Hyundai i30 Fastback N 2019 Review

For a first attempt at a hot hatch, South Korean manufacturer Hyundai did a great job with the i30N, a car developed under the guidance of former BMW M boss Albert Biermann.  The car shook up established contenders in this segment, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS, by providing similar performance and value.

The recently released i30 Fastback N offers largely the same mechanical package as the standard i30N, with a significantly redesigned rear-end and softer suspension tune.  Having access to an i30 Fastback N provides a great opportunity to compare it to the previously tested hatchback.

Interior

Unlike the hatch, the i30 Fastback N has red trim pieces around the driver and passenger air vents.  There’s also red stitching, instead of blue, on the steering wheel, seats, gear boot and gear knob.  This particular car has a manually adjustable steering column and manually adjustable front seats.  The front cloth seats feature the ‘N’ logo and so does the gear knob, steering wheel and door sills.  The driver’s seat is comfortable and supports the driver when cornering hard, although it would be good to sit a bit lower in the cockpit.  There’s plenty of leg room for back seat passengers, however headroom is a bit restricted thanks to the sloping roofline of the fastback.  The interior is well laid out with controls easy to find and operate, in particular the climate control system and touch-screen.  Like the hatch, there’s a three spoke sports steering wheel that’s perfectly proportioned and contains buttons either side of the horn to operate the different drive modes.  It’s easy to grip the wheel and the rim width is ideal, particularly when your hands are placed in the 10 and 2 positions.  The i30 Fastback N retains the five shift lights at the top of the instrument cluster and the LED warm up lights that sit on top of the rev counter.  Boot space is now 436 Litres (up from 381 Litres) and if the rear seats are folded down, this expands to 1337 Litres.  There’s also a rear strut brace and space saver tyre in the boot.  There’s an optional Luxury Pack that can be purchased for an extra $3,000 that includes leather accented, 12-way power adjustable seats with lumbar adjustment and a Qi wireless smartphone charging dock.  Another $2,000 scores a sunroof, but only in conjunction with the Luxury Pack.

Exterior

The ‘Performance Blue’ colour looks good on this example and the exterior is distinctive and purposeful.  The colours look similar to what Hyundai uses on their current Hyundai i20 World Rally Championship cars.  By being this colour, the red trim pieces on the front and rear spoilers are highlighted and add to the car’s performance credentials.  When looking at the car side on, I like how the roofline slopes down at the C-pillar and how well it integrates into the new duck tail rear spoiler, which is finished off nicely with a black trim piece.  The fastback design has reduced the drag coefficient from 0.32 to 0.29 Cd.  There’s definitely some resemblance to an AMG C63 S in the rear design of the car.  On the fastback, the triangle shaped brake light is integrated into the rear diffuser instead of mounted above the rear window, as it is on the hatchback.  There’s functional side vents in the front grille that help to cool the front ventilated discs.  The dual exhausts are carried over from the hatch.  The ‘N’ logo can be found on the front grille, rear boot and front brake calipers, and there’s also a ‘Fastback’ logo on the boot.  The 19 inch alloys look good and are wrapped with grippy 235/35/19 Pirelli P-Zero HN tyres.

Standard equipment

Hyundai’s i30 Fastback N features dual-zone climate control and an 8.0 inch touch-screen that allows you to toggle between a range of Powertrain and Chassis settings.  There’s also safety aids, including autonomous emergency braking, driver attention alert and a lane keeping assistant, however there’s no radar cruise control.  Digital radio, satellite navigation and Bluetooth are offered.  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.  Finally, there’s AUX/USB audio input with iPod compatibility.

Drive modes

The i30 Fastback N features five drive modes including Eco, Normal, Sport, N or N Custom.  Like the hatchback, in N and N Custom mode, 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 carries over the same engine as the hatchback, being a 2.0 Litre 16 valve in-line four cylinder with a twin scroll turbocharger, delivering an impressive 202kW at 6000rpm and 353Nm with 378Nm on overboost from 1750-4200rpm.  Building speed in the i30 Fastback N in ‘N’ mode is a real occasion.  Under hard acceleration, there’s an addictive surge of power that gives you a good shove back into the seat.  The six speed manual is superb and precise to use and it’s a joy to accelerate through the gears and have the five shift lights on the dashboard illuminate as the revs build.  The faint whistle from the turbo and sporty exhaust note also help to add to the occasion.  Like the hatchback, in-gear performance is also impressive and the fastback felt a bit more responsive when accelerating below 2000rpm in a higher gear.  In all road conditions, torque steer was present, but the Hyundai does a great job of putting its power to the ground through the electronic LSD, considering it has a high powered engine that only drives the front wheels.  Driving on the twisty Healesville-Kinglake Road in the wet resulted in some torque steer however understeer didn’t seem to be an issue.

I found that the car worked best when using the N Custom Mode, 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 normal 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 suspension has been reworked with slightly softer front springs, reworked front dampers with softer bump stops, a smaller diameter anti-roll bar and revisions to the adaptive dampers all round.  I personally didn’t notice much of a change in these areas on the road, and felt like the car’s ride was too firm in anything other than the normal suspension mode.  It would be interesting to see how the suspension changes translate to the track.  The electric steering is full of feel; however in the i30 Fastback N, sport+ mode felt too heavily weighted for the road.

With launch control activated, the i30 Fastback N accelerates from 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds, around the same time as the hatch.  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 i30 Fastback N 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 fastback, which now weighs 12kg more than the hatchback (1429kg versus 1441kg).  It would be interesting to see how the brakes hold up on a track day but for road use they were superb.

For everyday driving, it was slightly harder to see out of the smaller rear window; however I drove this car for some 400 kilometres and always felt like I had a good understanding of my surroundings. Although there’s no Auto Hold button, it was handy that the car performed this function automatically on inclines.

Final thoughts

Like the hatchback, the i30 Fastback N is still great value for money.  I personally didn’t notice much of a difference with the softer suspension tune, and the car is still impressive at putting a lot of power down through the front axle.  The ability to pick between five different driving modes and to be able to set up the car to your personal preferences is a real highlight of this car.  The constant surge of power from the turbo four is always addictive.

There are a range of opinions on the new fastback design, but I think that the designers got it spot on with the i30 Fastback N.  The car has been given a new, unique look that makes it really stand out from other cars in its segment.

The i30 Fastback N costs $1500 more than the hatch, at $41,990 plus on-road costs and there’s also a five year unlimited kilometre warranty.  I think that the premium is justified and it’s still a car that still has many talents, being fast, safe, efficient, well equipped and offering a great range of driver settings.  It’s a car that’s been exceptionally well engineered to offer great outright performance to the driving enthusiast.

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