Remember that kid in school who always gave 110 per cent to try and fit in with the cool clique? A river of awkwardly timed jokes would often cascade from their mouth during break, with the punchlines always said just that little bit louder to ensure that everyone in the vicinity could hear them. While their efforts always seemed to be a futile struggle, you couldn’t help but feel a little sympathetic to their cause. No car manufacturer embodies this thought better than Hyundai in 2015.
Of course, it can’t be underestimated how hard Hyundai have worked to get to where they currently are. Founded in 1967, their chase for legitimacy and sales in Western markets took the best part of four decades, with the brand relentlessly fighting off stigmas and stereotypes to become the fourth-largest manufacturer of vehicles in the world.
The cars themselves are pretty good. I rented one once, and it was great. It was quick enough, refined, and had plenty of space. Just don’t ask me to recount what it actually was.
Having since become one of the biggest brands on the planet, Hyundai are now doing everything to grab a footing in the lucrative youth market to crack this rubix cube called ‘coolness’. And really, they’re trying pretty gosh darn hard. The Hyundai Tiburon and its spiritual replacement, the Veloster, got things going, but neither channelled the same level of success and fandom as their Japanese equivalents from Toyota or Honda.
But Hyundai’s not done. They’ve just taken the covers off their new ‘N Division’ um… division at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. It’s the name of the company’s new sub-brand that will showcase their future performance-orientated products, with the hot hatch market the most likely opening target.
To whet our collective appetites Hyundai have used the Frankfurt show to unveil two new cars. The first is the latest, rather gorgeous, iteration of their i20 World Rally Championship (WRC) car, which will most likely have Kiwi Hayden Paddon’s name whacked on its window when it makes its competitive debut in 2016. As opposed to most current WRC machines, this i20 will utilize its five-door road-car equivalent. The manufacturer claims that it features a more efficient power train, better weight distribution than its predecessor, and superior aerodynamics — despite being drizzled in newfangled N Division badges.
The other car on their Frankfurt stand was the N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo concept. Looking a little like an LMP1 racer that lost its balance and fell into an entire industrial vat of steroids, the 2025 concept features four in-wheel motors capable of 872hp, all powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system. At the moment, all the 2025 is is a show concept, and an assortment of pretty pixels in the next edition of the Gran Turismo video game, but there’s some wonderful intentions being shown here. Check out its official release video below:
If you thought that the N Division moniker sounded suspiciously like a slight Freudian slip of BMW’s bombastic range of M Division of cars, then you’d be partially correct. One of the engineers behind the project is Albert Biermann, formerly the vice president of the BMW M Division. The ‘N’ is intended to be a reference to the name of Hyundai’s Namyang research and development centre in South Korea, though the comparisons between Hyundai’s ‘N’ and BMW’s ‘M’ will no doubt continue. The company talked a big game at Frankfurt, making sure to note that technology from Hyundai’s WRC i20 will find its way to road-going N Division platforms. “Hyundai N cars will feature new power trains and lightweight materials derived from Hyundai Motors’ World Rally Championship (WRC) participation, as well as performance-focused handling and aerodynamics,” Hyundai said.
What the hiring of Biermann also illustrates is how serious Hyundai must be at making the N Division programme work, both commercially and practically. Combine that with the technical expertise from their WRC campaign, and N Division’s potential is enormous. If I were from Ford, Renault, or any of the other noted hot hatch producing brands, I’d be watching with interest.
The i20 WRC wears a massive N Division logo on the tip of its nose, a logo so large that it leaps off the grill and onto the bodywork. While a lot of this badge pride could be seen as promotional, there’s a genuine possibility of the pride morphing into the real as time ticks away and the first N Division car rolls off the assembly line.
Hyundai aren’t cool. But is that about to change?