It’s true that Hyundai NZ has an enviable range of high end vehicles. From compact hatch’s to large SUVs and EVs, their fleet hits the mark in terms of comfort, safety, elegance and variety. However, if you’re looking for Hyundai Performance, you’ve got to add an N. To prove the point, Hyundai NZ took us to the track on their inaugural (press/customer) N Track day to let us test their metal and our mettle too.
N is the performance segment of Hyundai, best described as the similar relationship of M, AMG and Sport to BMW, Mercedes and Audi. The ‘N’ itself has been associated with the high-speed handling track in Namyang (Hyundai’s R&D centre in South Korea) where it was born. The infamous Nurburgring where the N cars were put through their paces and (although this may be a bit of marketing speak) ‘fettled’ for New Zealand.
Anyway, what is known to factual, is that their N range (currently Kona, i30, i20) began their journey in 2012 when the brand established Hyundai Motorsport and re-entered the WRC, taking their ‘performance learnings’ over the subsequent five years and transferring it to their road going vehicles – beginning with the i30 N in 2017.
Having already reviewed the i30 and Kona N’s on the road, the opportunity to let them loose on the Hampton Downs track had us salivating, and to add to the excitement, the new (fresh off the boat) i20 N was there to greet us too.
The i20 N is the latest edition to the N family and it’s both cute and sassy and is affectionately referred to as a ‘Corner Rascal’. Powered by a Smartstream 1.6L turbo engine it offers up 150kW of power and 275Nm of torque PLUS an extra 29 newtons (304Nm) with boost. Top speed is 230km/h and 0-100km/h is achieved in just 6.7 seconds – it’s also the first model to feature VTC (Virtual Turbospeed Control) Tech that maximises the engine output by optimally controlling the turbo. AND IT”S MANUAL.
The Kona N, is no slouch either. powered by a 2L turbocharged Smartstream it offers up 206kW and 392Nm, upped to 213kW in boost. 240km/h top speed and 0-100km/h comes in at 5.5 seconds. It has a ‘better cooled’ wet type N-DCT 8-speed box, an electronic LSD and ECS.
Finally the i30 N series II.Again powered by the 2L turbocharged Smartstream giving off the same numbers as the Kona N, however, its top speed is increased to 250km/h and it comes with an ECS (Electronically Controlled Shock System) as in the Kona N.
As a final note on the Kona N and i20 N, in addition to the track mode screens with individuality settings for suspension, acceleration etc and the likes of g-force display, they are both getting the top five NZ tracks (Hampton, Hylands, Bruce McLaren, Pukekohe and Mike Pero) inputted to the N screen so specific lap times and best practices can be monitored.
Enough talk, bring on the track.
For the event we were split into groups and set different exercises to showcase the N products’ fun features and all under the expert guidance of the Downforce team. First up for me was track driving in the i30N.
Three laps, (fast, faster, fastest) of the Hampton track excluding the home straight in ‘follow the leader fashion’. The i30 N felt well at home from the moment I stepped inside. It’s a mixture of Sport and every day normality but boy does it pack a punch.
The track was dry and warm and from turn two it was a flat out ‘keep up’ drive with cones on each corner offering up best places to brake, turn in and apex – to be honest, the i30 N took each of the six bands with sure footed aplomb. It was also great to be able to put the foot flat to the floor and push the N Grin mode (for extra boost) without having to look for flashing lights behind.
Next up was slalom and emergency brake testing in the Kona N, which I have to say raised an eyebrow for me as I would have assumed that this would be i20 territory. As it turned out, the Kona N was excellent. Despite being a compact SUV, it weaved between the cones well and handled the stamping on the brakes/controlled steering exercise with grit and determination – only one cone didn’t make it back during my three attempts.
The third session had me back on the track but this time behind the wheel of the i20 N. Dry track, plenty of corners and a nippy hatch with a manual gearbox – Grin Mode activated. To come clean about my experience, I may possibly have missed a couple of gears on the three laps but the i20 N came to my rescue and rev matched to ensure only the mildest of red faces. But other than that, the joy this vehicle offers in the corners was cheek hurting and (apparently) it cocks its rear wheel in the dipper. The steering is precise and the feeling of lightness is with you all the way.
It may be down a little on cc’s but there was plenty of power to keep you entertained on the back straight and the gear shifting (albeit rusty in my case) is a huge plus in the ‘must have this car’ column.
Last but not least, WRC driver Hayden Paddon was there to give us a hot lap and really show us how it’s done. I somehow missed this (as I was feeding my face) but by all accounts it was a gut churning experience.
The future of N is yet to be revealed but if the RM20e EV concept car is anything to go by, then whatever is under the bonnet, it’s sure to make us GriNNNN.