After a gestation period that many were following closely, the first real product to come out of Hyundai’s newly christened high performance N Division has been revealed, and of course that is the new hot version of the i30 hatch.
As Hyundai chooses to mythologise, the division and its name has roots in Namyang, South Korea, but also has close ties to the Nurburgring circuit in Germany, where much of the car and indeed future work and testing will take place. Hyundai says the it has undergone over 10,000km in testing around the Green Hell. It’s also familiar territory to N’s Executive Vice President, Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW M.
“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. With the high-performance N models we will enhance our brand’s appeal with emotional products that cater to the needs of people who love to have a smile on their face when they drive their car on a winding road and listen to the sound of the engine,” he said.
The marque has chosen to keep the exterior flourishes to a light breeze with the i30 N, as much of the new sportier bits are confined to the lower third of the car. The rest, however, should look quite familiar to anyone following Hyundai’s world-beating hatch project.
Their brand-wide signature Cascading Grille now wears a chequered pattern, there’s a more aggressive aero package that includes a splitter, side skirts, a rear diffuser that integrates dual exhausts with variable noise profiles, larger air intakes, more pronounced roof-mounted rear spoiler, and 18-inch wheels (19-inch optional) round out the exterior.
Now, the engine has been the most speculated upon parts of the i30 N puzzle prior to this reveal. We knew it would be a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit like many of its would-be competitors, but not much else. As it turns out, it generates 202kW and 353Nm of torque in its most potent form, placing in somewhere midway between the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, or in rather close contention with the Ford Focus ST and Peugeot 308 GTi. A lower tune state of 184kW is also available, and the respective 0-100km/h sprint times stand at 6.4- and 6.2 seconds.
The engineers have tried that darnedest to have it deliver a linear power curve and one that’s easily modulated by the driver. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission that’s also been worked on to ensure slick and satisfying shift action; even coming with a rev matching function for the less experienced. There’s talk of a dual-clutch automatic being introduced down the road as well.
To maximise in-corner grip, Hyundai has fitted each as standard with an electronic limited slip differential and a set of tyres that have been tuned specifically for the i30 N, either from Michelin or Pirelli. A lot of calibration work has also gone into the adaptive dampers that work actively to counter body roll, no matter which of the 5 driving modes are selected: Eco, Normal, Sport, N, and N Custom.
The N Division wanted to emphasise their cars as being developed for driver enjoyment instead of merely chasing higher numbers and reducing lap times. They actually go as far as to measure driving pleasure and emotional impact by measuring the driver’s heartbeats per minute. While the specifics of how that’s measured remain ambiguous, it’s reassuring to see them verbally express that as a priority.
Inside, the i30 N’s more aggressive touches are also left quite understated. The dashboard fascia itself looks to be left more or less alone, apart from the shorter steering wheel with ’N’ badging and quick access buttons to driving modes, and the light blue stitching spread throughout. The most substantial interior change is the the new leather and Alcantara sports bucket seats, but there’s also a cloth option if that’s more to your tastes.
Hyundai hasn’t breathed a word yet about pricing, even for overseas or their home market. Surely it will undercut the Golf GTI (with Performance Pack) by some margin, hinting at a sub $40k entry price. A global rollout of the hot i30 will start toward the latter stages of 2017.