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Hyundai confirms WRC-inspired hot hatch for Oz

Stephen Ottley

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Wednesday 1st July, 2020 - 8:00am

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Hyundai i20 N during winter testing

Are you ready to live out your fantasy of being World Champion Ott Tanak or Thierry Neuville?

Hyundai Australia has confirmed that it will introduce the basis for its WRC challenger – the i20 N. It will hit local showrooms in 2021 to take on the likes of the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST.

“2021 will see our high-performance N range become more accessible than ever, and we are excited to confirm for the first time, that the all-new i20 N will be coming to Australia next year,” Hyundai Australia product planning manager, Jonathan Lam confirmed.

It’s part of an expansion of Hyundai’s N Performance range in Australia in 2021 with the i20 N set to be joined by the upgraded i30 N (which will introduce an automatic transmission) and the likely arrival of the Kona N SUV.

Hyundai hasn’t given away any official technical details about the i20 N but reports from Europe, where Neuville has been involved in the road car’s testing (see video below), give an indication about what to expect.

Hyundai i20 N during winter testing

The most likely powertrain option is the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in the i30 N Line and Veloster Turbo. It’s able to be paired with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission which would give the i20 N plenty of appeal to casual hot hatch fans and enthusiast drivers alike.

In the i30 N Line and Veloster the engine makes 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque which would be competitive against the 147kW offered up by the Ford and Volkswagen.

Unlike the WRC version of the new i20 that will be all-wheel drive, expect the i20 N road car to be front-wheel drive, possibly equipped with some clever tricks to enhance traction; although a limited slip diff is probably unlikely at this smaller end of the market.

But the i20 N isn’t the only new arrival for Hyundai’s performance department in the near future.

Lam revealed: “Additionally, three more N or N Line models will also be launched throughout the course of 2021.”

Those will include N Line variants of the i30 Sedan and Sonata, but will be headlined by the updated i30 N – due in the first half of the year – with its all-important new automatic gearbox.

“The game changing i30 N will also receive its first facelift next year, which will include the introduction of the eight-speed ‘N-DCT’ – further broadening the appeal and sales potential of our high performance range,” Lam said.

The arrival of the N-DCT – a wet-clutch unit developed primarily with the hot hatch in mind – should greatly expand the appeal of i30 N. While the six-speed manual has been popular with hardcore enthusists, as Volkswagen has demonstarted with its Golf GTI that is overwhelming bought with its automatic ‘box, having a two-pedal option should provide a major sales boost.

Hyundai’s RM19 concept is being used as a rolling laboratory for a hybrid N halo sports car

The N-DCT (which will be available on both the hatch and i30 Fastback N) will include three new driving modes – N Grin Shift, N Power Shift and N Track Sense Shift.

CLICK HERE to read our Hyundai i30 Fastback N review

According to Hyundai N Grin Shift allows the turbocharger to overboost for 20 seconds to provide a burst of performance that the brand obviously hopes puts a grin on the driver’s face.
N Power Shift is able to detect when the driver is accelerating hard (more than 90 per cent) and increases the speed of the shifts automatically for less performance loss at the wheels.
Finally, N Track Sense Shift is able to determine when the car is a track or twisty road and automatically switches the gearbox to a more dynamic shift pattern.

The new transmission won’t be the only upgrade for the 2021 i30 N, with more power and further tweaks to the suspension and steering also on the cards; along with its subtle styling changes.

As for the Kona N, while Hyundai locally maintains an official silence, global N boss Albert Biermann has repeatedly hinted over the past 18 months that the compact SUV is the most likely first high-riding N model. He even made public comments that he had built a prototype without official sign off.

As the Kona shares the same basic underpinnings as the i30 range, expect the Kona N to be packing the same upgraded 2.0-litre turbo as the i30 N.

The expansion of N Performance with hotted up versions of the brand’s existing models is part of a long-term plan to launch a stand-alone halo N-branded sports car. It’s expected to be a mid-engined coupe powered by a hybrid powertrain with an electric motor from Croatian specialists Rimac – which the South Korean brand took a stake in back in 2019.

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