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Future models - Hyundai - RN30 Concept

Paris show: Hyundai hatches wild child

Racy: Hyundai’s RN30 concept might look like a race car, but it conceals some serious production car technology that will make it into production as the Korean company transforms its image.

Hyundai’s smoking 280kW RN30 concept points to a hot hatch future

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Hyundai logo29 Sep 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

HYUNDAI today sprung one of the surprises of the Paris motor show when it wheeled out not the Volkswagen Golf GTI competitor most pundits were expecting but a full-blown all-wheel-drive concept with the potential to rival the cream of hot hatches such as the Mercedes-AMG A45, Audi RS3 and Ford Focus RS.

Packing a claimed 280kW of power and 451Nm of torque from its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, the five-door Hyundai RN30 is based on the all-new third-generation i30 hatch – code-named PD – that is also making its formal debut at the show.

The RN30 is being shown as a motorsport concept, with several fanciful design flourishes such as butterfly-wing doors, a massive rear spoiler trailing over the rear hatch and stripped-out interior, but company insiders are not disguising their optimism that a production version of the car will appear at some point as part of the South Korean car-maker’s new high-performance N-branded range.

That line-up is set to include the aforementioned Golf GTI/Renault Megane RS/Honda Civic Type R rival, the i30N, that will make do with about 192kW of power from its 2.0-litre turbo engine, powering the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or alternative dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Hyundai is yet to show the production version of the i30N, but Hyundai Motors Australia has hinted the car will arrive in Australian showrooms in the second half of 2017, a few months after the mainstream i30 that is scheduled to touch down in the second quarter.

The i30N – to be built in both Europe and South Korea – is also expected to get a Volkswagen-style performance pack version for a little extra oomph and a harder edge, although that is yet to be confirmed.

It is unclear if the N treatment (the N stands for Namyang, site of Hyundai’s R&D centre in Korea) will be extended beyond the five-door i30 hatch to other body styles that will include a new five-door liftback “coupe” and – for Europe at least – a wagon. No three-door hatch will be available this time around.

Right now, all eyes are on the RN30 that could give European performance car-makers such as Mercedes-Benz pause for thought when it arrives, possibly in 2018.

No performance figures have been quoted, but the power and torque numbers quoted in the press release are in the same league as the Mercedes-AMG A45 (280kW/475Nm) and Audi RS3 (270kW/465NM), and above those of the Ford Focus RS (257kW/440Nm).

The Benz hatch blitzes the 0-100km/h dash in 4.2 seconds, while the Audi is one-tenth of a second slower. Ford’s just-released RS with its bigger 2.3-litre engine covers the same territory in 4.7 seconds.

The Hyundai threatens to leave Volkswagen’s current pair of hot hatches, the front-wheel-drive Golf GTI (162kW) and all-wheel-drive Golf R (206kW), in its dust.

The South Korean company’s plunge into the high-performance tuning market is part of its plan to build an aspirational aura to match Japanese and European brands, even though at least one of those companies has voiced skepticism about Hyundai’s chances of making the leap from cheap and cheerful to prestigious.

The plan also includes a Lexus-type luxury breed, Genesis, that will expand to three models by the end of next year. Two of those will be available in Australia.

The RN30 concept sits considerably lower to terra firma than the standard i30, with a chopped roof line 84mm below the standard lid.

The width has also been stretched by 30mm to deliver a wider stance for greater stability.

Design features include Hyundai’s new “cascading grille” above a ground-hugging front splitter and what are described as high-tech headlamps.

The bonnet has a scoop to suck in air, while “floating fenders” that sit over 19-inch wheels channel air down the side of the car.

The big rear diffuser is pierced by two fat white ceramic-coated exhaust pipes that have an electronically controlled bypass system for aural pleasure.

The latter feature is just another hint that this is not a race car under the body, but a road belter under development.

Announcing the RN30 concept in Paris, Hyundai’s head of high performance vehicle development Albert Biermann – former chief of BMW’s M division – hinted that the be-winged hatch was, at least in part, destined for production.

“RN30 embodies the concept of a strong, high-performance car that brings dynamic, sporty driving,” he said. “Soon to evolve into our first N model, the RN30 is inspired by our passion to provide a high-performance car that everybody can enjoy effortlessly.

“We have drawn on our technological expertise – honed through our motorsport successes – to deliver emotional delight through an engaging blend of performance and control, the goal Hyundai’s N strives to achieve in future performance models.”

The RN30 is a combined effort between Hyundai’s European and Korean design and engineering centres, with big input from the company’s motorsport arm and the Nurburging test centre in Germany.

While the production i30N and flagship RN30 – or whatever it will be called when it goes into production – share a 2.0-litre turbo engine, the full-bore version gets a bigger turbo, along with a forged engine block to withstand the higher forces.

The engine is hooked up to a wet-type dual-clutch automatic transmission, driving all four wheels via electronically controlled limited-slip differentials that distribute power and torque to the four wheels for maximum traction and handling.

In what might turn out to be one of the most interesting aspects of the RN30, many of the panels are made of a new plastic developed in conjunction with global chemical company BASF.

This is said to be lighter than the carbon-fibre reinforced plastic used on many exotic high-performance cars, not only aiding performance but also lowering the centre of gravity.

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