We can understand the Civic Type R, but why is Hyundai benchmarking mid-engined sports cars?
Hyundai has been spied benchmarking a mid-engine Alpine A110S sports car at the Nurburgring, fuelling speculation as to whether the South Korean brand is planning a proper sports car. YouTuber and Nurburgring driving instructor Misha Charoudin spotted the A110S in the parking lot during an industry pool day - days when the track is reserved for manufacturers to test and develop cars on the Green Hell - noting that the number plates, starting with GG HY, are the ones used by Hyundai. Previously, Hyundai has used similar plates on cars like the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen T-Roc R. These make sense, as they're natural rivals for Hyundai to benchmark in the development of the i30 N, Veloster N, and Kona N performance models. But Hyundai has no two-seater sports car in its product lineup, so why is it testing the A110S?
There are a few possible reasons for this. On the one hand, Hyundai may have identified traits in the A110S that it feels should be inherent in all N models. Given the N brand's direction was previously dictated by Dr. Albert Biermann of BMW M fame, it's entirely plausible that N wants to always aspire to something like the A110 for driving feel, even in cars like a hot hatch of performance crossover.
The Ioniq 5 N performance EV is currently in development, and with a flat skateboard chassis to balance the weight evenly from front to rear, Hyundai may be looking to the A110 as inspiration on how to make the chassis handle in as balanced a manner as a mid-engine sports car.
Another alternative is that Hyundai wants to build a sports car and is performing its due diligence before development gets underway. We wouldn't rule this out entirely, as Hyundai has routinely flirted with the concept of a sports car and even a supercar. The N Vision 74 hydrogen sports car concept set the tone most recently, with company executives saying there are forces within the organization that are very keen on pursuing a halo product for series production.
This wasn't the first time Hyundai mentioned plans for a supercar, as back in 2017, the idea was tabled before ultimately being ruled out due to prohibitive costs and an estimated sales price of $150k. Subsequently, Hyundai leveraged its shares in Rimac for plans to build two sports cars - one electric and one a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered model. But after Porsche bought a controlling stake and founded Bugatti-Rimac, Hyundai and Rimac abandoned this plan. That was in May last year, prior to the debut of the N Vision 74 and RN22e concepts, the latter being an all-electric performance car based on the Ioniq 6.
We know an N variant of the Ioniq 6 is likely, and could benefit from mid-engine-like handling if it's to dominate the electric performance segment.
The last option, and in our eyes the least likely, is that Hyundai is indeed pursuing a mid-engined sports car. The brand previously gauged interest in such a project in 2014 when the Hyundai PassoCorto concept stole the limelight at the Geneva Motor Show. But it never progressed beyond a design concept. Mid-engined Hyundai concepts have come along since in the RM show cars, but these were rapid technological testbeds more than statements of intent.
Hyundai N has said it remains committed to combustion engines for its performance cars, so a gas-burning sports car could, in theory, be a possibility. However, developing a bespoke platform for a product that would only have a limited shelf life (cars like the Toyota GR86 have already been discontinued in areas of Europe due to tough emissions legislation), this option remains unlikely.
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