Incumbent hot hatch leader Volkswagen, and aggressive new kid on the block Hyundai, appear unwilling to merely let their cars do the talking, after engaging in a thoroughly entertaining sparring session over the imminent i30 N.
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Coinciding fittingly with the Australian Open tennis grand slam, Volkswagen Australia managing director this week used the release of the new entry Golf GTI Original variant to not-so-subtly backhand his rival from Korea. Not for the first time.

“Volkswagen offers not only the most accomplished fast and fun compact cars in the world, it provides the world's widest range. There is now a performance Golf for everyone,” said Michael Bartsch.

"Extraordinary claims are being made for supposed rivals that are not yet on sale. While any skunkworks can turn out a track day special, the expertise and experience required to engineer a GTI or an R - cars that also excel in the real world - is rather more hard won."

Now let’s not pretend this is anything other than a dig at the manual-only, Nurburgring-tuned Hyundai i30 N, a car that’s getting an enormous amount of hype for its performance credentials and purist-friendly approach.

You may recall our chat with Albert Biermann, head of Hyundai’s N performance division and former chief of BMW M, in Detroit this week, in which he said the whole idea behind the brand’s first N model was to produce something more track focused and more fun to drive than the everyday Golf GTI.

“For the [i30] N we clearly wanted it to have closer [suitability] to the track than a Golf GTI,” he said

“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.”

“… It’s {GTI] 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,” he added.

Of course, this kind of media-baiting is all a ploy for attention, but we’ll watch from the sidelines and cover it. Performance cars are about passion, after all. Can’t wait for that comparison, as soon as the i30 N lands in our Australian garages around March/April…