Behold! Hyundai has finally revealed in more exact terms, what we can expect from its high-performance sub-brand, unoriginally named ‘N’ (after Hyundai’s main R&D base in Namyang, South Korea). BMW has its M division, Mercedes has AMG, Fiat has Abarth, Ford has its RS models, Honda possess its Type R sub-brand, and Jaguar has its Special Vehicle Operations division. All these performance divisions have the same function, to make standard models bonkers. Hyundai has now joined this train of thought with its own sub-brand.
The RN30 concept displayed at the ongoing Paris Motor Show looks radically aggressive with the full aero bodykit, bulging wheel arches, large rear diffuser, miniscule ground clearance (to maintain a low centre of gravity), all the air scoops on the bonnet and the doors, and that very noticeable rear spoiler. It goes beyond the Honda Civic Type R in terms of raw sporting appeal.
On the inside, the overt sporty theme continues with a roll-cage, lightweight bucket seats, and a racing steering wheel. To lend more authority to its racing credentials, there’s cameras mounted on the A-pillar and the outside which means there won’t be any aftermarket dashboard cams for this hot hatch. Hyundai has gone the extra mile with a new, environmentally friendly alternative to carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP), a special plastic that has been co-developed by BASF.
While unmistakably based on the i30 especially if one looks at the front grille, the RN30 concept is wider, squatter, and lighter than the standard model. In addition, there’s the 375bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged motor that develops 333lb ft (451Nm) of torque. The engine is one horse short of the current title holder for most powerful production hatchback (also the most powerful 2-litre engine), the Mercedes-AMG A45. The power is transmitted to all-four wheels via a dual-clutch paddle-shift race gearbox with a rev-matching function and an e-LSD. There’s also the Electronic Variable Exhaust system which promises to deliver an aural experience to match the born-to-race looks.
The important question to ask is how much of this will actually feature on the production version set to launch in the first few months of 2017. The production i30N will most definitely miss out on the overly aggressive aero kit, the scissor doors, the massive rear diffuser, and the skirting for a more toned-down look. It probably won’t sport the racing steering wheel either. The engine probably won’t have the same amount of power and will transmit that power to just the front wheels rather than all-four.
Before testing the concept at the Nürburgring 24Hours, Albert Biermann, Hyundai Motor head of vehicle test and high performance development told PMW Magazine, “The race provides the ideal test bed for our motorsport-inspired N sub-brand development and a key part of our ‘born at Namyang, honed at Nürburgring’ performance-car ethos.” There is a definite upside and a possible downside to this. On one hand, it will be a fun-to-drive trackday tool. On the other, as James May claims, it may ruin the ride quality and feel on an actual road. Only a test drive will tell.
However, considering that every rival hot hatch currently on sale has a lap time recorded at the iconic German track, it would be foolish for Hyundai to be left behind. Hyundai also has its i20 WRC car (the 2017 model is also showcased at the 2016 Paris Motor Show) which has seen its share of wins at the World Rally Championship. While it may not have a motorsport heritage to speak of, the Korean brand is definitely making its mark. I honestly think it is time to start taking the N sub-brand, and Hyundai, seriously.