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New Hyundai N car to bring electric hot hatch thrills at a cheaper price

Hyundai’s are planning to build a follow-up to Ioniq 5 N, and our exclusive image previews how it could look

Hyundai baby N car

A new Hyundai ‘N’ hot hatchback could be just around the corner, following in the footsteps of the brilliant new Ioniq 5 N, Auto Express can reveal.

Executive technical advisor for Hyundai Motor Group (HMG), Albert Biermann, says the company will launch a follow-up to the 5 N, but there are challenges to overcome before the project is deemed viable. Details remain scarce at this time, but our exclusive image previews how the car might look.

“That small N-car EV – that is something we have to do,” Biermann told us. “Otherwise, we leave our customers in the dark. We have to come down with something smaller and more affordable.”

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But Biermann, who retired as Head of R&D almost two years ago to take up an advisory role within the Group, is aware what a tough task the team has ahead of them – thanks largely to the positive reviews that its range of combustion-engined hot hatchbacks have earned. “It is not an easy game,” he told us. “We put the reference point really high.”

To maintain the standards set by the likes of the i20 N, i30 N, Kona N and now the Ioniq 5 N, there are certain aspects of the development process that Hyundai’s engineers will not compromise on. Biermann told us the maker’s uprated 800-volt architecture is essential for any future N product, for example.

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“If it’s an N car, you want to go on the track – even for 15 or 20 minutes. If you go 400-volt (electrics), you double the current, four times the heat dissipation. The efficiency is bad. If you think of an i30-kind of car, 400-volt is not appropriate,” he said.

Battery capacity is another cause for concern. The smaller batteries that are often fitted to cheaper models wouldn’t provide suitable range to allow for lengthy track sessions – nor would they have the necessary cooling to provide peak performance for extended periods of time, for example on a track day.

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Yet Biermann is conscious that at this moment in time, it’s difficult to justify such a complex set-up on a small car: “Maybe in the B-segment you cannot afford to switch only the N car to an 800-volt system,” he said, suggesting that if the N department was to use this tech, other Hyundai and Kia small cars would need to adopt it first.

Further to this, Biermann told us that the Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 are the smallest cars designed to sit on the existing Global Modular Platform (GMP). This would hint at any future baby N using the maker’s forthcoming Integrated Modular Architecture (IMA) instead, which will cater for both 400 and 800-volt models in a variety of segments.

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As mentioned, it’s not entirely clear at this point what form the smaller N-car would take, nor what it might be called. “We have to come up with something in the B or C [segment],” Biermann told us. “There have been many discussions. At this point nothing is decided.

“I keep applying the pressure. What is the solution; how much money can we spend? If we go to B-segment, how can we find acceptable track time?”

Given the Ioniq 5 sits at the upper end of the compact hatchback segment, it’s likely the new entry-level N car would try to cover off two classes, possibly three – acting as a replacement not only for the i20 N and i30 N, but also the family-friendly Kona N crossover. It’s thought the new model will retain a hatchback shape for better outright performance, but perhaps with a sleeker, more dynamic look than the blocky Ioniq 5. However, given the new IMA platform’s flexibility, anything is possible.

Biermann admits there is “a job to do”, and while he wouldn’t reveal any further details at this time, he did say any future small car would bring the sub-brand “closer to where [it was] before”.

Click here for our list of the best hot hatchbacks on sale...

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Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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