We sat down with Hyundai's Chief Designer to discuss the N brand's maiden model.
Hyundai has a happy knack for achieving its goals. Some argued launching the N performance sub-brand a year ago in Frankfurt was its most ambitious to date and performance car fans have been waiting patiently for something concrete ever since. The RN30 concept currently on display at the 2016 Paris Motor Show is a tantalizing harbinger of what the brand is capable of, with the radically-styled concept providing a glimpse of the upcoming i30N production in extreme form.
At the car's unveiling Paris, Albert Biermann, the previous boss of BMW M that Hyundai brought in to establish its new N division, revealed that the "RN30 embodies the concept of a strong, high-performance car that brings dynamic, sporty driving. We have drawn on our technological expertise – honed through our motorsport successes – to deliver emotional delight through an engaging blend of performance and control, the goal Hyundai's N strives to achieve in future performance models." Underscoring that sentiment is the RN30's obvious motorsport inspiration, wearing a full aero body kit, and packing a roll cage, bucket seats and racing steering wheel.
None of this will be carried over to the i30N, with the maiden model from Hyundai's performance arm to closer resemble the i30 than the RN30. Thomas Burkle, Chief Designer for Hyundai Europe (another ex-BMW exec the Korean carmaker lured away from Bavaria) told us to think of the i30N as a "sporty derivative of the i30." The new cascading grille on the all-new i30 will be rolled out on the entire range, as well as the new performance models. The butterfly doors won't be carried over, nor will the slammed suspension and widebody dimensions. Lightweight, high performance plastics created by chemical giants BASF can be found throughout the concept.
Names like "Infinergy," "Ultrasim" and "Elastoflex" are all lighter and stronger than carbon fiber, and crucially, can be recycled, making the RN30 the "world's greenest hot hatch." Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbo-four with some 374 horsepower, but this will be toned down considerably in the i30N – expect in the region of 230 to 250 horsepower, something more aligned to the Ford Focus ST - with a choice of a six-speed manual. An 8-speed DCT currently in development will also be offered down the line. An AWD 350-hp mega hot-hatch is something that's also under consideration, but whether it comes to market is dependent on how the N division grows.
Previous reports have suggested Hyundai will test the US market's appetite for a performance-oriented model with a coupe or sedan, but Mr. Burkle confirmed that while Europe will naturally get the i30N first, that with enough demand it will also be launched in the US. Given our appetite for hot hatches, there's every chance we'll be seeing an Elantra GT N on our roads before we see the sedan or coupe.