Hot hatches may come and go, each one a potential reason to celebrate or regret – but the launch of a new dynasty of them, backed by one of the world’s largest car makers, is quite an occasion. And a brand new performance sub-brand is exactly what Hyundai is about to give us.
Slowly but surely, it has been building a presence in the European motorsport scene – and it’s almost ready to launch its first proper performance road car with which to tempt race and rally fans to invest in a bit of the technology and expertise they see each weekend.
This fast and exciting new breed of driver’s car will come with a capital N in the model name. N stands for Nürburgring (where Hyundai’s new performance car team bases its European development projects) and also for Namyang (Hyundai’s vast R&D hub back on its home turf).
It was to the former where we were invited to get Autocar’s very first taste of what a performance Hyundai might be like to drive, in the form of a disguised prototype version of the new i30N hot hatchback, which is due on the market late this year.
Hyundai i30N: New car, new go-faster brand name
Hyundai’s N-brand initiative was established in October 2015, a few months after the arrival of former BMW M Division engineering executive Albert Biermann at the Hyundai-Kia group. The N team now numbers some 120 employees globally, across design, engineering, testing and development departments.
The man in charge at Hyundai’s Nürburgring test centre is Alexander Eichner – an engineer recruited by Biermann in 2016, whose CV includes lengthy stints working with McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche through the connections of his former employer, Bosch.