The i30N is Hyundai’s fastest car sold in the UK
The Korean firm is putting that right with its most powerful car yet sold in the UK, a 275bhp version of the accomplished, but ordinary, i30 hatchback.
The N stands for Namyang, where the firm has its base in Korea, and also Nürburgring, the German race track where the car was developed.
The quickest Hyundai enters a market full of top rivals and must be nothing short of brilliant to be taken seriously.
It is aimed at the typical hot-hatch buyer: someone who wants a fun car that still passes as sensible everyday transport.
The UK is one of Europe’s big markets for hot-hatches. Hyundai, however, doesn’t carry the loyal following of enthusiasts of the likes of Ford’s RS or ST or Renaultsport models.
It is aimed at the typical hot-hatch buyer: someone who wants a fun car that still passes as sensible everyday transport
It may not have that following, but the company expects most buyers to have experienced a sporty rival.
With that in mind, it expects almost all to opt for the Performance pack which ups the i30 N from 250bhp to 275bhp, adds larger brakes, a limited slip differential, larger wheels and a few cabin goodies.
Styling has also been well judged.
Pitched between the super-subtle Peugeot 308 GTi and wild Honda Civic Type R, the i30 N is marked out from more humble i30s by a deeper front grille with front spoiler highlighted in red, side skirts and a gloss black rear spoiler with a sportier rear bumper incorporating a diffuser.
The i30 doesn’t have quite the same following as Fords model RS or ST
The rest of the car is essentially unchanged from the clean, almost ordinary, regular i30. The quick i30 can also be ordered in two colours unique to the N; grey (“clean slate”) and performance blue.
The i30 has a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 250bhp, with the N Performance version boasting 275bhp.
The power delivery in both is impressively smooth through the rev range, with minimal lag between pressing the accelerator and response from the engine.
Putting its power through the front wheels, the result is a 0 to 60mph time of 6.4 seconds for the 250bhp version and 6.1 seconds for the 275bhp car with both having a 155mph top speed.
When the car is in anything other than Sport+ mode, activated by the N button on the steering wheel, the engine and exhaust notes are not particularly exciting.
The i30 will go 0-60 in 6.4 seconds
However, switch to Sport+ and the exhaust pops and bangs and generally sounds more throaty.
In the dry, the front wheels and the traction control systems cope well with the power.
The limited slip differential also helps to control the inside wheel spinning away power and gives the car plenty of traction when you’d expect a front-drive car to wash power away in the corners.
While buyers don’t pick hot-hatches for efficiency, the i30 N has a decent 40.4mpg economy.
Undeniably fast, its fun-factor is also right up there with the best.
The Hyundai i30N is built for track days
On smooth roads or on track days (which Hyundai says the N is engineered for) the car has a wonderfully neutral balance that can be used to the full when cornering.
Steering weight and feedback are superb and aid confidence allowing you to exploit the car to its maximum. The N also does what you’d expect when driving aggressively.
On smooth roads with the softest “Normal” suspension setting, comfort levels are good. Press the “N” button to stiffen the suspension and sharpen the throttle and the i30 becomes even more focused and taught.
However, if the Hyundai has a weakness, it’s that on rougher surfaces, even in the Normal suspension setting, the ride is a little too harsh. Normal is comfortable enough for everyday driving if your commute is relatively pothole free.
Motorway seams in the concrete can produce jolts, particularly from the rear. Uneven B-roads will have you slowing down for fear of the car skipping about rather than absorbing bumps and providing the confidence which the best ones in this sector excel at.
The weakness of the i30N is that it doesn’t run so well on rough roads
The stiffer settings are near pointless for all but the best road surfaces. Ironically, the 250bhp version comes with 18in alloys and tyres with a taller sidewall and offers a fractionally better ride quality.
The N’s cabin is little different from a regular high-spec i30. There are supportive sports seats, two blue buttons on the wheel to control the drive modes and a few extra screens such as a g-meter and lap time capability.
It may not feel that special, but there’s no faulting the build qualities. And like all hot-hatches there’s no compromise on space for rear seat passengers or luggage.
Fun, fast and clever, there’s one last temptation: price. The £27,995 for the 275bhp i30 N Performance version undercuts all rivals.
So Hyundai has calmly pulled off what many would have thought unlikely, delivering a brilliant hot-hatch with buyers able to jump from rival brands without sacrificing anything but price.
On sale: January 2018
Price range: £24,995-£27,995
Engine: Turbo-petrol – 2.0, 2.0-litre 275bhp
Power: 0 to 60mph in 6.1 seconds, 155mph top speed (2.0 275bhp)
Fuel economy: 40.4mpg (2.0 250bhp)
CO2 emissions: 159-163g/km
Rivals: Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type-R, Seat Leon Cupra, Peugeot 308 GTi, VW Golf R