SEOUL, South Korea – At the worldwide debut for the all-new Hyundai Kona compact crossover in South Korea, a group of journalists was given a sneak peek at Hyundai’s new N performance car division. The group, led by Albert Biermann, has been tasked with giving Hyundai a performance image beyond the occasional car like the Genesis coupe or Veloster Turbo. Its first project, the i30 N, is nearly complete. Unfortunately, it’s not coming to the US, though we will be getting our very own N car sometime next year.
Now, Biermann and Hyundai will not say what that car is, but all signs point to the Veloster. Hyundai won’t comment on future products, but we saw at least three distinct versions of the Veloster testing at Namyang during our visit. There was a standard model with center-mounted trapezoidal exhaust tips. There was a turbo-badged model with two round center-mounted exhaust tips. Finally, we saw what is surely the N model. This had a hidden N badge in the grille (in the same place as the i30 Ns that we saw) and exhaust tips that were pushed to the corners of the bumper.
We weren’t allowed to take photos of anything, but the new Veloster has the same basic asymmetric shape as before, as seen in some spy photos. The interior looks to be similar to the i30, with a floating infotainment display and a clean and simple layout. Unfortunately, most of the exterior was still covered in camouflage. Despite the parade of cars, there was nothing on the exterior that we haven’t seen in spy photos.
Other details are scarce, but look for the turbo model to retain the 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four, good for at least 200 horsepower. That should give the N model plenty of breathing room. We believe it will get the same engine as the i30 N, meaning a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four making at least 250 horsepower, possibly more. While we didn’t get a chance to drive the i30 N, the cars made all the right noises when blasting about.
According to Biermann, it was the sound of tuned Hondas and Kias blasting about Hyundai’s R&D facility that really kicked things off with N. Engineers were buying other cars since there wasn’t much on offer. Hyundai wanted to give people cars they could track and tune and be just as fast as the competition.
We have high hopes for both the Veloster N and the N division as a whole. Biermann was formerly the vice president of engineering for BMW’s M division and was in charge of the development of the M3, M4, and M6. He seem genuinely excited about his role at Hyundai and the prospects for the future.
Biermann spoke candidly about electrification for N cars. “It’s a matter of time as to when it happens.” he said. “But, we have no current plans.” Unlike the Germans, Hyundai won’t have an N version of every model, just the ones that make sense. The cars all have to be track capable, so don’t look for a Kona N anytime soon.
“We won’t let you down,” Biermann said. Look for more news sometime this fall.