Designed to make you grin: Hyundai i30 N
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Hyundai engineers are promising their new N range of high-performance models will offer the most fun for the dollars spent when they arrive later this year.
The first model will be the new i30 N hatchback, a camouflaged prototype of which Driven drove in South Korea last week.
But don’t expect the track-ready N model to be fitted with carbon fibre lightweight materials. Instead, Hyundai has set out to provide as much fun for your dollar as possible in the hot-hatch sector.
The new five-door Hyundai i30 models are launched here next month, and the company hopes the N edition will arrive towards the end of the year.
It is the first model developed by the motor giant’s N high performance division, headed by German engineer Albert Biermann.
He brings street-cred to the role after decades working at BMW’s high-performance equivalent M division, and is surrounded by dozens of younger motorsport enthusiasts eager to build on the experience the company is gaining from its World Rally Championship campaign.
Although Hyundai is reluctant to reveal specific performance specifications before the official launch in September, it is clearly targeting competition such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Ford Focus ST, the new Honda Civic Type R, and the Seat Cupra, that is also due in New Zealand this year.
The company says it is too early to determine how much the i30N will cost, but most of the competition ranges from the high $50,000s to mid $60,000s.
Biermann says the ambition was to produce an affordable, fun high-performance model that could be driven straight from the showroom to the track.
His engineers have concentrated on developing the car’s handling characteristics while also ensuring the i30 N makes the sort of throaty shriek that motorsport enthusiasts insist on.
We had four laps behind the wheel of the car at Hyundai’s Namyang research and development centre mini race track near Seoul, and it provides a thrilling drive.
It was a left-hand-drive, five-speed manual, which took a lap or two to adjust to, but it felt confident and assured, and encourages spirited on-track driving.
There is enough crackle and pop from the 1.6-litre engine to satisfy most track enthusiasts.
The track is a miniature version of the Nurburgring, and it’s where Hyundai has been honing the handling and performance of prototype models for the past two years.
There were sweeping left-handers and hills that you could fling the i30 over, then enjoy the crackle and pop as the car revs away and you prepared for yet another corner.
It was an all-too-brief teaser of what the final version will be like.
But the engineers have been careful to ensure the N models have all the creature comforts buyers want in their road car. The seats are comfortable and the car comes with a touchscreen that makes adjusting driving modes simple and straightforward.
Biermann says the idea was to put a mischievous smile on the face of buyers ... “the grin you can’t hide when driving high-performance cars”.
The i30 N in particular is targeted at European, Australasian and the Russian markets, where Hyundai is convinced there is strong demand for high-performance models.
“Our new driver-focused i30N will elevate our high-performance credentials and demonstrate our passion for providing engaging and exhilarating driving pleasure for our customers.”
Hyundai returned to the WRC in 2014, and has won several podium places with an i20-based rally car with drivers such as New Zealander Hayden Paddon.
For the New Zealand launch, that is likely to be towards the end of the year, there will be two versions of the i30 N available, both featuring a 2-litre turbo engine, a standard i30 N and a version with a Performance Pack the company says will deliver more power and further technology.