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Hyundai to launch 'N' performance cars

The high-performance Veloster 'Yellowcake' concept for SEMA showed the performance potential of Hyundai models.

Similar to Mercedes-Benz's AMG and Nissan's Nismo arms, the N department is named for Hyundai's Namyang R&D centre near Seoul, but could also draw on the connection with their newly-opened Nurburgring testing facility in Germany.

The N plan was revealed in tandem with the announcement of Hyundai's World Rally Championship team for next year -- which includes Aussie driver Chris Atkinson -- and the unveiling of N logos on their i20 WRC car.

However there's no indication that the i20 will be the first car -- or even among the cars -- to get the N treatment. The rear-wheel drive Genesis coupe with the 3.3-litre twin turbo engine in development and the Veloster are both logical targets. But there's also potential in the i30, which is the big seller in Europe.

Any N versions launched overseas would be popular if they hit the market here, Hyundai Australia spokesman Bill Thomas says.  "Australia is a big performance car market with coupes and especially hot hatches," he says.

Thomas says there's no word yet on which models will bear the N badge, but says the local brand will be keeping a keen eye on the possibilities for right-hand drive versions. "With both Australia and the UK being keen on performance cars (and also both right-hand drive), we hope we'll see the cars in right-hand drive. We'll have to see what happens."

Performance fans will also be keeping an eye on the N division, with particular focus on determining if it will produce true sports cars or -- as some other brands have -- slightly warmed versions with dress-up cosmetic touches.

This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott