Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - N Line
Strong value proposition, good looks, decent turbo-petrol performance, surprising exhaust note, real-world fuel efficiency, grippy Michelin tyres
Room for improvement
Austere cabin, fussy transmission calibration, firm suspension tune, lifeless steering set-up, softer-than-expected handling
Hyundai splits the i30 pack with slightly warmer but ultimately flawed N Line hatch
15 Apr 2019
IT’S safe to say that Hyundai’s first hot hatch, the i30 N, has been a runaway success. Long waiting lists and a string of accolades provide enough evidence, but there are still a few punters that remain critical of the Korean brand for some unknown reason.
But, back in reality, there’s no better way to capitalise on the i30 N’s hype than to introduce a new grade for the non-performance small hatch that brings enough heat to entice those buyers that are on a tighter budget. Enter the eagerly anticipated i30 N Line.
Make no mistake, the i30 N Line certainly looks the part, borrowing the majority of its looks from the tough i30 N, but is its 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine spicy enough for a warm hatch? We gladly accepted the challenge of testing the newcomer to find out.
Price and equipment
While the N Line is priced sharply from $26,490 before on-road costs with a six-speed manual transmission, the automatic variant tested here costs an extra $3000.
Either way, it commands a $500 premium over its SR predecessor. Our test car is finished in Fiery Red mica paintwork, which is a $495 option. As such, the price as tested is $29,985.
Standard equipment includes Hyper Silver 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, dusk-sensing projector headlights with black bezels, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, a sports bodykit (grille, bumpers, side skirts and rear diffuser), auto-folding side mirrors with gloss-black caps, LED repeaters and heating functionality, dual chrome exhaust tips, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a space-saver spare.
Inside, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, Bluetooth connectivity, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, a USB port, an auxiliary input, two 12V power outlets, a 4.2-inch multi-function display, wireless smartphone charging, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, sports steering wheel and gear selector, front sports seats with piping and embossed N logos, alloy sports pedals, black leather-appointed upholstery, N Dark Metal trim, red accents, stitching and seatbelts; and a black headliner feature.
There’s no mistaking the N Line for anything but an i30, but a dig a little deeper and some nice little touches over the now discontinued SR become apparent.
Namely, the sports steering wheel, gear selector, pedals and (supportive) front seats make the N Line feel that little bit more special, while the black headliner feels suitably sporty.
And you better like red, because from the accents to the stitching to the piping, there’s plenty of it here. The N Dark Metal trim does look cool, though.
Looking past the additions, you can’t help but feel that the N Line’s cabin is a little plain. Just like its i30 siblings, slabs of black plastic dominate. Thankfully, though, the dashboard and door shoulders and inserts are of the soft-touch variety, but it’s hard everywhere else.
It’s an unimaginative but functional affair, as demonstrated by the tried-and true 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that floats proudly atop the dashboard with its almost comical graphics that remind us of early versions of Apple’s iOS operating system.
Measuring in at 4345mm long, 1795mm wide and 1453mm tall with a 2650mm wheelbase, the N Line provides a handy 395L of cargo capacity with its 60/40 split-fold rear bench upright, or a cavernous 1301L with it stowed.
In a boon for passengers in the second row, the automatic variant tested here picks up rear air vents – a feature that the manual N Line misses out on. Don’t adjust your watches, it is 2019.
However, rear legroom and headroom are acceptable for adults, with just enough space provided behind our 184cm driving position. In fact, most occupants will struggle to remain comfortable when travelling three abreast.
Engine and transmission
Like its SR predecessor, the N Line is motivated by a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine that produces 150kW of power at 6000rpm and 265Nm of torque from 1500 to 4500rpm.
While throttle response is sharp, the engine delivers its outputs smoothly off the line, with the overall acceleration befitting of a warm hatch that weighs 1344kg.
As the above figures suggest, the mid-range is where the N Line does its best work, with a wide band of maximum torque available where it is needed most, while peak power is but a fleeting moment up top.
What is surprising, though, is that the N Line’s exhaust note is quite pleasing. We can’t remember the SR sounding this good. Of course, you don’t get the N’s crackles and pops, but you do get a bassy thrum to keep you entertained.
Power and torque are exclusively sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-dry-clutch automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) that provides quick and smooth gear changes and is responsive to spontaneous throttle inputs.
Unfortunately, though, this is a unit that loves to hunt for gears, which can ultimately curb any meaningful attempts at acceleration, especially when powering out of corners.
The only way to combat this is by switching from the Normal driving mode to Sport, which is more keenly calibrated, ensuring that gears are held onto for much longer.
Also, don’t get your hopes up just because you can shift into ‘manual’. Sure, you can get even closer to the redline, but the transmission will still automatically upshift no matter what state it is in.
Claimed fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions on the combined cycle test are 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres and 167 grams per kilometre respectively.
During our week with the N Line, we are averaging 7.7L/100km over 315km of mixed driving. This is a great real-world result given how hard it’s been driven.
Ride and handling
The N Line rides on an Australian-tuned suspension set-up that consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles, which have been lowered by 5mm over the regular i30.
If you’re already thinking that the N Line is probably a bit firm on anything but buttery-smooth roads, then you’re right … but it’s actually quite forgiving when compared to its N sibling.
Unsealed roads are definitely felt inside the cabin and more aggressive bumps can feel sharp, but it’s a happy compromise over the N that is laser-focused in its approach.
Given, the sporty nature of the suspension, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the N Line is one of the best-handling small hatches on the market, but it’s not.
Namely, body roll is surprisingly noticeable when attacking corners at speed. You would just expect it to be a bit more tied down and not to feel so soft given how firmly it is set up.
Understeer is also prevalent as the N Line struggles to hold its line when tackling high-speed bends, although the grip provided by its Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres is prodigious, taking care of front-wheel-drive traction issues that usually occur under load.
The i30’s electrically power-assisted steering is, as always, column-mounted and motor-driven but features a unique tune for the N Line.
Unfortunately, initial off-centre feel is almost non-existent, leaving the driver to guess what the front wheels are up to. Matters only get worse when switching from the Normal driving mode to Sport, which shockingly eliminates all feel.
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the i30 range (excluding the flagship N grade) a five-star safety rating in March 2018.
The i30 scored 35.01 out of 37 points – or 94.6 per cent – while whiplash and pedestrian detection were assessed as ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’ respectively.
With the DCT optioned, advanced driver-assist systems in the N Line extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, driver attention alert, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring and hill-start assist.
Other standard safety equipment includes anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist system (BAS), electronic stability control (ESC), traction control system (TCS) and seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain, plus driver’s knee).
As with all Hyundai models, the i30 N Line comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with one year of roadside assistance.
While the initial service is due after the first month or 1500km, regular intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.
Is the N Line better than its SR predecessor? Absolutely. It is more handsome to look at it, better equipped and that little bit keener overall, but it’s not without its flaws. Namely, the fussy transmission calibration, lifeless steering set-up and softer-than-expected handling.
As always, you’ve got to take the good with the bad, and we’d argue that, excluding the N, the N Line is the pick of the i30 range, particularly when it comes to value for money. At the end of the day, it’s most things to most people, and that will almost always be good enough.
Holden Astra RS-V hatch (from $31,740 plus on-road costs)
While not necessarily classified as a warm hatch, the Astra RS-V serves up performance in spades, as well as a comfortable urban ride, but its dashboard plastics seriously disappoint.
Kia Cerato GT hatch (from $32,990 plus on-road costs)
More generously specified than the i30 N Line, and with a price to reflect that positioning, the Cerato GT is its twin under the skin if you exclude its firmer suspension tuned locally.
Renault Megane GT hatch (from $38,990 plus on-road costs)
On the pricey side for a warm hatch, the Megane GT pleases with its energetic engine and sweet steering and handling, but its touchscreen’s ergonomics and limited legroom grind.
Model release date: 1 December 2018
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