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The new contenders set to battle for the $50K performance-hatch crown

RYAN LEWIS

A WAVE of tempting new metal is primed to hit the hot-hatch segment, promising Aussies new levels of track-honed keenness with everyday usability. This quartet of contenders give good reason to spend $50K on a performance car that really can do it all.

Spearheading the charge is the Hyundai i30 N, pictured here in production-ready guise. Hyundai will launch two variants before the year is out. A base i30 N, with outputs of 184kW and 353Nm, will directly target the Golf GTI, and must be priced to undercut or match the VW’s $41,340 point of entry if Hyundai is to successfully break into the segment.

The i30 N Performance Pack version shown here will turn the wick up to 202kW and, we understand, a minimum of 353Nm with more torque available via an overboost function.

An electronically controlled LSD will be standard. Only a six-speed manual will be offered at launch for both N cars, with an eight-speed dual-clutch two years away. Aussie engineers have contributed to the adaptive suspension calibration of both variants, which will range from a supple bumpy-road tune to a firm, track-only setting.

Fighting for dynamic supremacy will mean taking on the next Renault Megane RS, which will be fast-tracked to Oz following its European release.

The RS will boast four-wheel steering, and offer a choice between a dualclutch auto and a six-speed manual with rev-matching function. The superseded Megane RS Trophy R set the segment benchmark for steering and handling, so the new car carries a weight of expectation. The Megane’s outputs and performance figures will become clearer closer to launch, but it is expected to rival the Civic Type R (see p56) for power-to-weight bragging rights. Honda’s fifth-gen Civic Type R holds the FWD Nurburgring record, for now, and will arrive in Oz in October.

Volkswagen has just updated its Golf GTI and R models. Arriving in August, a slight power hike of 7kW sees the front-drive GTI produce 169kW/350Nm and the all-paw R crack 213kW/380Nm. The R is the priciest here, but should continue to set the benchmark for refinement without sacrificing performance.

All four have eyes on class leadership, and our first taste of Hyundai’s offering (Wheels, July) revealed a sophisticated, engaging car. The i30 N’s arrival could turn the hot hatch segment on its head, 40 years since it started.

01 Hyundai i30 N Performance

2.0-litre 4cyl, turbo 202kW @ 6000rpm* 353Nm @ 4000rpm* 6-speed manual 1500kg* 6.0sec* $47,990* Engine Power Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Price New kid in the hot-hatch ’hood comes without credentials but with a weight of expectation. First taste says it packs flavour

02 Honda Civic Type R

2.0-litre 4cyl, turbo 228kW @ 6500rpm 400Nm @ 2500-4500rpm 6-speed manual 1393kg 5.1sec (claimed) $50,990 Engine Power Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Price Highest engine outputs of this quartet, and knows the quick way around the ’Ring.

But does it form a cohesive whole?

03 Renault Megane RS l

2.0-litre 4cyl, turbo 201kW @ 5500rpm* 360Nm @ 3000rpm* 6-speed manual 1400kg* 5.8sec* $46,490* Engine Power Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Price For pure, hard-driving satisfaction, its predecessor was king. Surely the new one can’t miss. Can it?

04 Volkswagen Golf R

2.0-litre 4cyl, turbo 213kW @ 5100-6500rpm 380Nm @ 1800rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1495kg 4.8sec (claimed) $55,240 Engine Power Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Price The only AWD car here is at its quickest and most expensive in DSG guise. A manual R is $52,990, but slower to 100km/h. *Estimated