Track team: Jules, i30 N and Iain
Track team: Jules, i30 N and Iain

ROAD TEST: Hyundai'sT two-faced hot hatch i30N

HYUNDAI'S i30 N is the brand's first dabble in the hot hatch market and has become a much-praised segment disrupter. At $40,000 before on-roads, it makes VW Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST shoppers pause for thought. Subaru WRX buyers, plus those spending more on a Renault Sport Megane, Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R or Peugeot 308 GTi, must also raise an eyebrow. Can the i30 N cut it as a family car and weekend track toy?

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Jules and Iain: “The i30 N could help recapture (our) misspent youth.”
Jules and Iain: “The i30 N could help recapture (our) misspent youth.”

IAIN: Remember 15 years ago when you had a Peugeot 205 GTi and I had a BMW M3?

JULES: We were childless and had disposable income for fun cars. Happy memories.

IAIN: The i30 N could help recapture such misspent youth. It has space for two kids and luggage. Its 202kW turbo engine and tech-packed chassis equal plenty of grins.

JULES: It looks special but is it too "boy racer" for oldies?

IAIN: Not at all. Compare it to the dog's dinner design of the Civic Type R and the i30 N looks classily purposeful with racy 19-inch alloys, large air intakes, red body trim and red brake calipers.

JULES: I like the body colour but it's very showy. Perhaps I'd need slate grey or white.

IAIN: Absolutely not allowed. Ours is in the correct Performance blue, as used by Hyundai on its World Rally cars.

 

THE LIVING SPACE

JULES: I like the chunky steering wheel, alloy pedals and blue stitching for the seats. Neat layout and roomy enough up front.

IAIN: It's a bit too "normal" Hyundai. At twice the price of an entry-level i30, I'd want a bit more to differentiate it.

JULES: The plastics are soft touch and the seats sporty and cossetting. I think you're being fussy.

IAIN: I can't help comparing it to a VW Golf GTI. The German has the benchmark classy hot hatch cabin.

Old-school elements: i30 N also has cabin luxury pack option
Old-school elements: i30 N also has cabin luxury pack option

JULES: You don't get many goodies. No keyless entry, push start or electric leather seats.

IAIN: Buy the Luxury Pack and get all of the above plus heated steering wheel, front park sensors and wireless smartphone charging.

JULES: I'd tick that box.

IAIN: Not me. I like the old-schoolness here. There's a proper handbrake, no stop-start fuel saving and it doesn't excessively beep like a fussy nanny. Stick a key in the ignition, depress the clutch and select first gear. Wonderful.

 

THE COMMUTE

JULES: The money's been spent on the race stuff. Having a Drive Mode selector helps the i30 N change personalities.

IAIN: Agreed. Five modes - Eco, Normal, Sport, N or N Custom - change engine maps, damper settings, steering weight, stability control, limited-slip differential characteristics and exhaust sound.

Change personality: Everyday driver or uncork the 202kW turbo
Change personality: Everyday driver or uncork the 202kW turbo

JULES: Normal mode makes it just about liveable as a daily drive, though you still feel harsher bumps.

IAIN: I love the Custom mode. My drive to work had me selecting Normal for all, except the exhaust. I had that in "most obnoxious" setting.

JULES: No wonder the neighbours dislike you.

IAIN: Cruise control, dual-zone climate control, satnav and Apple CarPlay through an eight-inch screen help with everyday driving.

 

THE SHOPPING

JULES: Hatchbacks make great load luggers. Nice light boot lid to open, and ample room for the weekly shop.

IAIN: A rear camera and park sensors prevent parking bingles too.

 

THE FAMILY

JULES: As a small hatch it's a fine size for our two young 'uns. Child seats fit across the back but there's no room for an adult between them.

IAIN: It lacks the latest active safety but seven airbags, lane keep assist and AEB are ample.

JULES: The kids' bikes squeezed in the boot, plus they loved the acceleration and noise, mini hoons that they are.

 

SUNDAY RUN

IAIN: Here's where the i30 N makes sense. After a week of school runs, I donned the crash helmet and took it hill climb racing for the weekend.

JULES: Best of all when you brought it back the brakes still worked, tyres weren't bald and it felt un-abused. You could drive to the track then home again.

IAIN: Exactly. And it's such a little weapon. More power and torque than a Golf GTI or Subaru WRX and the super-smart front differential sucks you into the apex of corners. Steering and balance are razor-precise, making average drivers look very good.

Jules says: “You could drive to the track then home again.”
Jules says: “You could drive to the track then home again.”

JULES: It's easy to select race-ready "N Mode" by tapping the blue N button on the steering wheel. And the noise. I love the burble and pops when lifting off at high revs.

IAIN: It's cheating but the car blips the throttle on downshifts so you don't have to heel-toe. Loads of on-board telemetry, lap timer, fade-free 345mm brakes and adjustable damping make it a proper track-focused tool.

JULES: You should really only buy one if you do track days, sprints or hill climbs.

IAIN: Makes the most sense but it's a desirable, fast road car too. Age doesn't matter, as long as you can handle three pedals and a gear stick. You'd be a grumpy sod to not enjoy the i30 N.

 

THE VERDICT

JULES: Great value for a talented and very fast hatch. I was a bit snobby about the Hyundai badge before but the i30 N's noise and sporty ability won me over.

IAIN: Daily drivable and a performance revelation at the track. In addition, Hyundai's five-year warranty has you covered for non-timed track use. Factory lightweight wheels, track tyres and brake upgrades are all available: the i30 N is the real deal. And I want one.

 

HYUNDAI i30 N

2018 Hyundai i30N is a hot hatch with a 202kW turb
2018 Hyundai i30N is a hot hatch with a 202kW turb

PRICE $39,990 plus on roads (cheap thrills)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/u'ltd km including track days, about $1500 for 5 years (excellent for track drivers)

ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 202kW/353Nm (378Nm with overboost, plenty)

SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, tyre pressure monitors, rear camera, rear sensors (good)

THIRST 8.0L/100km (creeps up when used properly)

SPARE Space-saver (not ideal)

BOOT 381L/1287L (good)



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