New Kid on the Block: Hyundai i30N Performance

The hot-hatch market used to be a lonely place. Simca launched the sector in the early 70’s and for a few years was your only option. The Germans and French improved with the Golf GTi and Renault 5 respectively and were joined shortly by the Italian and English offerings, and the sector has expanded to the plethora of options you have today. There was a car for everyone, the market was saturated, and all was well.

And then came Hyundai…

Hyundai saw the market. They saw what everyone else was offering. And they decided they could do better. So, they set aside a substantial amount of money, a concerningly short amount of time, hired Albert Biermann of BMW’s M-Sport division, built a new development centre next to the Nürburgring and set about beating the competition. And these factors come together to explain what the i30N is really all about.

The i30N is a newcomer to the hot-hatch market. But it has arrives meaning business!

The i30N has consistently been compared to the status quo of hot hatches – the Golf GTi. But that’s not a fair comparison for either car. The i30N is simply better than a Golf in just about every aspect. It is more powerful, faster, has a better chassis, more equipment and is considerably cheaper. In fact, in all of these areas the i30N is class leading. Its power output of 271hp is knocking on the door of the super-hatches from the likes of Honda and Ford. Its chassis (thanks in large part to Mr Bierman) is on par with BMW, and as far as LSD-equipped-front-wheel drive goes, the only real contender for the title would be the new Megane RS (standby for a review of this one!). I can’t think of a better equipped-as-standard car in the sector and starting at just £25,000 the i30N is raising a lot of eye brows.

“The i30N is simply better than a Golf in just about every aspect.”

The i30N has essentially two trim levels; standard at 250bhp, or the Performance model which as well as an additional 21bhp, comes with a limited-slip differential, bigger brakes, 19” alloys and an active exhaust system. The price difference between the two is just £3000 and seems a no-brainer at that price point. Speaking with a Hyundai salesman, he is yet to sell a non-Performance one. The only other options are metallic paint at £600 (which includes the Performance Blue that has become synonymous with the car), a no-money-saved downgrade from the electric leather/alcantara seats to manual cloth ones saves 13kg and the winter pack which gives you heated seats, mirrors and steering wheel, also at £600. Tick all the boxes and you still have plenty of change from £30k and more than £8000 from a similarly spec’d GTi!

On the road, the i30N is fantastic. Roundabouts are a hoot, with the LSD pulling you around and some very controllable hints at lift off oversteer on-demand. The way in which you can steer this car with the throttle is fabulous! The P-Zero tyres, usually found on far more prestigious cars such as the Porsche GT3 RS, work incredibly well with the adaptive dampers, without impeding on the ride quality in any way. What’s more, with almost 2000 combinations of damper, exhaust, steering, engine and differential settings to play with, you can set the car just how you want it. If you want a less geeky experience, using the pre-defined Eco, Sport, Sport+ and “N” modes let you quickly move through everything this car has to offer. Arguably, “N” mode is not usable on any British road I’ve ever been on due to the harsh damper settings, but on a track it would be perfect. Sport mode is plenty for everyday driving, Sport+ for a B-road blast, and Eco for a motorway cruise.

The performance focused i30N utilises a lot of in-house development, including an LSD, adaptive dampers and Hyundai’s own reinforced Brakes

The exhaust settings for the i30N Performance mean you can select how much it pops and bangs on gearshifts and lift-off. There is also a clever rev-matching function that makes downshifts all but seamless whenever the clutch pedal is pressed whilst the brakes are on. It lets you nail every shift, every time, with a congratulatory bang if you so desire. The torque from the engine comes in early and stays with you all the way to the redline and the Overboost function allows spurts of additional power on the Performance model, particularly useful when used in tandem with the launch control.
As mentioned earlier, standard equipment in the i30N is unrivalled. Just about every toy comes without a premium, and that includes a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity for Car Play and Android Auto, SatNav, cruise control, voice control, driver fatigue monitoring, several collision avoidance systems and a performance computer system to let you monitor how you are using the chassis and engine. It even comes with wireless phone charging in a cubby hole at the base of the centre console.
The interior is a step up when it comes to the Korean manufacturer. There are still swathes of dreary plastic adorning the top of the dash (flocking anyone?), but the fascias, steering wheel and door cards are a big leap forward. The centre console is home to a floating touchscreen display which is where you access the configuration for the engine and chassis, as well as in-car entertainment, SatNav and media control. Thankfully heater controls remain separate, unlike some of the latest French offerings. Blue highlighting, sports seats and metal pedals indicate this is no ordinary Hyundai. The i30N is a nice place to sit, with subtle hints that you’re in something a little different and a little more special than any other i30.

The i30N’s interior marks a step change for the Korean manufacturer. It oozes equipment and technology, and welcomes you as a driver.

Exterior styling is understated but aggressive. It reminds me a of Leon Cupra or Octavia WRS, with a subtle boot spoiler, lowered stances and conservative bodykit, staying clear of the provocative looks of the Focus RS or intentionally divisive ones of the Civic Type-R. Diamond cut 18” alloys are standard, with 19s” forming a necessary part of the Performance upgrade kit, to accommodate the huge brakes.

The i30N is Hyundai’s first attempt at a hot hatch, and they have clearly read the Golf GTi playbook. But they went further; they improved. They risked being a mockery and launching a flop. But honestly, if you can get passed the fact that there is an italic H on the front grill, or the word “Hyundai” on the bootlid, you will have a car that makes you smile every single time you drive it. Hyundai went in the ring with the big dogs and didn’t get so much as a bloody nose. And that’s why my own one arrives on September 1st.

The subtle styling shows this to be a serious car, clearly with devout GTi owners in its sights.
Car2018 Hyundai i30N
PriceStarting at £25,010As tested £28,895
Fuel Economy39mpg (Combined)As tested, 24.6mpg
ExteriorSubtle but seriousl the i30N has Golf GTI fans firmly in it’s crosshairs. Far more restrained that some other rivals from Asia, and much more on par with European offerings****
InteriorA step change for the Korean manufacturer. Still progress to be made, and cheap plastics creeping in, but not an unpleasant place to sit at all***
PerformanceClass leading and great fun. Get the optional Performance pack and this car will never fail to entertain you. The LSD and bigger brakes are worth the additional cost, but the added 25bhp seals the deal****
ComfortKeep out of N-mode on the road and you’ll have no complaints. In its softest setting it absorbs just about anything the British road system can through at it. Configurability is key here.****
ValueUnrivalled. Better bang for buck than anything else on the market today. Standard equipment list is unrivalled and the two options on the extras list are sensibly priced.*****
OverallI bought one. With my own money. Is that proof enough?*****

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