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Frankfurt show: WRC to spawn hot Hyundai road cars

Hot start: Hyundai's i20-based WRC entrant may pave the way for a sizzling road-going version.

Hyundai’s push into competitive rallying could fast-track sportier road cars too

10 Sep 2013


HYUNDAI Motor Company will look to use expertise it gains from its entry into the World Rally Championship next year to develop a range of overtly sporty road-going models.

The Korean brand has been testing its German-developed i20-based WRC for months – it is now into its fourth iteration – ahead of a competitive debut at next year’s Monte Carlo rally. The company now has a team of 130 specialists on the job.

And according to HMC senior vice-president and Hyundai Motor Europe COO Alan Rushforth, the brand would be remiss not to use this knowledge and development to branch out into limited-edition hardcore cars for the public as well, likely beginning with the new-generation i20 due late next year.

Mr Rushforth told GoAuto the company would look not only at creating warmed-up cars such as the 129kW Australian-market i30 SR launched last month, but rarer and more vicious models as well – a notable departure from previous comments from the South Korean auto giant.

“The reason we chose to enter WRC (over Formula One) was its greater proximity to road-going vehicles, because the body of the car is an i20 and just about recognisable,” he said.

“We may then look at the development of sporty derivatives of our mainstream, as a spin-off from our WRC activity.

“There are three sectors of the market: the mainstream, the GTI-style derivatives which occupy a significant percentage of sales, and then there are the image-driving limited-edition (Mitsubishi) Evo-type editions which are more likely to be what we look at as a result of our WRC.” Asked if this pointed to Hyundai-badged rivals for cars such as the Renault Sport Clio or Volkswagen Golf R, Mr Rushforth said: “Exactly”.

“There will be development of sporty derivatives of our mainstream range with or without our investment in WRC, but what WRC enables us to do is leverage the mix of those sales by developing vehicles that are truly dynamic and sporting,” he said.

Mr Rushforth said all-wheel drive was no prerequisite, emphasising “there are great cars that have rear-drive and front-drive too”. He also hinted at the development of a new engine spun-off from the WRC.

“If you look at the powertrain in the rally car, it starts with a standard four-cylinder engine (and) by the time it’s finished it’s nothing like it – and that’s precisely what the insights from WRC give us. The guys can take technology and amplify it to its limits … in limited volumes,” he said.

Mr Rushforth said he aimed for Hyundai to provide a mature take on the performance market, even though he suggested sister company Kia had the sportier reputation. He likened the difference between the two to Audi and Volkswagen.

“You can argue that VW shouldn’t have the GTI because Audi’s the sporty brand. I would argue that all brands, part of their DNA should have some sporty dimensions,” he said.

“How you express that is slightly different.”

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