Hyundai N: Korea's new performance brand explained
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In 2013 Hyundai decided it was time for a fundamental, expensive and ‘uncompromising’ change in the company’s business plan.
While vehicles such as the SantaFe SUV and i20 hatch continued the company’s worldwide sales success, major changes in personnel and technological approach were taking place well away from public view. But now the fruits of the company’s efforts are set to be laid out as the local launch of Hyundai’s first N model approaches.
Before the first cars land in New Zealand, there are a few things you should know about Korea’s new performance brand.
Meet Albert Biermann
Albert Biermann during the European launch of the i30 N
You might not be familiar with Albert Biermann, but if you’re interested in performance cars, you’ll certainly know about his work.
Biermann led BMW’s M Performance division for over three decades. After a long and successful career in Germany, Hyundai managed to bring Biremann on board in late 2014, appointed as the Head of Vehicle Testing.
But in 2015, his real reason for joining the company was realised as Hyundai began to build an all-new performance brand that would come to be known as N.
All the while Biermann and his teams were testing and developing Hyundai’s first N model – the i30 N hatch – which is now on the verge of entering New Zealand’s hot hatch.
N what now?
The relationship between N and Hyundai is identical to that of M and BMW or AMG and Mercedes-Benz. It’s Hyundai's dedicated in-house performance arm, and that N logo has multiple meanings.
Firstly, N refers to where the brand was first conceived in Namyang, Korea, the location of Hyundai's global R&D Centre. It’s also a nod to one of N's most important proving grounds, the 20.8km Nürburgring test track in Germany.
Once the it was time to begin development of their first model, Hyundai set up a permanent facility at the famous track, and it's a location where all future model will be tested before sign off.
Lastly, and perhaps most cringy, Hyundai say the N logo symbolises a chicane. An area where N vehicles are engineered 'to deliver maximum driving fun.'
N is already track proven
Not only has the i30 N tested around the Nürburgring, it has raced in anger there, too. The models’ testing programme included two outings in the annual Nurburgring 24-hour race in what Hyundai called 'close to production cars.'
The engine and its components where tested for evaluation in 2016 and for ensuring its overall race track capability in 2017. The race was also used to test new cooling functions for the engine and brakes - which Hyundai developed and built in house - through air intakes on the front bumper.
The 24-hour race was also used to calibrate the electronic controlled suspension, body rigidity, clutch and gearbox.
In 2017 the factory Hyundai team finished fourth in class and 50th overall.
i30 N is the first of many
In 2018 New Zealand will get the i30 N, North America gets the Veloster N (above) and according to Hyundai we can expect many more to follow.
The brand has already found a strong footing in Europe with the first run of i30 N's selling out in less that 48 hours. "The high interest in the First Edition confirms our confidence in the N brand," said Biermann.
But before more models are announced, Kiwis have to wait for the first to arrive. All things going well, that won't be too far away.
Look out for Driven in The Weekend Herald this Saturday to read our road test of the only i30 N in New Zealand - a pre-production model that signals N's intent.