2023 Hyundai RM20 N

A proper sports car will validate both N and Hyundai.

When it arrives in two or three years, expect the Hyundai to bring mid-engine dynamics to a new level of affordability That’s the hope, at least. As we understand it, the decision makers in South Korea are still weighing whether their car should be a $40,000 Hyundai or a $70,000 Genesis.

In our minds, there’s no question. It’s too soon for Genesis to challenge Corvettes and Porsches, but Hyundai’s N performance subbrand will be hamstrung as long as it’s limited to modifying economy cars, family sedans, and crossovers. A proper sports car will validate both N and Hyundai.

As an indicator of its intent, Hyundai recently stuck journalists behind the wheel of its RM19 (“RM” for “racing midship”), a Veloster modified to carry a transversely mounted inline-four between its rear wheels. Wearing a massive turbocharger, its 2.0 liter engine puffs out 390 horsepower and routes torque through a six-speed sequential manual. This is a proof of concept, not a prototype. The RM19 is laggy and peaky, with hard-hitting shifts and a neutral chassis that will spin if you don’t respect it.

For the engineers, the RM19 is an opportunity to master the challenges that come with moving the engine to the back seat. If Hyundai does get the nod, the production car should be positioned to hang with the Toyota Supra and the next Nissan Z , although it may still resemble a Veloster. The car we’re tentatively calling RM20 N will probably trade a handful of the RM19’s horsepower for improved drivability.

We expect the mule’s feathery weight to carry over, though. Our best guess is a two-seat hatchback using an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with specs in the ballpark of 325 horsepower and 3300 pounds.