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Driven: Aussies get unique version of Hyundai i30 N

N-ticing: With a 202kW/353Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, Hyundai’s i30 N will compete directly against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST for the sub-$40,000 hot hatch crown.

Rough Australian roads influence Hyundai to soften suspension tune for local i30 N

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Hyundai logo20 Mar 2018

AUSTRALIAN versions of Hyundai’s flagship i30 N hot hatch will feature a unique suspension tune that has not been rolled out to any other market, ensuring the high-performance model better suits local road conditions.

The i30 N sprints into Australian Hyundai dealerships this month and, as reported, is priced from $39,990, excluding on-road costs.

Although Hyundai’s N division adopted a ‘one global car’ ethos in developing its Volkswagen Golf GTI-fighter, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) senior product planning manager Andrew Tuitahi said Australian-spec cars will differ slightly to international models.

“Ultimately the car was pretty damn good – what the Korean and German engineering teams had developed at least up until the point where we were able to experience the car, it blew our minds,” he said.

“When there was some hot weather testing taking place here and some other activities, we got the chance to sample the car on our roads, and it was really only just some of the worst urban roads – especially speed humps was one of the areas that caught the car out a little bit … some of that continuous, offset, bumpy, medium amplitude bumps that can really upset the car if you’re not completely settled for a corner.

“It was just in those two situations where we thought the car needed some attention, so we presented that case to Albert Biermann (Hyundai Motor Company executive vice-president and head of vehicle test and high-performance development) and the high-performance vehicle development team, and I think there was a little bit of hesitation at first because they were really strong on having one global tune.

“The goal there was to see what kind of flexibility we could build into the global tune, looking to see if we could do a very quick adaptation to cope with some of the conditions we have here, and it was decided that we needed to do some damper tuning.”

Mr Tuitahi revealed he flew to Germany to work with the vehicle development team to push the case of an Australian tune of the i30 N and to show “the kind of flavour we thought would work well”.

“They drove it on their roads and they said ‘this will work, this still fits our brief, it still fits the core character of the car, so if you’re confident that could work in Australia then go ahead, put a tune together and let’s see what it’s like when you bring it back’,” he said.

“So we brought the process back to Australia, spent about seven to 10 really, really solid days working through some damper builds, a lot of logic tuning and then one final trip back to the Nurburgring technical centre for one more tweak, a little bit more logic tuning and then a sign off.”

While the local tune of the i30 N is not adopted in any other market in the world, Mr Tuitahi said the Korean and German development teams still worked closely with the Australian division.

“Two tuning sessions in Germany, one tuning session in Australia, the tuning session in Australia spent a lot of time in the Blue Mountains … time in the urban areas near HMCA headquarters and then also a lot of time in the northern part of Sydney.”

Mr Tuitahi described the Australian-spec i30 N as “ever so slightly more supple, a little bit more bodyroll and what would feel like a slower or calmer big bump recovery”, but ultimately the hot hatch still retained the same personality.

“I think the important thing is the character of the car is almost identical, even with those changes, so that one global tune ethos still holds true because if you were to drive the car in Germany on their amazing roads and then come and drive the car here, you might not know you were driving a different car.”

Although Mr Tuitahi would not be drawn on whether future N cars would receive the same bespoke tuning, he said the Australian market plays an important role in Hyundai’s global portfolio.

“I think the fact that we tune every car locally kind of speaks volumes to that (Australia’s importance to Hyundai), I think it’s a testament to the dedication to get it right for each market that the car is sold in,” he said.

“Our management fully support it, we spend a lot of time, a lot of money in the program, so I think not just this car, its every car that says that.

“I think the goal would be to have an Australian contribution to the global tune, so if we can bring i30 N Fastback or future N products to market that are one global tune, but we had some influence and participation from Australian engineers, that would be the ultimate.”

As previously reported, Hyundai has opted to launch only the top-spec ‘Performance’ variant in Australia, with the hot hatch packing a 202kW/354Nm punch from a turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder engine.

Torque output can be lifted to 378Nm for up to 18 seconds on full throttle thanks to an overboost feature, with peak power available at 6000rpm, while maximum torque is on tap from 1450-4700rpm.

Performance is diverted to the road via the front wheels and a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox that can propel the hot hatch from zero to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 250km/h.

To handle the increased performance, Hyundai has fitted the i30 N with a number of mechanical upgrades including adjustable suspension and an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential.

Suspension sits 8mm lower than the standard i30, with MacPherson struts up front and multi-link set-up in the rear, and it can be set to Normal, Sport or N modes with the damping force adjusted up to 100 times a second to counteract bodyroll, pitch and dive.

Meanwhile, the stability control system can be switched into Sport mode to ease electronic nannies and allow more slip, or Sport+ to deactivate ESC completely and allow for left-foot braking.

Steering is taken care of by a rack-mounted, motor-driven power steering system as opposed to the column-mounted unit in the standard car, which “gives the driver extra feel for the road and makes it instantly responsive at all speeds”, according to Hyundai.

From the outside, the i30 N is differentiated from its more sedate siblings thanks to 19-inch alloy wheels shod in bespoke 235/35 Pirelli P-Zero tyres developed specifically for Hyundai’s hot hatch.

Tucked beneath are red N-branded brake callipers grabbing onto ventilated discs measuring 345mm up front and 314mm in the rear.

Extra chassis bracing is fitted throughout to ensure rigidity during high-speed cornering, while a removable rear brace also sits behind the second-row seats.

Although an active exhaust system is fitted as standard on all i30 N vehicles, an electronic sound generator is also included to “add an extra acoustic element”, according to the South Korean brand.

Five drive modes are on available – Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom – that adjust engine, suspension, ESC, LSD, exhaust and steering settings and can be toggled from buttons on the steering wheel.

N Custom offers 1944 different configurations.

Rev-matching is also included in the i30 N – which can also be turned on/off – that automatically blips the throttle on downshift.

Black headlights, aggressively-styled bodykit with red piping on the front splitter and rear diffuser, an attention-grabbing rear wing, and a high-mounted rear triangular brake light complete the i30 N’s anti-social look.

Inside, sports seats, leather steering wheel, alloy sports pedals, N-specific computer and shift lights are all included as standard.

Blue highlight stitching is also featured on the steering wheel, shifter boot, shift knob and seats.

An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is nestled front and centre that handles the usual satellite navigation, audio system and smartphone connectivity options, but can also display a lap timer, G-force metre and is used to adjust the vehicle’s different settings.

Standard safety features include autonomous emergency braking, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, driver fatigue warning and lane-keep assist.

Six exterior colours are available, including the hero Performance Blue, Clean Slate, Polar White, Micron Grey, Phantom Black and Engine Red.

Pricing kicks off at from $39,990 before on-road costs, while the only options available are a $3000 Luxury pack that adds suede inserts and leather bolsters to the electronically adjustable, heated front seats, wireless phone charger, front parking sensors and automatic wipers, and an $5000 Luxury pack with panoramic sunroof.

The i30 N falls under Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, but – much to the delight of weekend circuit heroes – the South Korean brand has also extended cover to include non-competition, non-timed track use.

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