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Hyundai’s ’Ring-racing prototype i30 N

Serious hyper-Hyundai intent confirmed as i30 N mule lines up for Nurburgring 24h

Hyundai logo27 May 2016

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

HYUNDAI has thrown down a serious gauntlet – to itself – by fielding a development mule of a hotted-up i30 hatchback at this year’s Nurburgring 24h race, providing the ultimate test for a car that will serve as the brand’s first N-badged performance model.

Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with more than 190kW of peak power and at least 300Nm of torque, the front-drive i30 N is also expected to feature an electronically controlled mechanical differential and dual-clutch automatic transmission, with a manual option also understood to be under consideration.

The engine’s power output places the i30 N ahead of the Volkswagen Golf GTI (162kW) but behind the 228kW Honda Civic Type R and 200kW Peugeot 308 GTi 270.

As the world’s single largest i30 market and a hot-hatch-hungry one at that, the boosted N variant is a dead-cert for Australian showrooms and could even place this country as the world’s biggest adopter of the i30 N.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia public relations general manager Bill Thomas told GoAuto the stakes are high for the i30 N to be a class-leader, or at least close, because it will set the agenda for the whole N performance sub-brand.

“Whacking it straight into a 24-hour race shows some serious intent to the car is there and it’s got to perform to that level because we can’t afford to come in with a half effort,” he said.

“It’s got to be a fully purposeful car and towards the top of its class straight away otherwise we’re not really making a statement – as the first car of the N performance sub-brand, it mustn’t fail.”

GoAuto understands the third-generation i30 will be revealed later this year – perhaps at the Paris motor show in October – in readiness for production to commence in early 2017. Whether the N variant will be part of the unveiling or shown later – perhaps at Geneva in March – is unclear.

Hyundai announced the i30 N development mule will run at the N24 alongside a production Veloster coupe and an i30 1.6-litre Turbo – a mild performance model that is already on sale in Europe but denied for Australia.

Accompanying the announcement was a video of the N engine being assembled and dyno-tested, with shots of a camouflaged test car accelerating from standstill and negotiating a racetrack. The fast cog-swaps of a dual-clutch transmission can be clearly heard, as can an ignition-cut bark from the rasping exhaust on up-changes.

The car in the videos is the next-generation i30 platform wearing current-generation body panels and in contrast to some of the vehicles captured by spy photographers, only its large, airy alloy wheels, red brake callipers and possible dual exhaust outlets differentiate its design from the tamer showroom models that do a roaring trade in Australia.

However, the car being pitched at the Nurburgring 24h is quite a beast, with wildly flared, squared-off wheelarches hanging from the three-door shell and the omitted grille trim making a front-mount intercooler clearly visible, while the lack of front splitter giving the car’s nose more of a rally-spec than racetrack-ready look. Only the slick tyres on black rims confirm this is a tarmac-tuned machine.

Its bumper, side panels, roof, bonnet and rear spoiler are three different colours, giving the car the look of something bodged together from parts found at the back of Hyundai’s shed. This could be a deliberate attempt by Hyundai’s N division to cement its skunkworks reputation.

Through the windscreen a stripped-out racecar interior is visible, along with the full roll cage and a plastic rear side window housing the metal fuel filler cap.

Hyundai’s head of vehicle test and high performance development Albert Biermann described the Nurburgring 24h as “the ideal test bed for our motorsport-inspired N sub-brand development and a key part of our ‘born at Namyang, honed at Nurburgring’ performance-car ethos”.

“The technological inspiration and experience gained from this extreme testing will accelerate our development of high-performance, fun-to-drive N models.”

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