Hyundai unveiled its new generation i30 hatchback -- we know it here as the Elantra GT -- and then immediately rendered it unrecognizable as a wild concept that would seem more at home on at the SEMA show in Las Vegas than the 2016 Paris auto show. I mean, how can anyone pay attention to the sensible i30 debut with this ludicrous blue beast upstaging it?
Dubbed the RN30, the concept is a harbinger of the automaker's upcoming 'N' performance line vehicles. However, it takes N's idea of a simple Sport Package or performance variation and blows it away, hitting the stage in full-on racing guise.
Elements of the i30's updated design peek through the concept's aggressive looks, but pretty much every bit of the production car has been tweaked or replaced. The body panels are made of lightweight high-performance plastic, which Hyundai and chemical developer BASF claim are nearly as light as carbon fiber, but more durable. Aggressive lightweighting and a ride height that's been reduced by more than 3 inches contribute to a lower center of gravity which, along with other race-ready suspension and chassis enhancements, contributes to handling improvements.
Wider and lower than the production car, the RN30 is almost unrecognizable as an i30 with its angry front bumper and massive rear diffuser. Even the headlamps and taillights have been swapped for conceptual LED arrays with three-dimensional details.
Inside, the cabin has been transformed into a cockpit befitting a conceptual racecar with a full roll cage, racing bucket seats along with harnesses as well as loads of toggles and buttons that do...um...racecar stuff. The centerpiece is a steering wheel that integrates a central display relaying race position, lap time and a track map.
Look closely and you'll notice a pair of image-stabilizing gimbal cameras attached at the base of each A-pillar in the cabin. Along with a camera attached to the roof, they allow drivers to "create professional-looking racing footage or present their experiences as if on television."
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter engine that makes a stated 375 horsepower thanks to an enlarged turbocharger and forged components. The powerplant's 333 pound-feet of torque works its way through a wet-type dual-clutch transmission before being split to between all four wheels. An electronic limited-slip differential system -- most likely brake-based torque vectoring of some sort -- helps the AWD setup maintain grip when cornering along with some dramatic aerodynamics that the automaker claims generates downforce at speed.
Of course, as a highly polished concept car, Hyundai will never need to make good on any of those claims. But with the RN30, the mid-engined RM16 Veloster and the i20 based World Rally Championship Challenger car, the Korean automaker at least looks like it's taking performance seriously.