive models have two doors on the right and right-hand-drive models have two doors on the left. The doors and underlying structure all exist in Hyundai’s parts bin to make three-door and five-door Velosters. Of equal importance, the filler necks and fuel doors are in identical locations regardless of hand-of-drive. This is particularly huge as it means the fuel system wouldn’t need to be re-engineered for a three-door or five-door configuration, saving vast expense.
In terms of brand new equipment not found in the parts bin, a three-door version would simply need two new door trim inserts to blank out the driver’s-spec switches on the passenger side door card from the opposite hand-of-drive model. Cheap and cheerful stuff. A five-door version would need a new driver’s door card to accommodate the necessary driver-centric switches and extra wiring for the fourth door lock actuator, window regulator, and window switch. It’s a bit extra, but it’s hardly an Everest-sized hurdle.
In fact, Hyundai did actually make a three-door Veloster — sort-of. For the RM series of development mules, Veloster sheetmetal was hacked up to test new and emerging technologies in publicly-announced testbeds. The RM14 had one door on the right, one door on the left, and the expected hatch on the back. Crafty, right?
While I don’t exactly condone drastically altering the structure of a modern car at home over a fifth of Jameson, crafty Veloster owners with shipping connections could channel inspiration from EK Civic five-door hatchback conversions for a unique show car build. Of course, EK Honda Civics have all the structural integrity of a rippled Busch can, which makes these inventive cut-and-shuts okay in my eyes. If you’ll probably die in a collision with a military-grade Ferd F-Teenthousand anyway, what great difference will a homemade five-door body make? On the other hand, thanks to modern crash structure advancements, altering the door count of a Hyundai Veloster is probably a bad idea. Still, if you do that, our tips line is always open.
Would selling the Veloster in three-door and five-door configurations have altered its quirkiness? Sure, but sometimes mass-appeal is a little more important than weirdness. After all, it’s in an automaker’s best interest for its cars to sell, and conventional body styles could’ve won over some shoppers put off by the weird door arrangement. Having rear doors on both sides is a godsend for people with children, and three-door hatchbacks are just plain cool.
(Photo credits: Hyundai, Nissan, Mini)
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