Hyundai’s N division is becoming something of a modern day motoring legend… and that’s even before a production car has turned a wheel.
Named after its research and development centre at Namyang in Korea, the first time N came to prominence was in the development of the successful Hyundai i20 WRC. The Korean rallying venture left us hoping for a road-going version of its rally car, but we’re getting one better.
It is a little-known fact that, at the same time the i20 WRC was being developed on Korean soil, a hot bed of road cars was also under scrutiny.
Many Germans, including Audi R8s and Porsche 911s, formed part of this assessment. To help find and reproduce the secret sauce that is German performance car characteristics, Hyundai appointed ex-BMW M performance boss Albert Biermann as Head of Vehicle Test and High Performance Development. The team then announced its full intent by moving to the Nurburgring. Another allusion to N?
Hyundai kept tight-lipped about any production plans while it was quietly testing its i30 N at the Nurburgring, the intent to create a five-door hot hatch to take on some of the cars that it has been studying for the last few years, including the Volkswagen Golf R. Moving to coarser-surface testing required a visit to the infamous (and open to public) Nordschleife track, finally giving evidence of the i30 N as the first N car, and potentially available next year.
There’s common belief that the i30 N will feature a modified version of the 1.6-litre turbo found in the current (European) i30 Turbo (137kW/265Nm) that will see power pushed up to around 180kW.
We know that engine produces 224kW and 400Nm in the i20 WRC, which as we found out in a drive at Rally Finland costs around 150 Euro per Km to run, so we don’t think we can expect to see this engine over-worked for road use by a company well known for affordable servicing and long warranty periods.
More likely is something like the 2.0-litre Theta T-GDI turbocharged engine that featured in the Veloster RM15 concept. That engine produces 220kW and 383Nm of torque which, if Hyundai is setting the turret towards the Golf R, is getting very close spec-for-spec, with the Golf R producing 206kW and 380Nm in Australian tune.
Of course this much power will probably need to transcend a front-wheel drive configuration and require the grip of all-wheel drive – something that the Hyundai world rally team next door at the Nurburgring has been fine-tuning for the last three years.
We’re assuming Hyundai isn’t looking to merely enter the hot-hatch market but disrupt it, and given the Korean’s commitment to the WRC and continual development since it has re-entered the championship, we’re sure that the first N could well be something of a game changer for those that can’t fork up the ponies for a quick German belter.
Even better is prospect of an i20 N to follow soon after, offering performance comparable to its WRC foe the VW Polo GTI and promising an exciting new competitor from the usual suspects in the junior hot-hatch stakes.
For the moment we can only wait, and stare at our Trailing Throttle rendering of what we might expect to see when the i30 N is finally unveiled.