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Hyundai hints at hot Kona N

Not on: There is no N-badged Kona in the works but the man who would be responsible for such a model, Albert Biermann, said he ‘would love to’ create one at some point in future.

Hyundai N chief keen on go-fast Kona N SUV, but HMC top brass cool on prospect

Hyundai logo20 Jun 2017

By TIM ROBSON in SEOUL

IT WAS one of the most oft-asked questions at the launch of the all-new Kona small SUV in South Korea last week – when will Hyundai build an N version?For the most part, the answer from the management group of Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) was ‘we won’t’, with vice-chairman and head of research and development Woong-Chul Yang telling journalists that “the 1.6-litre turbo engine is enough for the present”.

Mr Yang also pointed out that the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine in the top-spec Kona – which is rated at 130kW and 265Nm under the bonnet of the Tucson – would be the most powerful car in its segment when it goes on sale next quarter.

However, a glimmer of hope emerged from HMC executive vice-president and head of vehicle test and high-performance development Albert Biermann – the man behind Hyundai’s N program – who said that while there was no immediate plan to add the Kona to the growing roster of N cars, the popularity of SUVs could change that.

“There’s nothing with N going on in the Kona,” he told journalists at a preview drive of the i30 N at Hyundai’s Namyang proving ground. “I would love to, but we have limited resources.

“Of course, the whole market is going to SUV, and it’s going C-segment (mid-size), B-segment (small) and A-segment (light) sooner or later. Yes, I think this is where we should be, also with high emotion cars, and from engineering point of view, yes, yeah, it’d would be tonnes of fun, but right now, we are busy.”

While the 1.6-litre all-wheel-drive version of the Kona is likely to be the most powerful standard car in the range, it possible that the N division would look to the front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre naturally aspirated entry-level car that is destined for Australia as a base.

The work done to the PD i30 N – including the adaptation of a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, an electronic front diff, larger brakes and bespoke suspension – would more easily translate to the front-driver, along with a switch from its torsion beam rear end to a multi-link version from the 1.6.

While HMC refused to confirm a link between the PD chassis and the new SUV platform under the Kona, GoAuto understands that much of the infrastructure – including crucial items like suspension mounting points – are identical between the two.

Mr Biermann reaffirmed that any future N cars would need to be modified across chassis, body, interior and powertrain in order to qualify for the badge.

“For N car you’d need a more powerful engine than the normal range,” he said.

“I think that is the core point of a Hyundai high-performance car. For an N car, we need more power than in the normal line-up cars.

“I mean, on this i30 N it’s not just the engine. We changed the whole front axle with a different philosophy, we changed the rear axle also, so we changed many things on this car.”

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