HYUNDAI’S NEW i30 N HOT HATCH

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Speculation on when the South Korean car marques would enter the hot-hatch scene have been around for years. Though keen to become major players in the global scene, both Hyundai and Kia sensibly decided to concentrate on mainstream vehicles and leave the esoteric models till later.

Well, later has finally arrived and Hyundai is well and truly onto the high-performance scene. It has published extensive details and photos of the i30 N hot-hatch. The ’N’ tag comes from Namyang, Hyundai’s huge R&D test arena (which we have driven on several times over the years, though not yet in an N – maybe sometime soon – here’s hoping).

N also stands for Nurburgring, the famed German circuit that has become a de facto testing area used by many manufacturers. Incidentally, Hyundai tells us the ‘N’ badge symbolises a chicane and is, “the essence of Hyundai Motor’s high-performance car development.”

A few weeks ago Hyundai quietly sneaked one of its i30 N prototypes into a hillclimb event at Mt Panorama, Bathurst. Any of you who have ever driven around the circuit in the ‘normal’ direction will have been surprised by just how steep that scary, downwards winding drop is – far steeper than it looks on TV.

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For years hillclimbs have been held in the reverse ‘clockwise’ direction at Mt Panorama in an incredible variety of vehicles. With a disguised Hyundai i30 N being one. Clever…

On-road testing with disguised prototypes of the hot Hyundai has been carried out since the start of 2017 to tune the N to local conditions and our drivers’ tastes. As well as to test the hot machine in the searing Australian outback.

Two models are coming: a standard i30 N, and a topline model with a Performance Package.

Hyundai i30 N in Performance Package trim will be powered by a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that delivers up to 275 horsepower (202 kW) and a juicy 353 Nm torque on offer from just 1450 revs, and staying at the peak until 4700 rpm. We are promised it will be nicely responsive.

Hyundai tells us that high-performance features include an electronic control of the limited slip diff and suspension, rev matching on downchanges (for those who like to think they can drive, but can’t). Launch control should get a serious workout, and a lap timer let’s you hone your driving at circuits.

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The little hot-hatch will have five different drive modes topped by N and N Custom modes, with configurations from comfort-oriented daily driving to racetrack performance.

Drive is to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, with the launch control and the fancy differential in the Performance Package helping to get it from zero to 100 in 6.2 seconds.

Styling is obviously very important so the standard Hyundai i30 has been seriously modified, with aggressive front and rear bumpers with larger air intakes in front and a genuinely aerodynamic rear spoiler that wraps around the rear window.

Triangular brake lights and a dual muffler exhaust add to the rear end view.

Wheel diameters of 18-inch (standard car) and 19-inch (Performance Package) are offered. The Hyundai N will feature a Performance Blue exterior colour inspired by Hyundai Motorsport division. Can’t say the colour excites us, but we will reserve judgment till we see it in the metal.

“The Hyundai i30 N has been developed for no other purpose than to deliver maximum driving fun to our customers in an accessible high-performance package,” says Albert Biermann, executive vice president of Hyundai’s High Performance Vehicle Division. “That’s why we measure high-performance in bpm (heart beats per minute) instead of only rpm.”

Hyundai i30 N is scheduled for launch in Australia in quarter four 2017. Full specs and details of pricing will be revealed closer to that time. Stay tuned.

Hyundai i30 N is a hot-hatch not a full on high-performance beast. In terms of Subaru nomenclature, for example, it is a WRX, not an STi. Which brings up the question, how far into the development stage is the ultra hot Hyundai N?

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