Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Going to the Nth Degree

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Going to the Nth Degree

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard Blackburn

THIS is no ordinary Hyundai.

For a start, it costs between $300,000 and $350,000.

It's also hand-built, one of only 20 worldwide and off-limits to the general public.

But they're a brave mob at Hyundai and they've allowed a handful of motoring journalists to sample a prototype of this landmark hot hatch, the i30 N, at a tight, tree-lined private circuit north of Sydney.

The panels are disguised, the cabin isn't finished yet but those are minor details, because this car is all about the drive. Its job is to transform Hyundai from pretender to contender with driving enthusiasts.

The stakes are high.

When it arrives here in about six months it will be pitched into battle against revered hot hatches such as Volkswagen's Golf GTI and Subaru's WRX.

Hyundai hasn't decided on the price or whether there will be two i30Ns or just one.

Performance player

For today's exercise there are two variants, one powered by a 185kW turbo four and the other with the wick turned up to about 200kW.

It also has bigger 19-inch wheels, bigger brakes, sticky Pirelli P-Zero tyres and electronics that simulate a limited-slip differential to improve front-end grip and drive out of corners.

Hyundai is likely to opt for the top-spec car only.

The i30 N is the baby of Albert Biermann, the former BMW M Division engineering boss who was poached by Hyundai in April 2015.

It's been a long gestation but Biermann has been a busy man, working for Hyundai and Kia to inject more personality and precision to the driving experience in both ranges.

Biermann says the emphasis with the i30 N is on fun and the ability to tune the car to suit the environment, be it racetrack or highway. "The key element is to have a fun-to-drive car for the not-so-experienced sport drivers," he says.

"The car should be approachable, you should have confidence in the car and you should have an enjoyable experience when you push it to the limit. The car gives you good feedback and is very precise.

"Our whole story at N is about the driving fun and especially focusing on the cornering. …

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