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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - Fastback N

Our Opinion

We like
Additional cargo capacity, balanced performance, sweet-shifting transmission, characterful exhaust, hard-working e-LSD, communicative chassis, brilliant steering, strong body control
Room for improvement
Coupe-style design doesn’t look great from all angles, fast roofline reduces rear headroom, basic cabin, firm ride on country roads, quick brake fade on track, missing full active safety

Hyundai adds style and practicality to hot i30 N with new Fastback five-door sedan

Hyundai logo8 Mar 2019

Overview
 
YOU’D be excused for not taking Hyundai seriously when it launched its first hot hatch, the i30 N, in Australia almost 12 months ago.
 
But history shows that the Korean brand had the last laugh, with its N performance division quickly proving its worth.
 
After more than 1100 Australian orders were placed in its first year on the market, how does Hyundai follow up the i30 N?
 
If you’re answer is with a coupe-style five-door sedan called Fastback, then you’re right on the money.
 
Dig a little deeper, though, and it becomes apparent there’s a little more to the i30 Fastback N than meets the eye.
 
So, what better way to see how Hyundai N’s latest creation stacks up than on the road and track? Read on to find out.
 
Drive impressions
 
The i30 N is a good-looking thing in its own right, although some would say its aggressive styling has been diluted by the recently released i30 N-Line that adopts its look but not its performance.
 
For those people, Hyundai has cooked up the i30 Fastback N, and given that the regular i30 Fastback won’t grace our shores, it offers the unique styling that some crave.
 
In fact, the Korean brand says some new-vehicle buyers just don’t like hatches, so the i30 N Fastback fills a hole in its model line-up, albeit at the performance end.
 
So, what separates the hatch from the Fastback? Well, not as much as you’d think. Despite being marketed as ‘not a hatch’, the Fastback is indeed a hatch complete with five doors…
 
That being said, it does have a fastback roofline – befitting its name – and a more rounded rump that looks good in the metal if viewed from the rear-on or the side profile that’s 28mm lower. We’re still undecided about the rear three-quarter angle.
 
However, as Beyonce once sung, pretty hurts and rear headroom has taken a taken a hit, with adults six foot or taller needing to hunch when seated.
 
The second row is otherwise unaffected, with a couple of centimetres of legroom behind our 184cm driving position available, while the bench can comfortably accommodate two adults or three children on longer journeys.
 
The most noticeable change, though, is to cargo capacity, which is up a handy 55L, to 436L, thanks to the 120mm-longer rear overhang that increases overall length to 4455mm.
 
Well, that and the rearward visibility that is now akin to looking through a letterbox, and the extra 12kg over the rear axle, which brings the kerb weight to 1441kg.
 
Inside, the only way to tell the hatch apart from the Fastback is by looking at the accents and seat stitching, which are blue in the former and red in the latter – the same colour they are in the i30 N-Line, but we digress.
 
The i30 is often criticised for its noisy and rather basic cabin, but we don’t mind its honesty. Plus, the soft-touch materials used for the dashboard and door shoulders and inserts are a nice premium touch.
 
As with the i30 N, the i30 Fastback N’s interior can only be separated from that of its regular siblings by its sports seats and steering wheel, gear selector, instrument cluster and floor mats, so a little more visual drama internally wouldn’t go astray.
 
But if you thought that’s all the changes the i30 Fastback N had in store, then you’d be mistaken as its independent suspension has been tweaked and is unique from the i30 N’s set-up, although the MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles remain.
 
Specifically, the bump-stops are 6mm longer and 10 per cent less dense, the spring rates are five per cent softer and the anti-roll bar is 0.8mm narrower up front, while rebound springs have been added.
 
These changes came all in the name of improved comfort, agility and grip, and having now driven the i30 Fastback N on road and track, we can confidently say the difference is noticeable.
 
While the front suspension does feel softer, the overall set-up is still very firm on country roads, with all lumps and bumps felt, even with the revised adaptive dampers set to their most forgiving setting.
 
On the track, though, the i30 Fastback N shines with its sharper turn-in and strong body control, with only a hint of lean experienced as it confidently transfers its weight from side to side during hard cornering, while mid-corner hits are dealt with aplomb.
 
While the electro-mechanical limited-slip differential (e-LSD) works tirelessly alongside the Pirelli P-Zero HN tyres to ensure maximum grip out of corners, it’s the new tail-happy nature of the rear end that really surprises.
 
Oversteer in a front-wheel-drive vehicle is certainly unusual, but it’s definitely welcome, although the occupational hazard that is understeer occasionally spoils the fun.
 
Having tested the i30 Fastback N on a high-speed track, we did find the brakes will fade before you lose grip, with four laps of the 4.95km circuit enough to eliminate pedal feel and require a pitstop for some cooling time.
 
If you’re going to track one with any regularity, it would pay to have a stronger braking package exclusively on hand for circuit work. That being said, we did drive back to the airport with no issues after a day of abuse.
 
The i30 Fastback N’s rack-mounted and motor-driven electric power steering is well-weighted in its standard mode, with perhaps a little too much heft added in its most aggressive setting.
 
Either way, the steering is quick and direct, helped along by a very communicative chassis that ensures the driver is across the front wheels’ movements at all times.
 
What hasn’t changed over the i30 N, though, is the i30 Fastback N’s brilliant 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed manual transmission.
 
With 353Nm of peak torque produced from 1450 to 4700rpm – or 378Nm from 1750 to 4200rpm for up to 18 seconds on overboost – pull is strong down low and through the mid-range, while 202kW of maximum power comes a moment later, at 6000rpm.
 
As a result, the i30 Fastback N can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 6.1 seconds – 0.1s quicker than the i30 N thanks to its seven per cent low drag coefficient.
 
In reality, performance is well-balanced in the sense that you can enjoy it on public roads without fear of losing your license in an instant and also be able to have some genuine fun on a racetrack.
 
The sweet-shifting transmission is key here, with its short throw, tight gate and perfectly weighted clutch making for easy operation, plus the rev-matching function makes you look like an absolute hero … but we feel its second and third gears could be longer and shorter respectively.
 
To cap it all off, the i30 Fastback N’s active exhaust system is obnoxiously good, with regular pops and crackles heard on downshifts and the overrun in its most uncivilised mode. It alone adds so much character to the package.
 
Simply put, with the N driving mode engaged and electronic stability control (ESC) switched to Sport or off, there is no doubt that the i30 Fastback N can be a legitimate track weapon, although it will never reach the dizzying speeds of supercars.
 
Needless to say, Hyundai is confident that the i30 Fastback N will stand up to the rigours of track work, covering non-competition, non-timed use as part of its five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. 
 
As with the i30 N, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist are fitted to the i30 Fastback N, but the former disappointingly lacks pedestrian detection, while blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control are also unavailable.
 
Hyundai says an expanded suite of advanced driver-assist systems, as well as rear air vents and an electric park brake, won’t be offered on either model until the long-awaited eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission enters production late this year.
 
So, how much? The i30 Fastback N is priced from $41,990 plus on-road costs, meaning it attracts a $1500 premium over the i30 N that is now $500 dearer due to Australia’s weakening exchange rates.
 
Either way, this is some serious bang for your buck and makes for a truly unique-in-segment offering, so if you weren’t paying attention before, it’s now time to show Hyundai N some respect. It’s got game, and a lot of it.
Model release date: 1 February 2019

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