The brand is seemingly weighing up whether the SR sub-brand will have a future in Australia when the more hardcore Hyundai N division’s wares become available, despite having just launched the new Elantra SR.
But the new-generation i30 N that is due within the next 15 months in Australia will be a considerably more hardcore offering, and the N brand is also seemingly looking at offering sporty packages and options for lower-grade cars.
It’s not the first time this has been done, obviously, and one need only look at where the Hyundai N division’s leader, Albert Biermann, worked before to get an idea of what he presumably wants to achieve. For the unaware, he was the engineering chief of BMW’s M division.
Hyundai probably won’t go ahead with an excessive N rollout for the majority of its models, but it seems likely that the N division will offer bits and pieces for standard cars, and have its own dedicated range of cars, too, according to Bill Thomas, PR general manager for Hyundai Australia.
“When we were in Paris, Beirmann was on the record as saying that it’s likely we will N parts, or N upgrades. So you could extrapolate that to mean something similar to [BMW’s] M division, and M Sport,” Thomas said.
“The N cars will be a more limited range, but that doesn't necessarily mean there won’t be N Sport parts, or bits for other models. We don’t know whether that’s going to happen or not, but that would probably make sense,” he said.
So, if there are N parts available, what happens to SR?
Oliver Mann, Hyundai Australia general manager of marketing, said that the brand’s efforts in building a warmer range of models under the SR banner wasn’t necessarily a means of buttering up potential N model buyers.
“I think we’ve been gently expanding our footprint into warm versions of our range,” Mann said.
“I think the Elantra SR is the warmest yet. We wouldn’t describe it as a hot hatch or a hot sedan, but certainly when the i30 N comes, that’ll be another step on, and this journey will continue to evolve.
“We’ll have to wait and see – but we shouldn't confuse the two, they stand distinct from each other,” Mann stated.
As for whether the new i30 range will include an SR model, Mann declined to say.
“We haven’t gone as far agreeing on the specifications or the badging of the range at this point. So we’ll have to wait and see on that,” he said.
That could mean that along with the go-fast N models – there will be two of them – there could perhaps be a more regular i30 with a stylised N sport pack, which may include sports body elements and interior trims, just like the SR range currently does…
“Biermann said it’s likely – where it leaves SR? We haven’t decided,” said Thomas. “I can't say that it's going to disappear at this point, it might still live on. We’ve built up a good brand with it, so it’s really hard to say.”
Thomas admitted that some form of ladder up the range from the regular i30 models to the N versions would be helpful.
“Maybe that ladder remains SR – we aren’t under any pressure to drop it, it just might not work if we get access to extra bits from the N division. We don’t know what that’s going to be yet.”
As for potential pricing for the two N versions of the i30 – the entry level model and the higher-spec, racier version – Thomas said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the brand’s strategy.
“But you should look at what the pricing of what you think the potential rivals are,” he said.
“They [the i30 N models] will represent good value for money. There’ll always be a good value for money promise there.
“I mean the main thing is that we build a good platform with the first N car, or the first two: which is the base car, and the track-focused one. We have to make that work first,” he said. “So once the dealers and everyone at the company is confident that it’s working, and it’s working globally, then maybe we’ll take the next steps.”
As for a way of thinking about the two N versions that will be sold, Thomas referred to a potential competitor car – the Volkswagen Golf.
“Both N models will be front-wheel drive. Think Golf GTI and Golf GTI Performance – it looks likely that the more track-focused performance car will have a front diff, possibly the base car won’t. We haven’t had any of this confirmed yet, and it might include some extra cosmetic stuff – possibly racier seats, that sort of thing. We just don’t know at this point.”
An all-wheel-drive version of the i30 N is also being tested, and Thomas suggested that model will likely be like the Golf R in its intent.