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UK Drive: Hyundai's i30 N makes its case on UK roads

Reviews | Published:

The Hyundai i30 N is the the South Korean manufacturer’s first foray into the hot hatch market. Jack Evans has been to test it on UK roads

What is it?

This is Hyundai’s new hot-hatch – the i30 N. Aiming to tackle the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type R, it’s the South Korean manufacturer’s first foray into the ever-growing sports hatchback segment.

The i30 N takes on the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type R
(Hyundai)

We’ve already driven the car in Italy – both on road and on track – but we’ve now been able to test it on UK roads, as well as an iconic UK circuit – Lincolnshire’s Cadwell Park.

What’s new?

As has been widely publicised in the automotive media, ex-BMW M-division vice president Albert Biermann joined Hyundai to develop an all-new sports car. According to the manufacturer, Biermann was handed a blank sheet of paper to develop the i30 N, which is why you’ll see a lot of features on the car that you wouldn’t expect from a ‘conventional’ manufacturer. For instance, the i30 N Performance gets a clever electronic differential, electronically controlled suspension and a full torque-vectoring system.

Subtle N badges are dotted around the car
(Hyundai)

There’s a lot going on underneath the skin of the i30 N, but it all works together to make it as competitive as possible in what is a very fought over segment.

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What’s under the bonnet?

Under the bonnet of the i30 N Performance sits a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 271bhp and 353Nm of torque. The regular i30 N, which does without the clever differential or added exhaust trickery, makes do with ‘just’ 247bhp. In this case, we’ve been driving the more powerful version, capable of hitting 60mph in 5.9 seconds before hitting a top speed of 155mph.

Drive mode buttons allow you to tailor the car's settings to your liking
(Hyundai)

A key part of the i30 N’s armament is its Drive Mode selector. This allows you to cycle through various drive settings, with each changing the car a surprising amount. More importantly, it allows you to set up the car to your individual tastes. Usefully for the UK, it allows you to slacken off the suspension yet keep the car’s engine and exhaust in their sportiest modes – ideal for pothole-ridden British b-roads.

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What’s it like to drive?

Sit behind the wheel of the i30 N and, in truth, you could believe that you were sat in pretty much any other Hyundai product. You get the sense that the money has been spent on making the car drive well and, thankfully, that’s exactly what it does.

Press the engine starter button and you’re met by a cackle from the exhaust – immediately a good sign. The major control weights are well-judged; pulling away from a stop requires little management of the relatively light clutch, while the gearbox – which uses the same housing as the i40 – is notchy and simple to operate. The fundamentals, therefore, are solid.

The i30 N still comes with an impressive five-year warranty
(Hyundai)

Up and running, the i30 N simply gets better and better. The steering is accurate and allows you to easily place the car, and this is matched by an engine that offers more than enough low-down grunt to keep things interesting. On long, swooping bends like those found on our Lincolnshire test route, the i30 N remains composed while the combination of the electronic differential and sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres – developed specifically for the i30 N – means there’s huge amounts of grip on offer.

On track, the i30 N makes an even stronger case for itself. Cadwell Park is a notoriously complex circuit, narrow and winding with a huge variety of elevation changes to deal with. However, the N takes them all in its stride, with its sharp handling and lack of body roll making for a hugely entertaining – and quick – lap.

How does it look?

We’d argue that, with its variety of small exterior additions, the i30 N is one of the best looking cars in the hot hatch segment.

Clever suspension keeps the i30 N level
(Hyundai)

It may not be as wild as the Civic Type R nor as refined in its design as the Golf GTI, but it strikes a decent balance between the two. Additional air vents and a large rear diffuser help the car stand out just enough without shouting too loudly about it.

What’s it like inside?

As mentioned previously, the interior of the N isn’t wildly different to that in the regular i30. There are just enough features to keep it feeling special, though. The plastics surrounding the window switches are scratchy – though we are being picky here.

Save for a few additional steering wheel buttons – most notably the drive mode selectors – it’s as you’d expect from the regular i30 N. Key elements have been changed however; the metal gear stick is exclusive to the i30 N, as are the sports pedals.

Small touches help lift the i30 N's interior
(Hyundai)

The i30 N’s price tag is worth remembering at this point – prices for the Performance model start at £27,995, so it’s never going to feel completely premium.

What’s the spec like?

Whereas other manufacturers offer their customers a whole wealth of optional extras to choose from, Hyundai has decided to keep things simple. You’ve able to pick pearl paint for £585 – and that’s it.

The i30 N's exhaust system gives the car a lot of character
(Hyundai)

Despite this, you still get a full infotainment system with eight-inch colour touchscreen as standard, as well as Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Also accompanying the N is a five-year unlimited mileage warranty – and this covers track use, too.

Verdict

With only a relatively young motorsport program and no production performance car heritage to speak of, you could have forgiven Hyundai for producing somewhat of a damp squib for its first hot hatch. However, this really couldn’t be further from the truth – the i30 N is a hugely capable car available for an impressively competitive price. In short, we’d think long and hard about going for a Golf GTI – the i30 N is the complete package, and one of the best hatches on sale today.

Facts at a glance

Model: Hyundai i30 N Performance
Price as tested: £27,995
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 271bhp
Torque: 353Nm
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.9 seconds
MPG (combined): 39.8
Emissions: 163g/km

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