Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - N Performance
Laugh-out-loud exhaust note, punchy turbo-petrol engine, slick manual gearbox, handling prowess, competitive pricing, unrivalled warranty includes track coverage
Room for improvement
Ride only becomes firmer, steering can be too heavy, no rear air vents, annoying interior vibrations and rattles, not much else ...
Hyundai wrestles bragging rights away from Volkswagen with superb i30 N hot hatch
Click to see larger images
2 Jul 2018
HOT hatches have long worn Renault, Honda, Subaru, Peugeot and Volkswagen badges, so what is Hyundai doing knocking down on their doors? Well, it turns out the Koreans want in on the action, and they’re taking no prisoners. Enter the i30 N.
What’s in a name? Depending on who you ask, N means Namyang – the location of Hyundai’s research and development centre in native South Korea – or Nurburgring – the infamous German racing circuit where this new model was honed – but either way, its upbringing is undeniable.
Price and equipment
Priced from $39,990 before on-road costs, the i30 N is positioned as somewhat of a bargain. Unlike some international markets, Australia’s version is only offered in flagship Performance form, which further enhances its bang-for-your-buck credentials.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in bespoke 235/35 Pirelli P-Zero HN tyres, dusk-sensing full-LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED cornering lights, part-LED tail-lights, power-adjustable side mirrors with heating functionality, a space-saver spare wheel and a tough-looking N-exclusive body kit. The braking package features ventilated discs measuring 345mm up front and 314mm at the rear.
Inside, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, satellite navigation with live traffic, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, a 4.2-inch multi-information display, cloth upholstery, a leather-appointed steering wheel and gear shifter, front sports seats, four-way power-adjustable driver-seat lumbar support, alloy sports pedals and dual-zone climate control feature.
Buyers looking for looking for even more kit can option the $3000 Luxury Pack or opt for a panoramic sunroof for an extra $2000. While our test car is finished in no-cost Performance Blue solid paintwork, metallic and mica hues incur a $495 premium.
If you’re familiar with the regular i30, then the i30 N’s cabin won’t come as much of a surprise. All of the regular traits are present, including the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, but dig a little deeper and a few unique details start to reveal themselves.
Namely, on-brand Performance Blue contrast stitching adorns the floor mats, central storage-bin lid, gear shifter, steering wheel and sports seats. Similarly, subtle N Dark Metal trim is applied to the airvent surrounds, doorhandles, steering wheel and climate controls. The black headliner is also a nice touch, as is the alloy sport pedals.
While the sports seats are a little too firmly bolstered, they are very supportive and add to the i30 N’s hot-hatch appeal with their integrated headrests. The steering wheel is a chunky affair that feels lovely in hand, while its large Performance Blue driving-mode buttons make their intentions clear.
Furthermore, a special N Mode is found in the infotainment system, offering a lap timer, G-force metrics and driving-mode settings. This set-up enhances the i30 N’s position as a sporty offering, providing a little bit of geek for the discerning rev-head.
Measuring in at 4335mm long, 1795mm wide and 1447mm tall with a 2650mm wheelbase, the i30 N offers 381 litres of cargo capacity, but it can expand to 1287L when the 60/40 split-fold second row is stowed. However, it should be noted that the chassis brace found in the luggage area partially splits this space into two, although it is easily removable.
Rear legroom and headroom continue to be acceptable for adults, with ample space afforded behind our 184cm driving position. However, most will struggle to remain comfortable when travelling three abreast in the second row.
The lack of rear airvents will inevitably lead to complaints, too, while our test car has annoying vibration and rattling sounds coming from its windshield and parcel shelf respectively. Hopefully they prove to be only true of our example.
Engine and transmission
The i30 N is motivated by 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 202kW of power at 6000rpm and 353Nm of torque between 1450 and 4700rpm, or 378Nm from 1750 to 4200rpm for up to 18 seconds on full-throttle overboost. Drive is exclusively sent to the front wheels via a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox with rev-matching.
As a result, the 1429kg i30 N can dash from standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 6.2 seconds, thanks to its launch control function, while top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h. While the triple-digit figure might not appear awe-inspiring on paper, it feels rapid behind the wheel.
Five N driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom – allow the driver to adjust engine, rev-matching and exhaust settings, among others, while on the move. Understandably, we haven’t spent much time in Eco mode, because it defeats the purpose of owning an i30 N, but can say the sedate Normal mode is best suited for the daily commute. However, it lacks the deliciousness that Sport and, more specifically, N offer.
In full-attack mode, the i30 N is absolutely extraordinary. The initial thrust of peak torque just above idle propels it off the line and confidently into the mid-range, at which point maximum power is not too far away. A hint of turbo lag is felt low down, but once the blower comes on, it comes on strong. While the i30 N is not shy of redlining, its best work is done in the mid-range.
However, owners may be tempted to push a little harder, because the i30 N’s active variable exhaust system ensures there is plenty of laugh-out-loud noise alongside the purist-detracting electronic sound generator. Shift indicator lights in the instrument cluster warn the driver when to upshift, and they will be rewarded for following instructions as the cracking noise that ensues is smile-inducing.
The theatre the exhaust provides is well worth the price of admission alone. Come off the throttle and the i30 N consistently pops along on the overrun. It’s the type of sound that will make passers-by do a double-take as they realise it is in fact a Hyundai, not Lamborghini, making that lovely sound. Nevertheless, we prefer the customisable N Custom mode as it allows the driver to dial down the ferocity of some aspects while still enjoying others in their most potent form.
Another key to the sublime i30 N experience is its manual gearbox that is up there with the best of them. Yes, purists will cry foul because it has a rev-matching function, but for those less adept with the heel-and-toe technique, it proves to be very rewarding. Plus, if it doesn’t sit well with you, it can always be turned off...
Claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres, while carbon dioxide emissions have been tested at 186 grams per kilometre. During our week with the i30 N, we are averaging 10.9L/100km, with driving skewed towards urban environments over highway stints. Needless to say, spirited driving has had a major influence on this inflated figure.
Ride and handling
The i30 N features a motor-driven, rack-and-pinion, power steering system, while its suspension set-up consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles, with each featuring adaptive dampers. Both components are adjustable via three settings – Normal, Sport and Sport Plus – alongside the electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD).
Local testing completed by Hyundai Motor Company Australia resulted in a softer suspension tune for Australian-market i30 Ns. While appreciated, the ride can be best described as firm, firmer and firmest. Given its performance credentials, the i30 N is clearly positioned as a track weapon that offers little compromise. In most respects, this attitude makes it a stunning proposition, but its ride will prove tiresome for some.
The Normal mode offers relatively decent comfort, albeit over smoother surfaces. Uneven and unsealed roads can prove disruptive alongside speed bumps, while the full brunt of pot holes is felt by occupants. These characteristics are amplified by the Sport and Sport Plus settings, which progressively stiffen the damper response and, in turn, minimise bodyroll from its already impressive levels.
Similarly, the steering feel can prove challenging. In the Normal mode it is well-weighted but a touch slow, while the Sport and Sport Plus settings alleviate the latter concern at the cost of being too heavy. In particular, Sport Plus can put up quite the fight, particularly on turn-in … but it, like the suspension, proves to be well worth the struggle, because handling is absolutely sensational.
The i30 N’s small-car dimensions already work in its favour, but the way it moves around corners is stunning. The ante has been well and truly upped in this regard, with the directness of the steering and composure of the suspension showing why the Australian tune is more than worth it. The three-mode LSD plays a very important role here, too, providing extra traction when it is needed while keeping everything on course.
That is not to say the i30 N successfully navigates grip issues at all times. Granted, a lot of our time was been spent in wet conditions, but burying the accelerator in second gear did lead to consistent wheel spin.
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the entire i30 range – excluding the i30 N – a five-star safety rating in April 2017. Its overall score was 35.01 out of 37 – or 94.6 per cent – with perfect results coming from the side impact at 50km/h (16 out of 16) and oblique pole at 32km/h (two out of two) crash tests. Whiplash and pedestrian protection were assessed as ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’ respectively.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the i30 N extend to forward collision warning, low-speed autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, steering assist, driver attention alert, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and tyre pressure monitoring.
Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver’s knee), anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, hill-start assist, and the usual traction and stability control systems. The latter features Normal setting and a Sport mode, which allows a little more oversteer around corners. It’s fun, but nice to know the safety blanket is still there if needed.
The i30 N comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which critically includes non-timed or -competitive track coverage. One year of roadside assist is also bundled in but can be expanded to 10 years if the vehicle is serviced by a Hyundai-approved technician.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing is optionally available through Hyundai dealerships.
Brand snobbery has long been an illness that plagues many new-car buyers. Given its origins, such behaviour does not bode well for the Hyundai i30 N, but if there was ever a vehicle that was born to change opinions, this is it. During our week with it, enough people on the streets have turned their heads and asked ‘what is that?’ to make the Korean marque’s effort more than worth it.
Simply put, the i30 N is a game-changer. In fact, it moves the game on with its punchy turbo-petrol engine, slick manual gearbox, handling prowess, competitive pricing and unrivalled coverage. The firm ride and heavy steering are quickly forgotten when you consider it as a complete package. And what a package it is.
Volkswagen must be already feeling the pinch if its decision to drop the 169kW/350Nm Golf GTI in favour of a 180kW/370Nm version later this year is anything to go by. However, it is likely to attract a premium over the i30 N, and that’s before you even consider if it will be able to measure up. The more potent 213kW Golf GTI TCR looms large in 2019, then. Your move, Volkswagen.
Ford Focus ST (from $38,990 before on-road costs)
Price-leading engaging performance is defined by a terrific EcoBoost engine and sharp steering, but torque steer is prominent and the manual gearbox could be slicker.
Volkswagen Golf GTI manual (from $41,990 before on-road costs)
Everyday usability is enhanced by the mid-range punch from the turbo-petrol, but off-the-line traction is compromised and the quirky idle-stop system can prove disruptive.
Peugeot 308 GTi (from $45,990 before on-road costs)
While the pricetag is big, the design and relative ride comfort is attractive, but the long-throw gear shift and anti-clockwise tachometer are frustrating.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
All car reviews
Click to share