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Hyundai gets serious with N weapon

Heart transplant: Hyundai’s RM15 concept car might never hit the road, but its 224kW engine might, in the up-coming i30 N hatch performance flagship.

Brace for Hyundai i30 N with a 2.0-litre turbo that will make the Euros look twice

Hyundai logo8 Jul 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

HYUNDAI’S European-based hot shop – dubbed N – has hit the highways and byways of Germany with a wicked i30 prototype with serious intent.

And although the European media is chock full of reports that the first offering from the South Korean manufacturer’s answer to BMW M division and Mercedes-Benz AMG will feature an uprated 1.6-litre turbo engine with up to 180kW of power, GoAuto is betting the production i30 N will surface with an even more heady 2.0-litre turbo fettled with help from World Rally Championship (WRC) engineers.

When we think of such engines, one stands out: the 224kW/400Nm unit that graced the Veloster-based RM15 concept – short for Racing Midship 2015 – shown at the Seoul motor show in April.

While that car featured a fanciful mid-engine layout and a space-frame chassis that will never make it into production, the engine would fit nicely under the snub nose of the hottest i30 that will forge the path for a whole range of performance Hyundais.

According to Hyundai insiders, the company is not entering into this exercise in a half-hearted manner, meaning it plans to take the fight up to the existing hot-hatch pacemakers with its i30 N that has been spotted in mule form at the Nurburgring.

The current clubhouse leaders include the Mercedes A45 AMG (265kW/440Nm), Ford Focus RS (257kW/440Nm) and – in the front-wheel-drive brigade – the Honda Civic Type R (228kW/400Nm).

As we reported 18 months ago, Hyundai announced its N sub-brand – named after the company’s Namyang research and development centre south of Seoul – when it launched the i20 WRC car.

At that time, Hyundai said in a statement that the N brand would bring together the company’s “technology and innovation with the learning from motorsport to provide a new experience for customers”.

Since then, the N skunkworks has been established in league with the WRC development team in Germany, beavering away in secret on future N goodies.

Many pundits thought that with Hyundai entering the i20 in the WRC, a road-going version of the smallest Hyundai might be the first cab off the N rank.

But while the i20 was the best option for the rally assault, due to its optimum footprint, weight and driver preference, the i30 is the most logical starting point for a hot hatch, going head to head with similar C-segment vehicles from almost every European brand, from Volkswagen to Renault to Opel.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia is tight-lipped about developments in Germany, saying only that when such vehicles are available in right-hand drive, it will be right in the queue.

Apart from its engine, the RM15 show car might provide some styling hints for a forthcoming N car, including the blacked-out grille, black-painted 19-inch alloy wheels and mega spoiler.

It is unclear when an i30 N might arrive in showrooms, but considering its European development origins, a Frankfurt motor show unveiling in September could be a logical starting point.

The current most powerful i30 is the 2.0-litre 129kW SR, while the Veloster coupe edges up to 150kW in the 1.6-litre SR Turbo.

Hyundai’s facelifted i30 arrived in Australia in April, a little more than three years into the life of the current generation.

Last month, the five-door hatchback smashed rivals out of the park with a top sales performance, finding a record 5521 new owners to head the monthly sales rankings for the first time.

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