Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - N
Exhaust burbles, LSD really pulls the car out of corners, high-levels of standard equipment, cracker engine, customisability, track warranty
Room for improvement
Steering and shifter could be sharper, no adaptive cruise control, in-cabin NVH levels
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27 Mar 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
ARGUABLY, what a hot hatch needs to have above nearly everything else is versatility.
True, a cracker engine, eager chassis and fun-to-steer nature add to a hot hatch’s likeable characteristics, but it needs to be able to balance these features with everyday usability, approachable limits and an affordable pricetag.
Enter Hyundai’s first attempt at dethroning the long-reigning Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch king with its i30 N front-driver.
202kW/353Nm from a turbocharged 2.0-litre and suspension tuning at the Nurburgring ensure Hyundai’s hot hatch bid sports plenty of attributes to like, while its i30 roots and sub-$40,000 pricetag make it feasible in terms of usage and cost.
Has Hyundai knocked this one out of the park on its first go? Or will the i30 N need a few more iterations to iron out all the teething problems?
Considering we are in the midst of a hot hatch renaissance at the moment thanks to the likes of the Honda Civic Type R, Ford Focus ST and RS, Volkswagen Golf GTI and R, and incoming new-generation Renault Megane RS, Hyundai must be very confident in the i30 N to bring its first hot hatch to market now.
Luckily then, the i30 N is an absolutely winner on all fronts for Hyundai, proving to be a no compromise hot hatch in every facet.
Let’s start with the engine. A 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is shoehorned under the bonnet of the i30 N that develops 202kW of power at 6000rpm and 353Nm of torque from 1450-4700rpm.
Zero to 100km/h is knocked down in just 6.1 seconds thanks to a slick-shifting six-speed manual, but it’s the availability of torque so low down in the rev range that makes the i30 N feel properly fast.
Short shifting is not punished in the i30 N, making everything from the slow grind of daily commuter traffic to chaining together sweeping bends feel effortless.
Steering the South Korean hot hatch is a treat too, with crisp and sharp turn in that communicates just enough feedback from the front axle to let you know if you are going to overcook a corner exit.
To our hands though, we felt the steering could become a little too artificially weighted in the more hardcore driving modes, and while the shifting feels noticeably notchy and satisfying, we would appreciate a little more weight and less travel in the throws.
Don’t touch the shifter and lift the right foot off the throttle when approaching a corner though, and the rear end audibly clears its throat with gratifying pops, bangs and crackles from the active exhaust system – this is how a hot hatch should sound!Our time with the i30 N took us through some winding back country roads near Albury, Victoria, the sort of environment where an agile, well-sorted front-drive hot hatch should excel, and we’re happy to report Hyundai’s first foray into the souped-up small car space is far from a disappointment.
Australia’s less-than-ideal roads can often prove a challenge to stiffly set-up hot hatches and sportscars, but luckily Hyundai addressed this shortfall with a bespoke, softer suspension tune.
Without sampling an overseas car back-to-back with the Australian i30 N, we wouldn’t be able to tell you if the tweaks Hyundai Australia made translate in the real world, but our time in the test car proved capable but comfortable.
The i30 N soaks up bumps and uneven surfaces with aplomb, but never sacrifices its sharp edge in the name of comfort.
It’s when we were let loose at Winton Motor Raceway where the i30 N really started to shine, though.
Powering out of corners is made effortlessly easy thanks to the standard inclusion of an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential, while the auto-rev matching system is a delight for those like us who are clumsy with heel-toe downshifting.
Switch the electronic stability control to Sport mode and the car will even allow small amounts of slip to make you feel like a hooligan hero even without the skill needed to keep the i30 N on the tarmac.
The best part though? Hyundai’s warranty will cover the i30 N for non-competition track use and the new hot hatch is dependable, you can even drive home in one after a morning of hard thrashing – we certainly made it back to Melbourne without a hitch.
Based on the i30 small car, the i30 sports the same levels of polish and useability as the donor car.
As standard, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that houses satellite navigation, smartphone connectivity and media functions, but new in the range-topping i30 is a unique N computer that can display data such as lap timer and G-force metre.
Sports seats are also included as standard, as is a bespoke steering wheel and shifter, with all three trimmed in blue highlight stitching.
We think Hyundai have done just enough to lift the in-cabin ambience – the seats hug in all the right places and the steering wheel adds buttons to change drive modes – but if you didn’t love the interior of the standard car, nothing in the i30 N will change your mind.
In our opinion though, it is inside where the i30 N shows off its ace in the hole – the unparalleled levels of customisability.
Five driving modes are on offer – Normal, Eco, Sport, N and N Custom – which change steering, suspension, exhaust and engine settings to suit, but it is the final mode that is the most interesting.
In N Custom mode, you can adjust every aspect of the car the way you want it for a total of 1944 different combinations.
Do you want the softest steering and suspension settings but the engine and exhaust cranked to the max? How about the stiffest suspension settings and sportiest engine tune, but toned-down exhaust? All of it is possible in the i30 N.
And all of this is delivered in a package that costs just $39,990 before on-roads.
Our hats go off to Hyundai for delivering such a refined hot hatch in their very first attempt. Not only does the i30 N match the performance and thrills as its already established rivals, but it does so in an astoundingly well-rounded package.
If this is the first product from Hyundai’s N high-performance vehicle division, we can’t wait to see what comes next.
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