Australian’s really are spoilt at the moment if they’re in the market for a hot hatch. There’s Honda’s rapid Civic Type R, Volkswagen’s evergreen Golf GTI and Ford’s wonderful Focus RS to name a few. Hyundai have recently entered the hot hatch game with the i30N, a car that’s been developed under the guidance of former BMW M boss Albert Biermann.
The ‘N’ badge stands for Nurburgring as well as Namyang, Korea where the idea of the car originated. The i30N has been tested comprehensively at the Nurburgring, even competing in the 24 hour race at this circuit. It’s worth noting that Hyundai has also been having a great year in the World Rally Championship with Thierry Neuville currently leading the championship in his Hyundai i20 WRC. It’s a great opportunity to review the i30N to see how it fares in the hot hatch segment.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive and offer good adjustment. They feature the ‘N’ logo as well as the gear knob, steering wheel and door sills. It would be good to sit a bit lower in the cockpit but all controls are laid out well and easy to use. The three spoke steering wheel is perfectly proportioned and contains light blue paddles either side of the horn to operate different drive modes. Personal highlights include the 5 shift lights at the top of the instrument cluster and the LED warm up lights that sit on top of the rev counter. It reminds me of the warm up lights from a BMW M3 E46 and shows Biermann’s influence on the car. Boot space is generous at 381 Litres and there’s also a rear strut brace in the boot.
The i30N’s exterior is distinctive and purposeful. It has a much more understated look and cleaner lines than a Honda Civic Type R, but I would personally prefer an i30N in performance blue rather than the engine red of this car. There are functional side vents in the front grille that help to cool the front ventilated discs. At the rear, there are also dual exhausts, a nice looking black diffuser and a triangle shaped brake light integrated into the rear spoiler. The ‘N’ logo can be found on the front grille, rear boot and front brake calipers. The 19 inch alloys look good and are wrapped with grippy 235/35/19 Pirelli P-Zero tyres.
The i30N has an 8 inch touchscreen, digital radio, satellite navigation and Bluetooth. The satellite navigation is very intuitive and phone pairing is simple. Safety systems include seven airbags, a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Driver Attention Alert. Driver assist technology includes an Electronic-mechanical Limited Slip Differential, Active variable exhaust system and Electronically Controlled Suspension. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and wireless smartphone charging are also included.
There are Powertrain settings for engine, rev matching, the electronic LSD and exhaust sound. Engine, rev matching and exhaust sound feature three levels of adjustment being normal, sport and sport+ while the electronic LSD features two levels of adjustment being normal and sport. There are chassis settings for suspension, steering and the Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Three levels of adjustment are available in these settings including normal, sport and sport+. N Mode features some cool items including a performance timer featuring a lap timer and 0-100km/h readout, longitudinal and lateral g-force meter, turbo readout (up to 20 psi), torque readout (up to 400Nm) and power readout (up to 210 kW).
Driving impressions and performance
The i30N has a 2.0L 16 valve in-line 4 cylinder engine with a twin scroll turbocharger, delivering an impressive 202kW at 6000rpm and 353Nm with 378Nm on overboost from 1750-4200rpm. The car can scrabble for grip under hard acceleration with some torque steer present but with the amount of power to put through the front wheels the electronic LSD does a great job. The car is currently only offered in a six speed manual and the highlight is the in-gear acceleration, particularly in 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear. It’s satisfying dropping back a gear and riding on the wave of torque throughout the rev range, and there’s only a slight hint of turbo lag below about 2000rpm. The i30N certainly felt faster than the Audi S1 previously tested in regards to in-gear acceleration however due to the all-wheel-drive of the S1, the i30N can’t match it in the 0-100km/h sprint. The i30N with launch control manages it in 6.1 seconds compared to 5.9 seconds for the S1. The rev matching system is a handy feature but I didn’t use it often as I like to try and match the revs myself. The Hyundai sounds much better than other four cylinder turbocharged cars I’ve tested including the Audi S1 and Volkswagen Arteon. When the exhaust is set to sport+ mode the occasional pop from the exhaust is addictive.
The car covers ground quickly so a good braking package is definitely required. The i30N delivers in this respect with exceptional brakes. The 345mm diameter ventilated front brakes and 314mm diameter ventilated rear brakes have no problems pulling up the 1478kg car, with no brake fade. It would be interesting to see how the brakes hold up on a track day but for road use they were superb.
I found that the car worked best when using the custom settings feature where I adjusted engine mode to sport+, turned rev matching off, set the e-LSD to sport and set the exhaust sound to sport+. The engine gave more punch in this mode, with enhanced traction from the e-LSD particularly when using heavy throttle out of lower speed corners. In chassis mode, the car felt at its best with suspension in normal, steering in sport+ and ESC off. In normal mode, the adaptive dampers felt fine for everyday use and I found sport+ to be a little bit firm however on a smooth racetrack sport+ would be my choice. The electric steering is full of feel and in sport+ mode is most reassuring.
At $39,900, the i30N is great value for money and some $5,500 cheaper than a VW Golf GTI. It’s also very efficient with a combined fuel economy of around 8L per 100km and has a five year unlimited kilometre warranty. My overall opinion of the car is that it’s one that has many talents. It looks good, seats its occupants well with plenty of leg and head room, can be used as a daily driver or the occasional track day, is fast, safe, efficient, well equipped, and offers a great range of driver settings. It’s an extremely capable car and a wonderful first foray into the hot hatch market from Hyundai.