Hyundai i30 N

 

    Park Hyundai’s i30N next to a VW Golf GTi and it’s easy to see where the Koreans have firmly set their sights. The Golf of course has long been the go-to hatchback bench-mark, and it’s not stretching the imagination too far to say that, even in their respective milder forms, both the i30 and the definitive people’s car share certain similarities: Size for starters, plus the ability to seat five, a decent boot, conservative European styling, solid build, sensible running costs, a range of both petrol and diesel engine options, mild-mannered handling etc. etc. To be fair the same could be said for many-a hatch. But in their sportier guises such things become ever-more apparent.

    The i30N is Hyundai’s first attempt and at building a proper hot-hatch and there’s no doubt about, it they’ve done a sterling job. The i30N gets a 2.0litre 4 cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine (just like a Golf GTi). It’s manual-only and thus gets a six-speed gearbox and front-wheel drive (like a lot of Golf GTis. Some, granted, are DSGs). It sits on 19” multi-spoke alloys that don’t fully hide up-rated brakes and racy red callipers (like a Golf GTi) – they’re shod with specially developed Pirelli P-Zero tyres incidentally. There’s a rear diffuser, deeper, chunkier front and rear bumpers, wider arches, various different driving modes to choose from (you’ve guessed it…).  And there’s something that’s known as an e-diff, to help you through the twisty bits, quickly.

   In fact you should have no problems at all going quickly. The N bit in the name stands for both Namyang – where Hyundai say the i30N was “born”, and Nürburgring – the legendary circuit where it was “honed”, apparently. It’s also the first Hyundai to be built under the guidance of ex BMW M-Sport engineer extraordinaire Albert Biermann. 0-62mph takes just 6.1 seconds (if you opt for the performance pack which adds an extra 30 bhp or so, launch control, and those aforementioned 19” wheels), and top-speed is electronically limited to 155mph. How very German!

    Inside there’s a similarly familiar mix of solid feeling switch-gear, brilliantly clear dashboard dials, virtually black everything, an almost comically chunky steering wheel, and some superbly supportive sports seats; the driving position is spot-on. Some the plastics used may not be quite to Bavarian standards, and the final ergonomics aren’t quite fully resolved either. But this is sub-£30K car, certain things can easily be forgiven.

   And especially so once warmed-up and out it the open.

    The i30N is unashamedly noisy thanks to an exhaust system that’s be tuned especially to be so – it burbles and pops like Thierry Nueville’s I20 WRC car. And when you change down, electronic rev-matching makes you sound like a heel-and toe pro. You can switch it off, but for a while at least it’s actually a lot of fun.

   That’s not something that’s usually said about driving a Hyundai.

    What’s also a lot fun is just how early you apply power during cornering. The i30N grips like the proverbial to a wooly blanket (well, in the dry at least).  Throw precise and accurate steering into the mix, and as your confidence in the I30N’s excellent chassis builds you really can cover a lot of ground in not a lot of time.

    If that is you’ve remembered to select the Comfort setting on the dampers. Hyundai’s all-uncompromising N mode makes things far too stiff for a British B-road. The mid-level Sport setting is too hard for my tastes too. Still at least there’s myriad options of how to personalise how the i30N feels. To each their own, as the saying goes.

       Being a Hyundai of course regardless of how stiff you like your steering and springs you still get a generous standard kit list. LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, and an 8-inch touchscreen sat-nav all put in an appearance, whilst autonomous braking, lane keep assist and road sign recognition are carried over from the regular i30. You also get a five-year warranty.

   That’s not bad at all for £27,995, and that includes the all-important performance pack. But, should you buy one?

   If you like your hot-hatches a little “rough around the edges” then, yes, without a doubt.

   That’s not say there’s anything rough about the i30N I hasten to add – it’s fast, involving, well-equipped, good-looking, and overall a somewhat very likeable car. But, it is a first attempt. In places it shows.

   The i30N faces competition from the likes of Ford’s Focus RS, Honda’s Civic Type R and Peugeot’s 308 GTi, all of which have been around for ages. And then there’s the Golf – a product so polished and honed you wonder if anyone will ever steal its crown. In such illustrious company the i30N feels a little lost.

   Nevertheless you can’t help but admire Hyundai for what they’ve done here. When it comes to trying, they certainly deserve 10 out of 10.

 

Hyundai i30N Performance

Engine: 1,998cc, 4Cyl, 16V DOHC petrol with twin-scroll turbo-charger

Transmission: 6 speed. Manual Front-wheel Drive

Power: 271 bhp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 260 - 279 lbft @ 1,500 – 4,700 rpm

0-62mph: 6.1 sec

Max Speed: 155 mph (limited)

MPG: 39.8 combined.

CO2: 163 g/km

Price: £27,995 (as driven)

 

Many thanks to Sarah at Hyundai’s UK press office for the loan of the i30 N 

​@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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