It’s all too easy to get overexcited about a new car at its launch, only to then be underwhelmed by how it drives later on. But Hyundai’s new i30N hot hatch is different, because it has a tantalising list of ingredients that suggest its maker isn’t just blowing hot air.
The mastermind behind Hyundai’s high-performance project, Albert Biermann, is a former BMW M division engineering boss as well, so when he says the car will be able to handle hard track driving lap after lap, I’m inclined to believe him.
First drive: Hyundai i30N prototype
“There are too many cars out there with tyres and brakes that go [off] too fast [on circuit],” he said, “but we really wanted to make a car that can be consistent.”
Biermann explained that his team used the i30N’s lengthy testing stints at the Nürburgring, which included competing in the recent 24-hour race there, to boost its durability. This trackside development helped to improve the car’s clutch and shift operation, as well as brake cooling.
“There was also a big lesson with the shock absorbers,” he added. “One of our [racing] drivers complained that the car felt softer at the end of the race. So we are analysing to see why there was a drop in hydraulic force and are working right now to improve it.”
The car comes as standard with Hyundai’s electronically controlled damping, which constantly adjusts each damper independently to maximise performance in the sportiest modes, or be more forgiving in softer modes. These modes also adjust the car’s electronic limited slip differential (E-LSD).
“The E-LSD pulls you through the corner and really makes the car playful,” continued Biermann. “We tuned it in the Sport mode and the N mode to reduce the turn radius, rather than just reduce the understeer, so it pulls you through the corner.”
Add this heavily engineered chassis to a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has been tested on the race track with 271bhp, and the i30N’s prospects against the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI look very good indeed.
We will know whether this potential translates into a genuinely engaging package when the car hits the road later this year.
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