In the Spotlight – Hyundai i30N Performance {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

15 Jun 2018

When you look at the hot hatch market today, the main players all have serious history when it comes to their legacy of cars. VW has the Golf GTi lineage going back to the 70’s with the Mk1, Renault can trace the RS roots back to the Renault 5 Turbo and Honda has Type-Rs which are the stuff of legends now. So what do you do if you want to enter the hot hatch market from scratch and don’t want to be an also-ran? You poach the guy who used to run BMW’s M/// division for a start…

For that is what Hyundai did when they created their performance ‘N’ brand, and it really shows. I’m going to be fully open from the start with this review though – I absolutely loved the i30N and genuinely struggled to find things I didn’t like about it, despite really trying very hard over the week that I had this glorious red example.

So what is an i30N? well, you start with the rather humdrum 5dr Hyundai i30 hatchback, obviously. A fairly anodyne and inoffensive family car. Then you give it an injection of weapons-grade steroids that turn it into one of the best and most fun cars on sale today. The biggest change is obviously under the bonnet, where there now resides a 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinder lump, which in the Performance model puts out a not inconsiderable 271bhp. That’s not a huge amount when compared to a Focus RS or Audi RS3, but it’s certainly enough to make this little hatch feel damn quick down a twisty back road. It goes to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox and an electronic limited slip differential.

There are some fairly big changes under the rest of the body too, with 18 and 17 inch ventilated discs for the brakes, reinforced front suspension strut rings, strengthened front sub frame and a central tunnel support bracket. The suspension is electrically controlled and is changed via the Drive Selector. One serious modification is the addition of a rear strut brace between the rear wheel arch lowers to stiffen up the rear of the car. This is most unusual because it is done at the expense of a fair bit of practicality as the brace sits a good 9-10 inches above the boot floor meaning when the seats are folded there is no longer a flat boot floor. Some may scoff at this being important, but for a mainstream manufacturer to lose such practicality for performance just shows how serious Hyundai are to making this a great drivers’ car.

Outside Hyundai has given the i30N a healthy dose of aggression, but kept a low-key approach to it unlike the Civic Type-R. There is a lovely set of 19-inch alloy wheels and red calipers behind, a lower front spoiler with large intakes and at the rear a subtle spoiler and rear bumper incorporating the twin rear pipes. Now those pipes alone are worthy of their own paragraph, let me tell you…

Before we get onto the driving aspect we need to touch on the value of the i30N. This Performance model is £28,010 which puts it on a par with the new Megane RS, a couple of thousand less than the 245hp Golf GTi Performance 5dr and a cool £5k less than the Civic Type-R GT. What really surprises is the level of kit you get as standard – in fact metallic paint is the only option you can spec! Outside you have LED headlights and tail lights and the aforementioned 19-inch alloys, but inside there are leather/suede electrically adjusted (and heated!) seats, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, 8” touch screen nav and infotainment system with DAB and Carplay/Android Auto, keyless entry, a heated steering wheel and a QI wireless charging pad. I don’t think there’s a single thing I would want more on the car, it’s amazing. A lot of those options would add a good few thousand pounds to the Golf as well.

But enough waffling on, what’s it like to drive? Well first I need to talk about the Drive Modes. On the steering wheel there are two baby blue buttons, fairly large ones – the left is used to toggle between Normal, Sport and Eco modes while the right button is for N-Mode. That’s the fun one. This is where we need to talk about the exhaust – start the i30N and it defaults to Normal where there’s a slightly fruity note to the exhaust tone but it’s very un-intrusive and perfect for motorways. Hit the left button into Sport and there’s a slightly louder tone, a few more burbles as you drive and you get a bit more noise when pressing on. But when you press the right hand button to go into N-Mode that’s when all hell breaks loose – it genuinely sounds like it has a straight-through exhaust system and isn’t just really loud (which it is) but it also has a lovely tone to it, not overly shouty but deep bassy rumbles and a raspy sounds are in abundance.

When you floor it in 1st gear in N-Mode for the first time, you’ll firstly be surprised by how quick  it is – 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds feels a little bit undersold to me – but if you get to over 5000rpm and shift you get a wild crack and pop from the exhaust like a WRC car. It sounds properly naughty for want of a better phrase (I think I’ve been living in Essex too long), not over engineered and somewhat fake like those of an A45 or F-Type R. The thing is, you’ll be doing it again and again through every gear, such is the level of hilarity involved in driving this in N-Mode – BUT there’s a caveat here. I actually got in every time and double pressed the N button, as this puts you into N-Custom Mode which allows you to specify the different aspects of the car’s setup. You see, in normal N-Mode the suspension is ridiculously firm – I’m sure it would be great on track but given that the roads in the UK are like the surface of the moon right now, I set up N-Custom to have everything in Sport+ but the suspension in Normal. That way you get all the performance and noise but you can actually put the power down and won’t damage your spine.

The handling is absolutely fantastic too, you can tip into a corner and way before you hit the apex just turn the wheel and mash the pedal – the diff does it’s thing and the car just grabs hold of the tarmac and drags you through at insane speeds before allowing you to catapult out of the other side. When you get to the next corner you also get to experience one of the most fun extras on the i30N – the Rev Matching system. When you shift down, from say 5th to 4th or 3rd to 2nd the car automatically blips the throttle so the revs match the engine speed, basically making you look like a driving hero who is heel-and-toeing every time you shift down. It does make for very quick and relaxing progress when pressing on as well, but yeah it’s mostly about feeling like Juha Kankkunen tearing through a forest on an 80’s rally…

As you may have guessed I loved the i30N but I have tried really hard and found a few things I didn’t like, but they’re not major! The seats are very supportive and comfy, but they look really uninspiring. They really need a bit of coloured stitching or a more interesting design to match the driving experience. The stereo is rather poor as well, very tinny and no real depth to any music played. And finally when you accelerate hard in the wet there’s a fair bit of axle tramp (where the front end judders up and down), but this is a symptom of the large wheels and diff, so it’s a trade-off really. None of these things are enough to put me off though, I can honestly say that if I were in the market for a hot hatch, I’d have a Hyundai sitting outside my house. Now that’s not something I thought I’d find myself typing….


And now, thanks to the wonder of modern technology, you can see and hear my thoughts on the i30N via the wonderful medium of YouTube videography magicness!