The boss of Hyundai's N division says that the upcoming i30 N is better suited to regular track days and is more fun to drive than its direct rival, the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Responding to questions from the Australian media at the Detroit motor show today, head of Hyundai N and former head of BMW’s M division, Albert Biermann, said the whole idea of going out with the brand’s first N model was to produce something more track focused and more fun to drive, rather than the softer approach offered by its German rival.
“It’s a matter of if you launch your first car, what character do you give to your first car, how do you go out there in the marketplace, what do you stand for?” Biermann said.
“For the [i30] N we clearly wanted it to have closer [suitability] to the track than a Golf GTI. I mean there can be GTIs that are suitable for track driving but if you take a standard GTI, it’s not like that, but with the N we clearly want to be more suitable for track driving than GTI and give it more character and most important thing, give it much, more fun to drive.”
This more hardcore approach to the car’s setup will likely see the i30 N garner a reputation as a respectable and trackable hot hatch, putting it up against the likes of the Renault Megane RS and Honda Civic Type R.
As for the Golf GTI’s trackability, Biermann says the standard German hot hatch cannot last a regular track session, a point that Hyundai engineers worked extensively on for the i30 N.
“It’s a great car, but after two laps the fun is over, I mean you know, it’s everything… So the substance is the key, our N car should survive the track driving for some time.”
The 'N' in i30 N stands for both the South Korean brand's Namyang testing facility and headquarters as well as the Nurburgring, which is one of the main facilities used in the fine-tuning of N models.
Hyundai benchmarked all of the hot hatches in the segment, but according to Biermann, the company quickly found its “own philosophy and moved along”.
“It could happen, there have been some thoughts," he said, "Almost 1.5 years ago, [we] already had a handful of first prototypes. Cars [that] had AWD, had first prototype wet-clutch DCT [and] more power, but that was just some concept car," he said.
"[Perhaps a more hardcore version] as a special edition or something, maybe at some point we would need to do that as some kind of lifecycle management or something.”
The Hyundai i30 N goes on sale in March, with pricing and specification to be confirmed closer to the market launch.