By on July 14, 2017

Hyundai i30N Nurburgring 24h - Image: HyundaiIn Hyundai’s mind, consumers now know the brand builds reliable cars. Quality cars. Attractive cars. “But now we have the knowledge to add sportiness to that image,” says Klaus Köster, Hyundai’s European director for high performance vehicle development.

The Hyundai i30 N, essentially a high-performance version of the Hyundai Elantra GT that Americans will soon be able to purchase in less powerful iterations, is instantly becoming the foundation for a Hyundai brand that wants to be taken more seriously for its athleticism.

Just as the i30 N spent much of its development time at Hyundai’s six-year-old technical center beside Germany’s iconic Nürburgring circuit, now every Hyundai will be assessed at the Nürburgring.

The Santa Fe’s ‘Ring time probably won’t be published.

Speaking to Autocar, Hyundai’s Köster revealed some lofty goals. Admittedly, they’re long-term goals.

“It would be very nice if in 10 to 15 years,” Köster says, “we can have people on the street seeing Hyundai as a brand that makes cars which are fun to drive.”

That may be the requirement for the brand to capture more attention in Europe, where Hyundai aspires to be the top-selling non-European brand. Hyundai’s European sales have more than tripled over the last decade. The gap between Hyundai and Toyota is now fewer than 100,000 annual sales.

But even with record all-time volume in 2016, Hyundai’s European growth has slowed, just as Hyundai’s growth has slowed in the United States. After exploding for a 66-percent gain between 2008 and 2012, Hyundai’s European sales grew only 16 percent between 2012 and 2016.Hyundai Veloster Nurburging testing - Image: HyundaiEstablishing Hyundai as an enthusiast brand won’t be an easy task now that Hyundai has solidified a reputation as a value-oriented automaker. It will help, however, if cars such as the i30 N (which won’t be sold in North America) and partner vehicles such as the next-generation Veloster N (which will be sold in North America) are more than just flashy, boy-racer tuner cars with more power.

On this side of the pond, the pleasantly balanced Hyundai Elantra Sport is hopefully an accurate harbinger. The degree to which the i30 N is infinitely more subtle than something like the Honda Civic Type R carries some meaning, as well. Hyundai won’t change its image at all if it attempts to do so overnight with one model.

The N sub-brand, meanwhile, appears destined for many more vehicles, although the link to Hyundai’s Namyang facility will quickly be overlooked as visions of Nürburgring dance in Accent owners’ minds.

[Image: Hyundai]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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21 Comments on “After Hyundai i30 N, Nürburgring Tuning Will Come to All New Hyundai Models...”

  • avatar

    I agree with previous assessments – IMHO, it would be better (for Hyundai) if we got the Elantra GT N – sort of like a Mazdaspeed 3. Just give it a mechanical LSD, etc, and I’d seriously consider one..

    I don’t think the Veloster has enough space for our family of 4..

    • 0 avatar

      The new Veloster will be roomier as it is moving to the larger platform that underpins the i30.

      And if that’s still not suitable, there will be N variants of the Tucson and the i30 fastback (which may make it over here unlike the i30 hatch).

      The i20 is getting the N-treatment as well (won’t be getting that either) and in all likelihood, so will the Kona and maybe the replacement for the Santa Fe Sport.

  • avatar

    I don’t think there is anything automotive which has less impact on me than claimed speeds at Nurburgring. So, someone shaved 3 tenths off the record running a course which has absolutely nothing to do with real life, generating times which are entirely inconsequential to my life on the real road? Go ahead, risk life and limb for those 3 tenths. I take little note and care less. A Hyundai or a Nissan or a Smart Car or a Ferrari or whatever running Nurburgring a tiny bit faster than someone else? Couldn’t mean any less to me than the introduction of a new color for a Subaru.

    • 0 avatar

      I read on a competing blog that this test center is used mostly for advanced durability testing, ride and handling testing, and only 20% for high performance testing.

      They test at Nurburgring because they have a test center there. They have a test center there because that track and area have been a center for testing for many automakers for years. They even hire local drivers, who drive the Nurburgring for a living, to test their cars and provide feedback.

      The professional drivers are there, they hired a European automotive All-Star team, Biermann, Schreyer, Donckerwolke, and they have a powertrain engineering center in Russelheim.

      The expertise is there, so it makes all kinds of sense.

      They’re not there to set Ring records with Sonatas and Tucsons.

      They’re there to make good cars.

  • avatar

    I applaud them wanting to make their cars more fun to drive. If you do that at the ring or whatever, great. But it’s going to take a long time for this to pay off and even when it does why dont you ask Mazda or BMW how being a performance brand is going?

    I want them to succeed with this and I bet everyone on this site does too but the sad truth is they would be better served by putting that money into their next lame a$$ CUV.

    But we all put our money where our mouths are, right? Keep bombing that ring Hyundai.

  • avatar

    So N is supposed to be something like AMG, ///M, and Polestar, a performance variant of existing vehicles.

    With Genesis, Hyundai, and now N-variants of certain Hyundai models, where does this leave Kia? A ‘value’ brand? Because the K900 is a thing (an under-rated if over-priced car, actually) and frankly, I think the Kia line of cars look more premium (in terms of design) than the roughly equivalent Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar

      “Value” is the wrong way of looking at it, since as you noted, overall, Kia’s tend to be more premium inside than the correlating Hyundai models and Hyundai doesn’t have anything comparable to the SX-L trim.

      It’s kinda convoluted – Kia is supposed to be the brand that appeals to younger drivers looking for a sportier drive.

      So in theory, the Sportage is “sportier” than the Tucson, the Optima sportier than the Sonata, etc.

      But Kia (at least for now) isn’t doing a performance line – the sportiest being the GT trim, whereas Hyundai is doing a performance line with the N.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought that KIA was being positioned as the sporty brand and Hyundai as the premium brand (hence the addition of the Genesis models) but since that decision was made, other than the birth of the Genesis sedan, I’ve seen nothing to back that up.

  • avatar

    In the end though, if not CUV/SUV, will it really matter? At least in America, the market is speaking very loudly…and being the 2020 version of 1990 BMW may not make much sense (or sell many vehicles). I’m all for more sporty and fun cars that are within reach of the common man, I’m just not sure how deep that desire runs anymore for the rest of the buying public.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe part of that comes down to differences in lifestyles? I’m 36 now. When I was in high school, my (we’ll say upper-middle-class) friends’ families had 3 vehicles: Dad’s work commuter, mom’s car, and the family vehicle. I remember my friend John’s very well.

      1. Family vehicle – Brand new silver Starcraft Chevy conversion van. It had the high-top, TV, and leather. It was beautiful. I think it was around 3-4 months old when I rode in it the first time.
      2. Dad’s commuter – Late 1980’s Nissan 300ZX. Not terribly fast, but likely a fun car to drive and it looked good in gold.
      3. Mom’s car – She had a Mercury Sable. It was 1-2 years old.

      I had another friend with something similar. Mom’s car was also a Sable 5-6 years old, dad’s was a Chevy S-10 (stick, 2.2L 4 cyl, ext cab), and family car was a beautiful pearl 1989 or 1990 Nissan Maxima (replete with Bose sound system and 4DSC stickers).

      Maybe one of 3 things has happened. Folks are in debt up to their eyeballs and can’t afford that nicety, they are practical and are wanting fewer vehicles to do more jobs, or tastes have changed and driving dynamics are taking a back-seat to practicality/space/size/insert-important-thing-here.

  • avatar

    “In Hyundai’s mind, consumers now know the brand builds reliable cars. Quality cars. Attractive cars.”

    Hahahaaahahhahahaha oh phuck.

    In everyone else’s mind, consumers have known for a long time that the brand builds boring disposable transportation appliances that look/perform in 7-10 years like what a Honda/Toyota/Ford/most GMs will look/perform like in 17-20 years. And that’s IF you spend a pile of money keeping it going (far more than its worth, things like very frequent and very expensive timing belt changes), don’t get all your warranty claims denied and don’t happen to get one with a defective engine/etc being lied about and covered up by the company, because that’s how things are done in business in Korea. And then you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it has depreciated about as quickly as off-brand shoes from Walmart of the same age.

    If testing at the ‘ring brings more durability and reliability to their products, that would be great. But I would concentrate more on that vs. making them “fun”.

    Hyundai/Kia vehicles are not up there with the top players, and pretending they are while not striving to actually be there is not going to work out in the long term.

    Yes, a 2017 Accent is about a billion times better than a 1987 Excel. Nobody has denied that. But its still at the bottom of the pack in most respects.

    • 0 avatar

      “Lol my name is John, my mom had a nearly new Mercury Sable when I was in H/S.”

      That’s funny! John moved to Denver, Colorado, (from central Illinois) a year later and I haven’t seen him since :(

      “And that’s IF you spend a pile of money keeping it going.”

      My experience with Hyundai has been positive and negative.

      Positive – My first brand-new car was a silver 2003 Accent GL (1.6L and auto trans). We paid $12k for it in March 2003. It was the cheapest car on the market that included 4 doors, automatic tranny, A/C, and power windows/locks. Hyundai’s reputation was improving my leaps and bounds and I took a chance on it. My wife and I still have it. It has 90k on it now. It spent the first 50k delivering pizzas as a part-time job (amazing second job for cash).

      At 55k, the transmission started having issues. I know that is low mileage, but I spent 6 years delivering pizzas 7 hours a night at least 3 nights per week. That much work took its toll and I took it to the Hyundai dealer for help as soon as something didn’t feel right. Hyundai’s powertrain warranty saved me. Even with the interior smelling like pizza and the floorboards showing signs of flour, the dealer replaced the transmission free of charge (and without hassle). They were crazy nice about it and gave me a new Sonata as a loaner. It took 2 weeks to get the tranny from Korea and get it installed and they let me have the loaner the entire time.

      The rest of the car is….just fine. The cheapo seats have held up incredibly well for as much abuse as I put it through. Even after all those nights of getting in and out from pizza duty and now driving it as my work commuter, the seats and interior look better than other used cars I’ve had with 30k-40k. Everything still works – A/C, heat, lights, wipers, etc….

      There are cheap points. I broke the flimsy cupholders a long time ago. The headlights have hazed over, so I restored those. It has a tiny bit of rust on a fender that I recently took care of. I do live in central Illinois so it sees salt in the winter. One of the rear door handles broke a few winters ago (door was froze and I yanked on the handle too hard). No super-durable metals in that mechanism.

      The gas mileage isn’t great for the size of car it is. It gets nowhere near the original 26/35 of the window sticker. I average more like 23-24. It does need a new timing belt every 45k miles and plugs every 50k. It just hit 90k, so I’m going to try that timing belt + water pump myself next month. The spark plugs are easy-peasy to change, being right on top.

      Negative – My first nice used car was a 2006 Sonata. We had this for 3 years. Picked it up with 60k and sold it with 85k. It had the fantastic 3.3 (maybe Lambda?) V6 with plenty of power for a sedan (233hp I think). I had to replace the radio because it fizzled out and had to troubleshoot some power window issues. Then there was the engine….

      The achilles’ heel was the lack of an actual valve cover gasket (it was silicone). I found this on a Piston Slap back from 2013:

      “Watch out for the valve cover gasket (passenger side) weeping oil onto the alternator.”

      That weeping oil killed our alternator and, when the battery could no longer power the car, we were stranded on an interstate. We got it towed and fixed, $1,200 later. Less than 8 months later, the same thing happened again, because of the design. Luckily, the shop we had it done at offered a 12 month warranty on their parts/labor and they covered it. We sold the car a week later (telling the new owner why and being honest about it).

      So, I’ve had good and bad experiences. I probably wouldn’t buy something from them in its first year (like the 2006 Sonata was), but I’m plenty happy with my Accent.

      • 0 avatar

        you think delivering pizza 3 days a week should reasonably cause transmission failure?

        • 0 avatar

          “you think delivering pizza 3 days a week should reasonably cause transmission failure?”

          Well, 3-5 nights a week for 6 years, at least 7 hours per night, would take a toll on any vehicle. We’re talking about Hyundai’s cheapest drive train and the fact that they stood behind their warranty.

          • 0 avatar

            During that era, Hondas regularly blew auto transmissions no matter the driving conditions, and if it had happened to a 6 year old Honda with 55K, it would’ve been out of warranty.

          • 0 avatar

            that’s not really answering my question.

          • 0 avatar

            I agree with JimZ, pizza driving shouldn’t wreck an auto transmission.

            But I recognize that car was probably $10K brand new, and Hyundai replaced the transmission.

            There were $30K Hondas doing the same thing, and those left many owners with thousand $$ + repair bills, even after Honda’s “goodwill” offer to pay part of the repair.

            And yet Honda still has a good rep.

    • 0 avatar

      Gee, I wonder how Hyundai and Kia have been finishing at or near the top of Auto Bild’s Quality Report – which is the most comprehensive in the industry, not only taking into account consumer feedback, but the TUV service records and even breaking down vehicles themselves.

      As for the Accent, the “bottom of the pack” would be the Yaris (not the rebadged Mazda variant) and the Versa sedan.

      Going lower than the Accent, in the city-car segment, the i10 and its Kia equivalent (the Picanto) are the only ones to give the VW up! and Skoda Citigo competition.

    • 0 avatar

      What Hyundais use timing belts?

      Interesting you put Ford and GM on the same pedestal as Toyota and Honda.

      Like someone pointed out, Hyundai/Kia does OK in Consumer Reports, JD Power, and probably more importantly, the German TUV report.

  • avatar

    People want Elantras, both versions, not Velo Steers. Don’t they understand that?

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