N-er­getic: Hyundai’s N per­for­mance car

The Napier Mail - - MOTORING - ROB MAETZIG

Born at Namyang – honed at the Nur­bur­gring. That’s the way Hyundai’s High Per­for­mance Ve­hi­cle Divi­sion is de­scrib­ing its first N-car, which will be launched on var­i­ous world mar­kets – in­clud­ing New Zealand – be­fore the end of this year.

Namyang is the Hyundai-Kia group’s sprawl­ing re­search and devel­op­ment cen­tre in South Korea, where at any one time its work­force of 13,000 peo­ple are busy de­vel­op­ing and test­ing up to 7000 ve­hi­cles. And Nur­bur­gring is the famed Ger­man motorsport com­plex where Hyundai does a lot of its high-per­for­mance devel­op­ment work – in fact it claims the de­sign of its stylised ‘‘N’’ logo rep­re­sents one of the chi­canes on the com­plex’ north loop track.

It was on the Nord­schleife in May that Hyundai made the motoring world sit up and no­tice when a pair of pre-pro­duc­tion i30N hatch­backs fin­ished well up the order in the ADAC Zurich 24-hour race. The two cars com­pleted 244 laps, which equalled more than 6000km, with­out any tech­ni­cal prob­lems in a race that rates as maybe the tough­est in the world.

Now, two more pre-pro­duc­tion i30N hatch­backs were at Namyang for a spe­cial pre­view in­tro­duc­tion for the motoring press from the first coun­tries that will get this car. On hand to lead the in­tro­duc­tion was a smil­ing Al­bert Bier­mann, the head of the High Per­for­mance Divi­sion.

‘‘This will be a back-to-ba­sics per­for­mance car,’’ the Ger­man told jour­nal­ists. ‘‘At launch there will be two ver­sions, both pow­ered by our newly-de­vel­oped 2.0-litre tur­bocharged en­gine. One will be a stan­dard i30N, and the other will have a Per­for­mance Pack that will de­liver more power and of­fer fur­ther tech­no­log­i­cal fea­tures that will en­hance its emo­tional ap­peal and race­track ca­pa­bil­ity.’’ No en­gine per­for­mance fig­ures were be­ing given away – Bier­mann said they would be pro­vided at the ac­tual global launch of the ve­hi­cle.

‘‘But suf­fice to say the stan­dard model will of­fer per­for­mance fig­ures that will be a lit­tle bit more than a Golf GTI – and the Per­for­mance Pack ver­sion will of­fer a lit­tle bit more than that!

‘‘The most im­por­tant thing though is that the stan­dard model will be eas­ily good enough to take straight from the show­room to the track. It will have the nec­es­sary en­gine, tyres, brakes and cool­ing. That’s go­ing to be the big strong point about this car. It’s go­ing to be all about sub­stance and af­ford­abil­ity.’’

Bier­mann ad­mit­ted the i30N will be heav­ier than the stan­dard Hyundai i30 hatch that is due to be launched in New Zealand next month. But no at­tempts had been made to lighten the car via the use of any light­weight – and ex­pen­sive – ma­te­ri­als.

‘‘Our mis­sion has been to pro­duce an N car that will be ap­proach­able and af­ford­able for the motoring en­thu­si­ast. We did not in­tend in­ter­fer­ing with that aim by us­ing fancy light­weight stuff.’’

We’ve vis­ited Namyang nu­mer­ous times over the years to view new Hyundai and Kia ve­hi­cles. Such vis­its have al­ways in­volved very strictly con­trolled driv­ing – usu­ally a run down a stretch of tar­mac that looks like an air­port run­way, and maybe a tour round a short cir­cuit.

But for the N event the vis­it­ing jour­nal­ists were al­lowed ac­cess to some­thing dif­fer­ent – a full-blown race­track. I didn’t know it even ex­isted. Set in the base of a small hill, the un­du­lat­ing and chal­leng­ing lit­tle track is called ‘‘Lit­tle Nur­bur­gring’’ by staff, and we were al­lowed three-lap squirts on it in a cam­ou­flaged Per­for­mance Pack i30N to try out its per­for­mance ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

As we said, Beir­mann and his staff are keep­ing their pow­der try on per­for­mance fig­ures. But it is known that the tur­bocharged en­gine, which is based on the en­gine aboard the Sonata turbo, de­vel­ops around 184kW in the stan­dard i30N, and more than 200kW in the Per­for­mance Pack ver­sion. Torque out­put is likely to be around 400Nm.

The stan­dard model will have 18-inch wheels and a stan­dard front dif­fer­en­tial with torque vec­tor­ing, while the Per­for­mance Pack model will come with 19-inch wheels and will have an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled lim­it­ed­slip diff.

So we hit the steer­ing wheel­mounted N but­ton, put the closer­a­tio six-speed man­ual into first gear, and took off on our hot laps around Lit­tle Nur­bur­gring. The im­pres­sion was im­me­di­ate – this is a re­ally good hot hatch. Turn-in is great, han­dling ca­pa­bil­ity is lively, the en­gine per­for­mance is en­thu­si­as­tic, and the car has an ex­haust crackle to die for.

Hyundai New Zealand has con­firmed it is go­ing to take the i30N, and it will ar­rive af­ter the Kiwi launch of the stan­dard i30 range. No prices are yet known, but ob­vi­ously they will sit above the stan­dard mod­els.

Hyundai’s first-ever proper hot-hatch, the i30N, has the Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI in its sights.

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