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Hyundai i30 N: a hot hatch dark horse?

Published: 15 May 2017

► Performance version of Hyundai i30
► Developed by new ‘N’ tuning division
► Will be joined by further N models 

Hyundai has released a promo video showing the prototype of its new i30 N hot hatch testing in the UK, as it reaches the end of its development programme.

The Hyundai i30 N is the first fruit of the company’s new N division performance arm, and due to launch in summer 2017.

Hyundai’s N division? What’s that?

It’s the section of the company that concentrates on the development of higher-performance road car variants, and it has close links to Hyundai’s motorsport activities. In the performance car alphabet, think of N as being to Hyundai what M is to BMW, or AMG is to Mercedes.

2017 Hyundai i30 N Series spy shots

In something of a coup, Hyundai signed engineer Albert Biermann, previously vice president of engineering at BMW’s M Division, to head up the N division’s road car development from late 2014. While he’s been involved with Hyundai’s World Rally programme initially, his ultimate job is to get stuck into a range of performance cars. This i30-based performance hatch will be the first to reach the market.

Biermann features in Hyundai’s promo video above, commenting that some of the i30 N’s development has taken place on UK roads to ensure that ‘the driving performance is well suited to everyday use.’ The UK market has one of the highest appetites for hot hatches in Europe, after all...

Much of the work carried out in the UK is said to have focused on calibrating the i30 N’s adaptive dampers and selectable driving modes.

Why the letter ‘N’?

It stands for Hyundai’s Namyang R&D centre south of Seoul, where much of the initial development for the Hyundai i20 WRC rally car took place. It’s also a nod towards Hyundai’s dedicated test centre at the Nurburgring.

Two race-modified i30 Ns will enter the Nurburgring 24hr race at the end of May 2017, using the production car’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and six-speed manual gearbox.

Just how fast is the Hyundai i30 N series likely to be?

Considerably quicker and more focused than the Hyundai i30 Turbo warm hatch that’s currently offered. Substantial brakes are visible behind the alloy wheels (with red calipers, naturally). There’ll have to work harder than most i30s' stoppers: the rumour mill currently has the i30 N’s power output pegged at around 240-260bhp – rather more than the i30 Turbo’s 183bhp.

That output will pitch the i30 N directly into battle with the likes of many a mainstream hot hatch, including the Focus STand Golf GTI. Reputedly, the company is aiming to make the hot i30 one of the ‘most fun to drive’ cars in its class.

2017 Hyundai i30 N Series spy shots

Predictably, the i30 N is carrying out a whole host of other changes to give it a fighting chance. It’ll come with an aggressive body kit, retuned steering, upgraded suspension and steering systems, high-performance tyres and a redesigned gear linkage for shorter, swifter shifts. As with the prototype seen here, it’ll also feature a twin-exit exhaust system and bigger wheels. 

Hyundai has also stiffened the engine and gearbox mounts, to improve delivery and response. A six-speed manual gearbox will be fitted as standard. An automatic option may follow, subject to demand.

Why is Hyundai bothering with performance cars anyway?

Hyundai’s keen to change its image from a purveyor of solid, value-oriented but rather ordinary cars and sidestep a little way upmarket. Bringing the expensive Genesis luxury saloon car to the UK is one step; sprinkling a little performance car fairydust over the range is another. Not for nothing is the company funding a World Rally Championship programme, after all.

A surprise hot hatch dark horse? We’re as intrigued as you are to find out.

Click here to read CAR’s review of the regular new-generation Hyundai i30

By James Taylor

CAR's online editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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