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Hyundai N range to expand

N-gaging: Hyundai’s N-gang is set to grow quickly once the i30 N hatch is launched worldwide in July.

Hyundai i30 N set for take-off as Biermann confirms three other models in pipeline

Hyundai logo20 Jun 2017

By TIM ROBSON in SEOUL

HYUNDAI will put the foot down on its high-performance N program, with the much anticipated i30 N set to launch in Europe as early as next month ahead of an Australian debut in the final quarter.

Once the i30 N has hit the market, Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) executive vice-president and head of vehicle test and high-performance development Albert Biermann told journalists last week that three more variants will be launched in a little over a year.

“The next one (will) come next year,” Mr Biermann said at a preview drive of the i30 N at HMC’s proving ground at Namyang. “And even the number three comes out the next year or early the year after.”

With the five-door i30 hatchback the first cab off the N rank, the next is confirmed as the forthcoming three-door fastback version of the i30, while the reborn Veloster is also set to benefit from the N treatment.

Camouflaged but apparently production-ready Velosters were being tested on a track next to the i30 N launch venue, and featured large centrally mounted exhausts, large rims and a reduced ride height.

The identity of the third model is as yet unclear, but the Elantra sedan, other forthcoming versions of the i30 and even the smaller i20 are possibilities.

The US market will not get the i30 hatchback, but the Elantra’s popularity – as well as its shared platform – in that market put it in good stead for conversion.

Likewise, the i30 wagon, which was revealed earlier this year, is also a candidate – although it is unlikely to make it to Australia in any guise.

Mr Biermann denied that the forthcoming Genesis G70 sedan - Hyundai’s version of the twin-turbo V6 Kia Stinger – has undergone any form of N transformation.

“No, the high-performance people are not involved so much in the Genesis,” he said. “The Genesis is not meant to be a sub-label for all sporty cars.”

However, Mr Biermann did confirm an interest in adding a smaller B-segment hatch like the brand’s i20 to the mix, to compete with the likes of Ford, Renault and Toyota.

“Why would we limit ourselves to C-segment?” he asked. “Volkswagen Polo GTI, Ford Fiesta ST, the Clio, even Toyota is doing a hot version. There’s a good market out there.”

Mr Biermann, who has been with Hyundai for two years after a career at BMW’s high-performance M division, said that the N moniker needed to be nurtured, and it was crucial that the entire package of a car comes under scrutiny.

“We are touching almost everything of the car to balance it to an i30 N car,” he said. “There's almost no area where we are not doing something.”

Hyundai stunned the Paris motor show with its potent RN30 concept that was based on the five-door i30, and Mr Biermann confirmed that that 280kW four-cylinder turbocharged engine has seen action outside of the concept car.

“We have already cars with such an engine (RN30) in there, but there's no plan to do it,’ he said. “But we have already tested it. Last year, we tested a car with 380bhp (283kW). But there's no plan right now to do it.”

He explained that the N brand needed to work its way through the ranks and earn its stripes before branching out into the high-performance space.

“We are not as established yet in the marketplace,” he said. “We're just starting and just to go to the limit right away, I don't think is a smart way.

We want to grow from the bottom. I think that is the right way to go.

“And the C-segment is a good starting point. There are many guys out there in C-segment. We want to start on a good level that has substance and performance and that is fun to drive, but not go crazy. It has to be affordable.”

A highlight of the i30 N is the use of off-the-shelf components for systems like its oversized brake set-up, and Mr Biermann said that this philosophy would continue.

“We've tried to save money as much as we can, but the performance is still the key element,” he said. “Whenever possible we try to use our own technology, and on the brake side, we don't have any fancy brake stuff in there because we could find brakes in our own shelf which are good enough. We got it to a point where we were really happy.”

While the N brand is a halo for Hyundai, Mr Biermann confirmed that it was still required to pull its weight, which could potentially see the N moniker applied to styling kits and accessories.

“It is brand-building, of course, but also we have to make money,” he said. “We have the N models, but there's more to come from N than just the N models like I30 N. So we have to widen the scope of N products.

“(The changes) will still be substantial it's a different driving experience but not to the extent of an N model.”

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