I’VE GOT plenty of memories of Hyundais – laughing at them, mostly. Excels with cannon exhausts and chrome chequer-plate floor mats.
Pitying cars like the Coupe, Tiburon and, to a lesser extent, the Veloster. ‘What do you call a Hyundai at the top of a hill?’ A mate once smiled. ‘A miracle.’ And I know I’m not alone because the reality is, while Hyundai’s mass market offerings are pretty polished these days, it’s yet to make a truly desirable performance model.
But something very odd has happened lately: I’ve been getting properly excited about a Hyundai. I’m not quite sure how to react to this strange new feeling but I think I like it. It’s got to do with Hyundai’s new N Division, which will apparently be to the Korean brand what RS is to Ford or AMG to Mercedes – the department whose job is to turn shopping trolleys into go karts. And so far they’re asking only one thing: to be taken seriously.
To run the show they’ve certainly hired someone with the runs on the board. Albert Biermann – former BMW M Chief Engineer and responsible for the current M3 and M4 – has declared future N performance Hyundais must withstand track work yet prioritise fun over lap times, and also be “very affordable”. Which should be music to any MOTOR readers’ ears.
N’s first product will be an i30 hot hatch, Biermann hinting there’ll be one for the road and one for the track with a proper mechanical torque vectoring front diff. Beyond that? The 280kW all-wheel drive, twin-clutch RN30 concept hints at a car that could one day make a Mercedes-AMG A45 look very expensive.
Of course, we’ve seen car companies beat their chest about upcoming performance models before, then we drive it only to emerge with slumped shoulders and a glum expression.
Hyundai can say what it likes – the proof will be in the four-wheeled pudding. But the Japanese were once here, too, only to go on and make some of the most exhilarating, memorable machines in the history of performance cars. They had the last laugh, you could say.