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Hyundai goes after Golf GTI with N

Nth degree: Hyundai's vicious RM15 concept may offer a glimpse of the first production N-branded model, but details are light at this stage.

N brand will target performance rivals with multiple 'versions and grades'

Hyundai logo21 Sep 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER in FRANKFURT

HYUNDAI is planning an assault on the accessible performance-car market by offering a wide range of options under its freshly announced N brand sports halo.

Specific line-up details and the announcement of the first N-badged model are still a while away, but the South Korean car-maker has revealed the new sub-brand will offer a variety of models or variants under the one banner.

Speaking at the official announcement of Hyundai N in Frankfurt, chief designer Thomas Burkle told Australian media that the company was not rushing its N range, to ensure the first model makes the right impression.

“There are a lot of projects in the pipeline, but in the next few years and not too far away,” he said. “We want to be sure that the first N model is perfect.

For us this is more important than launching it fast.

“We are still in the thinking process of where we position the N brand in terms of horsepower and performance, but there will be different versions and grades.

“The reputation of N starts from the first one. The N will be very engaging but we want to also close the gap so the N brand is pulling the overall line-up of cars in a more performance attitude.”

The new range will herald a new more high-performance range for Hyundai – a segment the brand has not been able to previously offer, and while exact models are yet to be confirmed, its rivals may reveal a clue.

“I don’t like to talk about competitors but I think one of the benchmark cars is the Golf GTI,” said Mr Burkle. “There is the Ford RS (Focus), which is a cool thing, there’s Renault and Peugeot is also working on these performance cars.

With those key rivals in its sights, a small hatchback is the most likely candidate to break cover first – possibly based on the company's next-generation i30 hatchback.

As part of the official N-brand launch at Frankfurt, Hyundai wheeled out the RM15 – its first N concept that it revealed earlier this year, which is based on the Veloster, but its mid-engined 224kW layout is unlikely to make it into a production i30 N.

Unlike the Genesis luxury sedan, which wears just one Hyundai badge, the company will not be hiding the N-brand's core DNA.

“We don’t want to hide that Hyundai is building this car,” said Mr Burkle. “The N brand is not limited to Genesis or any particular model. The N brand could be a Genesis or any Hyundai.”

Alongside the RM15 prototype, Hyundai debuted a wild 650kW Vision Gran Turismo concept that uses a dual hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain, but the company has doused any excitement about a possible production N supercar, confirming the car will be confined to the virtual world.

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