After years of buildup and honing in the world of rallying, Hyundai has finally kicked off its long-awaited high-performance N division. The new sub-brand charges out of the gates with the blue bolide seen here, the i30 N, an ambitious five-door hatchback that seemingly splits the ground between Honda's new Civic Si and Civic Type R models.
The i30 N features a high-output version of Hyundai's familiar 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder, tuned to deliver up to 276 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque when equipped with an optional performance pack. Those out figures fall between Honda's sporty Civic models, not to mention rivals such as Volkswagen's GTI and Golf R. 0-62 mph is estimated at 6.1 seconds. The less-powerful standard i30 N still delivers 250 hp and the same torque, enough to hit 62 mph in 6.4 seconds.
But this isn't just a case of Hyundai turning up the wick on the turbo and slapping on some red trim pieces, the i30 N gets its own computer-controlled suspension, electronic limited-slip differential, variable-valve exhaust and launch control, among other performance-minded party tricks.
Like many of its rivals, the i30 N is only available with a six-speed manual and it delivers power exclusively to the front wheels. Front-wheel drive isn't always a recipe for driving greatness, but like rivals, the i30 N was extensively tuned on Germany's famed Nürburgring circuit and its development has been overseen by Alfred Biermann, formerly the boss at BMW's M, so it's certainly worth giving this car the benefit of the doubt.
On the street, the i30 N should be easy to spot, with its large 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels and a stance that's lowered 4 to 8 millimeters, depending on options. New aero bits include more aggressive front and rear fasciae and a rear wing that features a unique triangle-shaped third brake light.
Additional telltales include a double-outlet exhaust, blacked-out headlamps and the usual smattering of badges. It's a handsome-looking design that's markedly more restrained than that of its Honda rival, hewing more closely to the VW school of subtle performance than anything else.
Naturally, the i30 N's interior gets an updo, as well, with a fatter steering wheel with drive mode buttons, more heavily bolstered seats, and a model-specific instrument cluster, plus special modes like a g-meter and lap timer. Additional performance frosting includes special pedals, N-branded door sill plates, and so on.
The i30 N will launch first in other markets, but if there's enough demand, it's possible we'll see it in North America, likely branded not as i30, but instead under the Elantra GT umbrella, which is itself getting a new generation this summer. Hyundai is understood to have global ambitions for its new N brand, and this car would be a welcome addition in the US, as Hyundai has seemingly been focused on augmenting its crossover SUV range over the past few years. Practically speaking, that has meant the Korean automaker has been largely ignoring its enthusiast-minded offerings -- it killed off its Genesis Coupe recently, and it just announced that its spunky Veloster is going on hiatus for the 2018 model year.
In the meantime, performance-minded Hyundai fans in North America will have to content themselves with the 201-hp Elantra Sport sedan and GT Sport hatchback.