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Hyundai i30 turbo in the grey zone

Hottest for now: The 129kW i30 SR will headline the hatch range for now.

Expect a wait before Hyundai’s reputed ‘R-Spec’ i30 turbo appears

21 Aug 2013

HYUNDAI may be developing a turbocharged i30 ‘R-Spec’ to rival the Golf GTI hot hatch, but any road version is a long way off, says the company’s Australian arm.

The Korean brand this week launched its new locally-developed i30 SR warm hatch, powered by a 129kW 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine pinched from the i40. This naturally led to speculation that the company would look to add a more potent turbo version down the track.

While some Australian media rushed to report a turbocharged model was already in the works, Hyundai said there were “no plans in place” for the car's development.

At this week’s launch, Hyundai Australia director of marketing Oliver Mann spoke of brands with ‘three levels’ of performance in their respective hatch ranges. The company calls the SR a ‘level-two’ car, warmer than the average but not powerful enough to compare to the Mazda3 MPS and Golf GTI/R.

“The small hatch market today is defined by manufacturers who offer three different performance levels,” he said. “Level-one entry cars typically offering between 90kW and 115kW, level two models with enhanced performance and dynamics, and level 3 variants with up to 200kW.

“Why has Hyundai decided to offer a level two? They offer significant incremental volume. They also add lustre to brand, act as a halo the range and extending product lifecycle, extending consumer interest and dealer excitement,” he said.

Logically, the next step would be a level-three car. Hyundai Group makes at least two appropriate blown engines, and certainly has the ambition. It’s also poised to open a $7 million test facility at the Nurburgring.

The company currently offers a 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo engine in the Veloster SR turbo. This engine will also power the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT hatch and the Cerato Koup, both due here by early 2014.

Put two and two together, and this engine would seem a natural fit for the i30.

The problem, the company tells us, is its Korean and European factories can scarcely produce enough 1.6 turbos to keep up with existing demand, let alone expand into other models.

Hyundai also makes a 202kW/373Nm 2.0-litre turbo engine for use in its Genesis coupe, the next-generation of which has been confirmed for Australian launch as early as 2014. Shoehorning this engine beneath the bonnet would put the humble Hyundai into Golf R territory.

However, here’s the bad news. The company’s local product planners and staff from its Australian tuning arm – responsible for the new i30 SR’s local-specific tune – say they know of no such car being developed deep within the bowels of Hyundai HQ, though they will say such a variant would be the natural next step for the brand.

In addition, HMCA’s second senior-most executive, chief operating officer John Elsworth, said he also knew of no such car – yet.

“As far as I’m aware there’s no plans in place to look at a turbo version of the i30,” he told us, stating that Veloster SR was, and would remain, its flagship.

It appears that the Veloster, i30 SR and the now-confirmed Accent SR warm hatch will fly the Hyundai performance flag for the foreseeable.

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