HYUNDAI is going Volkswagen GTI hunting. The Korean carmaker is working on what could be a hot hatch gamechanger as part of a high-performance play to cement it as a broader competitor to Toyota, Volkswagen, Mazda and Ford.
The i30 N, to be revealed later this year, will be the first of a family of higher-performance Hyundai and Genesis models created under the N sub-brand.
Recently poached BMW M boss Albert Biermann heads development of all N models.
The i30 hatchback – the mechanicals of which were being tested in the Nurburgring 24-hour race as Wheels went to press – will help forge the go-fast pathway for the Korean brand with a trackdeveloped three-door designed to outpunch front-drive rivals.
Hyundai says the i30 N will be more hardcore than VW Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, in the quest to cement Hyundai as a serious highperformance contender.
Hyundai executives have let slip that the N brand will be more about lap times than turning heads.
“Our first step with Albert [Biermann] is ... second-best is not going to be acceptable for us,” Hyundai’s North American product planning chief, Mike O’Brien, said late last year.
Biermann also hinted that the emphasis is on getting the car’s credentials right.
“We don’t go to full blast on the first car but … it’s all full high-performance,” he told Wheels earlier this year, adding that the first N – the i30 – would have European hot hatch buyers high on the hit list.
To be powered by a 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder turbo, the i30 N is expected to boast up to 200kW, well up on the 150kW maximum from the Veloster’s 1.6-litre turbo. A transient overboost similar to that seen in the Porsche 911 Turbo and Ford Falcon XR6 Sprint could provide short bursts of higher performance.
To give it breadth and appeal, Hyundai is hoping to pair it with the choice of a six-speed manual or dual-clutch auto.
Beneath the skin is where Hyundai can get the biggest gains with its inaugural N.
Hyundai will need to work hard on the dynamic package, employing adaptive dampers to make the driver the focus. Also expect an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential, again offering driver-tailoring for road and track.
Based on the next-generation i30 architecture – the same underpinnings employed on the new Elantra – the N will benefit from that car’s longer wheelbase and will pick up a unique suspension tune spinning the focus from every day to track days.
Flared wheelarches and a wider track will allow for bigger wheels and tyres. They, in turn, allow for larger calipers and discs.
Styling won’t be overlooked.
The i30 N will get the usual side skirts and spoilers, with a large hatch-mounted wing to give some mild downforce at speed. A wider mouth will feed more air to the turbocharged engine.
Given its performance focus, the i30 N is expected to start life as a three-door – think Renault Megane RS – but a five-door seems almost certain given the global demand for practicality.
Hyundai is keen to ensure the N sub-brand is taken seriously, and that its cars are credible.
Key to its success is the right team, something Hyundai has amassed under the guidance of former BMW M chief Albert Biermann.
Also along for the N ride are two designers more used to Lamborghinis than Korean cars – former Lamborghini design boss Luc Donckerwolke and former Lamborghini design and brand director Manfred Fitzgerald.
Also expect to see the i30 N testing at the Nurburgring, as well as other tracks.
The i30 N will be the start of a broad N family across both the Hyundai and upcoming Genesis brands.
While the core market for the first N is Europe, expect America to be a focus for the second wave.
The Genesis New York Concept, which hints at the design of the upcoming G70, is expected to form the basis of an early N model.
The Genesis N, powered by a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, is expected to have an M4-frightening 330kW.
Beyond that, expect Hyundai to prime other models for the N treatment. The next-generation Veloster, due about 2018, is an obvious choice.