Rally hero Hayden Paddon is set to become the driving force for Hyundai New Zealand’s impending performance car push.
WORLD rally star Hayden Paddon will not only become the local face of Hyundai’s performance car division but is likely to help develop future N programme product.
This suggested today by Hyundai New Zealand boss Andy Sinclair, who has also given the nod to thought that the local N-car plan could very likely broaden well beyond its first representative, a seriously heated version of the five-door i30 hatch which has just arrived here in mainstream form.
Up to three more N-labelled products - believed to comprise a three-door i30 and versions of the reborn Veloster coupe and Elantra sedan - are coming onto the boil with the next expected to release in a year from now.
Sinclair suggests all future N cars will be given consideration for local introduction, assuming they will be available in formats that suit our market.
“They’ve (Hyundai headquarters) have said it will definitely expand. We will be looking at all those models as they become available to us.
“Bear in mind that sometimes not every model they produce is available to New Zealand.”
However, with NZ standing as one of the first export countries for the N cars, Hyundai NZ is keen to have them.
Sinclair has also confirmed that the i30 N five-door, which recently showed without camouflage when it contested an endurance race in Germany (as pictured today), that is set to be a fourth quarter arrival is going to come out with an automated dual-clutch gearbox, as an alternate to the six-speed manual that is the only initial transmission option.
Even though he expects the i30 N to achieve perhaps just five percent of total i30 volume, logically the DCT option will see the car become much more of a threat to the Volkswagen Golf GTi is designed to go up against, given that virtually all sports Golfs sold here are in automated manual format.
The i30 N DCT, reportedly an eight-speed, is at least six months behind the the pure manual – meaning, perhaps, it would not be here any earlier than April, 2018.
Sinclair doesn’t think that fans will hold off until the DCT comes. “I think there will be the early adopters who will be happy to drive manual. Perhaps DCT at a later stage will have a greater uptake.”
The i30 N utilises a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that Hyundai headquarters has confirmed will be available with two states of tune – a base 184kW version and a headline-stealing 202kW flagship.
The latter seems most likely for NZ, but Sinclair is giving little away – he says local specification, and pricing, is still being sorted through.
He says South Cantabrian Paddon, who scored his first podium finish of the current WRC season with a solid second at the weekend’s Rally Poland, will definitely be part of the local N story, perhaps becoming as synonymous with that product as Hawkes’ Bay-born Bathurst legend Greg Murphy is with Holden.
“When Hyundai has its first performance car coming to New Zealand it would be silly not to use someone who has a great motorsport ability, who is well known and is important to the brand.
“We will endeavour to have Hayden involved as much as possible with the new N, though obviously that is going to be dependent on his commitments and the amount of time he can spend in New Zealand.”
Despite uneven progress this season, Paddon’s future with the works team is not under threat, Sinclair suggested, as he has a contract going through to 2020, with substantial NZ funding attached.
“Hayden has a three-year contract. He is one year through that contract.”
Paddon’s status here meant it was inevitable that he would become associated with the N programme locally regardless, Sinclair says.
“I think that they would just happen organically because people would link the the two … Hayden enjoys the fact that we (Hyundai NZ) are a Kiwi brand and that we represent everything he holds dear as a Kiwi.”
And what of the rally team’s future involvement with the special road cars? The stars could well align.
The N car programme operates largely from Germany, with dynamic testing being the remit of a team based at the world’s most famous sign-off test track, the Nurburgring circuit. The Hyundai WRC team also operates out of Germany and Paddon lives relatively near to the track.
So, has he been involved with the i30 N programme? Sinclair thinks not, but he also believes the WRC works squad’s drivers might be called into helping hone the future N cars.
“I believe going forward the rally programme is becoming more aligned with it (N) … you would think that would mean he may have some input at a later stage. But, in the current car, he hasn’t had any input.”
The i20 hatch that Paddon races is also expected to become an N car at some stage but it is thought Hyundai’s hope to engender American market interest in the cars has made the Elantra more of a priority. That’s because it shares a platform with the i30, which is not going Stateside.
The head of the N Sport programme, Albert Biermann, has denied that the forthcoming Genesis G70 sedan - Hyundai’s version of the twin-turbo V6 Kia Stinger – has undergone any form of N transformation.
Biermann has been with Hyundai for two years after a career at BMW’s high-performance M division.
In addition to producing specific N cars, Hyundai is also set to apply the moniker to styling kits and accessories.