HYUNDAI is building up the hype around its highly anticipated i30 N hot hatch. It’s latest trick, a video of the brand’s first proper performance car being tested on a frozen lake, gives fans another brief look at – and listen to – the fiesty five-door that promises to be the fastest Hyundai yet.
The hatch’s throaty, barking exhaust note adds a distinctively sporty soundtrack to the video, which shows Belgian rally driver Thierry Neuville spinning and sliding the i30N all in the name of ‘testing’.
What do we know about the i30 N so far? It’s Hyundai’s challenger to established hot hatch royalty such as the Golf GTI and the Ford Focus ST, and newcomers including the Peugeot 308, and is designed to give Hyundai more credibility among driving enthusiasts.
Two versions of the car are expected – the ‘regular’ i30 N, and a second, more track-focussed variant – with power coming from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in two states of tune, expected to be 184kW and 202kW respectively.
Though we see Neuville driving a six-speed manual (with rev-matching) in the video, an eight-speed dual-clutch auto is tipped as a model update in 2019. Both transmissions will drive the front wheels only, and a corner-carving limited-slip differential will be standard.
“Even though it is still in development, it already feels quite near to a racing car,” says Neuville. “It gives the normal driver a good sensation. It’s very easy to handle”.
The i30 N looks at ease playing on the ice, pitching sideways and sending waves of soft, white snow into the air. Close-up glimpses show larger, N-branded brakes tucked behind 19-inch wheels, twin exhaust pipes, and hint at more aggressive styling hidden beneath the camouflage including prominent front air intakes and a more serious rear spoiler.
“The main target was to deliver driving fun. That’s what the ‘N’ stands for, symbolising a chicane,” says Alexander Eichler, the man responsible for Hyundai’s high-performance vehicle test program.
Hyundai poached former BMW M division top man Albert Biermann to head up its N Performance sub-brand. It is understood Biermann has been closely controlling i30 N development personally, though Hyundai’s tuning experts in Australia will offer technical feedback to the car’s final setup before it reaches production.
What we don’t see much of in the video is the interior, but it would be fair to expect sports front seats and steering wheel, premium materials, and a high level of standard equipment.
Testing of the i30 N hasn’t just been in the snow. At least one example has been spotted here in Australia, where the i30 is hugely important to Hyundai.
The i30 is the second best-selling passenger car Down Under, and Aussie sales make up more than a quarter of all i30s sold worldwide. This new N model could push that number up even more when it arrives around the end of this year.