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Paris show: Hyundai, Kia hot hatches on the way

Racy Rio: Kia's Rio city car might gain a performance variant that looks likely to follow a hot hatch version of sister company Hyundai's i20.

Hyundai's N performance brand to spawn i20 hot hatch, with Kia Rio to follow

Hyundai logo8 Oct 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON in PARIS

HYUNDAI and its sister company Kia look set to introduce hot versions of their respective i20 and Rio light hatches, with confirmation that the South Korean car-making group is developing a road-going version of the i20 rally car.

Speaking with Australian journalists at the Paris motor show, Hyundai and Kia head of powertrain engineering Jurgen Grimm said the engine technology existed within the Korean stable to produce a more performance-honed light car.

“If you are asking me from a powertrain side, we have everything available so it’s a question of the designers and what they want to do and who is doing which kind of combination,” he said. “From our side, we are developing technology that will be available for all the platforms.”

Discussing powertrain options for a potential Rio hot hatch, Mr Grimm said an uprated version of the group's 1.4-litre Gamma engine was unlikely and instead pointed to the development of a road-going version of Hyundai's World Rally Championship car as a likely indicator.

“On the other brand side (Hyundai), there is the i20 they are doing rally sports,” he said. “There is a big logo called N, and N is from our side the sporty brand.

“They are thinking to set up such a car with a 1.6 (litre) turbo 250 horsepower (184kW), or something like that, as a kind of replica for the WRC car. If you think about it, the Rio will be the sister model of (i20).

“Everything is possible, it's only a question regarding the branding. But from platform wise, if you have it once, it would be, from our side, a logical consequence to roll it out to increase the volume.” This is the first hint of what is to come from Hyundai's N performance sub-brand, that was announced late last year, but other Hyundai models are likely to receive performance upgrades.

An i20 N – the N stands for the company's Namyang research and development centre in South Korea that collaborates on the WRC car – producing 184kW would likely require tweaks to the chassis and suspension to cope with the additional power, as well as larger brakes and tyres.

If this or a Rio hot hatch gets the green light for mass production with the 184kW powertrain, it would easily eclipse the output of rivals such as the 141kW/320Nm facelifted Volkswagen Polo GTI, 135kW/250Nm Alfa Romeo MiTo QV and the 134kW/240Nm Ford Fiesta ST.

It would also easily exceed the 150kW/265Nm output from the 1.6-litre unit under the bonnet of the Kia Pro_cee'd GT, Koup Turbo and Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo.

Kia has no plans to follow Hyundai's lead by introducing a performance sub-brand to rev up its passenger-car line-up.

Mr Grimm said Hyundai did not always get preference over Kia in receiving performance upgrades, but it did introduce its current sporty small-car engine – the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo – in a Hyundai first.

“We have done this various times in the past,” he said. “It means that, for example, with the 1.6-litre turbo, we started with the Veloster from Hyundai in the US.

“When we brought it to Europe, we tuned the 1.6 turbo in the direction of torque at low speed and we cut a little bit of power.

“For the Pro_cee'd GT, we combined everything. We made ... a very short and sporty transmission and made the car very aggressive. So it depends mainly on the purpose, what they would like to highlight.”

Speaking with GoAuto at the Paris motor show, Hyundai Motor Europe vice-president and chief operating officer Allan Rushforth said a warmed-over version of the planned i20 three-door coupe will be available “in time”.

“The warming of the hatch will take a little longer but with our involvement in WRC, there is a great opportunity for us to apply performance to style,” he said.

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