Hyundai sprung a trio of surprises at the 2012 Paris motor show - by launching the i20 WRC rally car, a three-door version of the i30 hatchback and an ix35 fuel-cell car ready for sale in just a few months' time.
Three world debuts for Hyundai at Paris motor show 2012: the i20 WRC rally car
The headline-grabbing launch on the Hyundai stand was this rally-ready i20. The Koreans have form here, with an Accent racer, but it last competed in WRC in 2003; now, a decade later, Hyundai plans to re-enter the new WRC with its own in-house team.
It's not quite like the Hyundai i20 your Aunt Doris drives on her weekly shop to Tesco; this one is bespoilered and be-vented, with more air intakes than a cooking Lamborghini.
Technical details on the i20 WRC remain few and far between, but Hyundai types confirm the i20 WRC will meet the current rules - so expect a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, 4x4, sequential gearbox and massive aerodynamic enhancements over the typical i20 road car.
Mark Hall, marketing director at Hyundai Motor Europe, explained why the fast-expanding company wants to compete on the rally stage: 'The WRC offers the most technologically diverse challenge for an automotive manufacturer. Our participation will demonstrate Hyundai’s engineering excellence and durability, and will also help to enhance our passenger vehicles in future.'
Here's hoping there'll be a roadgoing i20 hot hatch to follow in the footsteps of the impressive Veloster Turbo.
Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: in detail
Also at Paris is the production-ready ix35 hydrogen fuel-cell which is ready for low-volume testing by public and private fleets in early 2013. Production in Korea starts in December 2012 in preparation and Hyundai anticipates up to 1000 cars on the roads by 2015.
It takes a regular ix35 and swaps the regular internal combustion engines for a 100kW hydrogen fuel cell stack and a 24kW lithium-polymer battery. Hyundai claims a range of 365 miles and 0-62mph performance in 12.5sec.
Hyundai has signed test contracts with fleets in Denmark and Sweden; no word yet if we might see the silent, electric Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell on UK streets. Probably not for a while - you'd struggle to fill up down your local BP petrol station. Still, this marks an important milestone for Hyundai's aspirations to become an H2 pioneer.
And the three-door Hyundai i30…
The i30 is Hyundai's European-developed and built C-segment Focus challenger - and the company is now extending the range's appeal with the launch of a three-door version. Although the five-door will remain the best-seller in Europe, the cheaper three-door will allow it to compete in more of the market and bring those keen prices even lower.
It has new front and rear foglamps, a different front grille and a different profile to give it a squatter aesthetic than the i30 five-door. One to file under worthy but sensible brand extension.
The European boss speaks
Allan Rushforth, Hyundai's senior vice president and COO in Europe, said: 'The Paris motor show is one of the major events on the European automotive calendar, so it is fitting that we have chosen this event to premier three major new vehicles from Hyundai. Each demonstrates an important element of the Hyundai brand, and together they reaffirm our commitment to Europe and its citizens – both today and in the future.
'The new-generation i30 three-door is the newest member of our truly European i30 family. With the rally-ready i20, we are prepared to take on the most technologically diverse challenge for an automotive manufacturer, proving our engineering excellence and helping to inspire future passenger car models. Finally, the ix35 Fuel Cell is a clear demonstration of Hyundai’s commitment to a sustainable future, which embraces viable, zero-emission powertrains.'