Hyundai isn’t usually known for producing incredibly exciting cars, but this latest model – the i30 N – is a change of pace for the South Korean carmaker and is the first car from the N department.
After racing in some top-end motorsport categories, Hyundai is now taking that expertise and putting into a road car. It is going up against some highly-esteemed rivals mind you, with the Honda Civic Type R and Golf GTI at the top end of the hot hatch market. Here are our first impressions on the brand’s first N-badged model.
The first thing you need to be aware of that there are two versions of the i30 N available from launch – the standard model and the Performance edition. We will be focusing on the latter, and it is safe to say it is an awful lot of fun. Thanks to a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet, the i30 N Performance has 271bhp at its disposal and that equates to a 0-60mph time of 5.9 seconds, which is rather impressive.
As with many hot hatches, it features an impressive top speed, with the car maxing out at 155mph. You also get overboost, so even though many of the top-end hot hatches such as the VW Golf GTI and the Honda Civic Type R come with more than 300bhp you won’t be too far behind. You do get five driving modes – Normal, Eco, Sport, N and Custom – with the ‘N’ mode offering the optimal throttle response and an added sense of theatre with the tuned exhaust getting more ferocious. The custom mode allows you to edit almost anything in the setup, but it can feel a bit too complex at times on a car that is so easy to drive well.
Ride and Handling
Hot hatches are supposed to be fun to drive, poised and comfortable when needed, and, thankfully, Hyundai has hit the nail on the head with its first try. The i30 N is approachable, as easy to use as its toned-down i30 counterpart and quite pliant when on the road. Although the first two modes – Normal and Eco – feel a bit unnecessary, Sport mode is the one you may use the most, as you get a good level of dynamic feel and the ride doesn’t feel too harsh for a hot hatch.
But as soon as you switch into N mode, the i30 N becomes a different animal altogether and you get a much hotter model that can perform both on the road and on the track. With the limited slip differential underneath, you get excellent traction and handling and you get a real sense of the racing DNA that flows throughout this model. As we tested this on both the track and on the road, we can reassure you that it performs brilliantly on both and is an absolute riot when used responsibly.
Interior and Equipment
Where Hyundai do lag against some of its rivals is the interior quality on its vehicles, and unfortunately the i30 N does have some problems. For example, the switches do feel quite cheap and the infotainment system can be very slow and quite ineffective – with the satellite navigation being particularly annoying. But other features like the leather sports steering wheel and sports seats add that dynamic feel many of you would be looking for, with the seats offering excellent support through normal and more vigorous driving.
You do get a decent amount of kit with both the standard i30 N and the Performance model, with the ‘base’ version coming with an eight-inch touchscreen, LED lights for the front and back, adaptive cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels, which are all great additions. The Performance does get a couple of extra toys, such as the aforementioned electronic limited slip differential, 19-inch alloy wheels with custom Pirelli P-Zero tyres and leather and suede upholstery. You also get a choice of six body colours, with the Performance Blue launch colour looking particularly excellent. You also get white, red, black and two grey options as well.
For the standard i30 N, prices start from £24,995. If you want the full monty however, the Performance model starts from £27,995 and if you want to keep up with the big boys on the hot hatch playground, that’s the one you want.
With rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf GTI starting at higher prices, the i30 N could be a very good option indeed, especially as in some guises it is faster to 60mph than the pair of them. You also get five years unlimited mileage warranty, which is an offer difficult to turn down.
Although the looks may not be to everyone’s taste, they do liven up the rather drab i30 and in a great colour like the Performance Blue, the i30 N looks absolutely superb with the blue and red detailing.
Overall this car offers an excellent alternative to the monopoly of hot hatches from Ford, Honda and VW, and in terms of attributes sits right in the middle of the range. It takes some of the madness of the Civic Type R and mixes it with the sensibleness and day-to-day practicality of the Golf. You have to doff your cap to Hyundai with this one – its first hot hatch is excellent.