Talking you through the latest addition to the hot hatch ranks that’s taking the world by storm.
This is Hyundai’s first-ever attempt at a hot hatch – and a performance brand, too.
The i30, which is the Korean firm’s third generation of its Volkswagen Golf-sized C-segment hatchback wearing such a badge, has never been heated up like this before. The i30 N, which stands for either Namyang (Hyundai’s R&D HQ) or the Nürburgring, vaults straight in amongst established machines like the Golf GTI, SEAT Leon Cupra and Honda Civic Type R. And before you ask, kudos points to you if you remember the 1980s-throwback-named i30 Turbo of the previous-gen Hyundai; minus kudos points if you try to argue that that underwhelming car was the marque’s first hot hatch.
Hyundai persuaded Albert Biermann to head up the development of the i30 N.
If you’re wondering who Albert Biermann is, he was previously the man in charge of signing off on BMW M’s most fabled chassis set-ups, so he has some serious performance car credentials. Presumably, having gone from M to N, we’ll see him at Dacia’s yet-to-be-announced ‘O’ sub-brand in ten years’ time…
You can choose two levels of hotness for your i30 N.
They both use a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, with the ‘Madras’ model churning out 250hp and the full-on ‘Vindaloo’ sporting 275hp, a trick limited-slip diff, bigger wheels and a naughty sports exhaust. It’s called the i30 N Performance and no prizes for guessing which one you NEED to buy… yep, the Performance it is.
It is apparently a Corner Rascal.
Various phrases, trotted out by poor Biermann at the launch of the car, were obviously an example of ‘lost in translation’ – that, or Korea’s inability to work out which terms are going to resonate with performance car fans and which will leave most snorting in derision. Things like N Grin Control, a Corner Carving Differential and Afterfire from the exhaust are best left to the pages of a press release. But that Corner Rascal clunker isn’t so far from the truth…
The i30 N Performance is a seriously impressive handler.
While 275hp is admirable, a 0-100km/h time of 6.1 seconds (the i30 N is manual only for now) isn’t anything to particularly shout about as most hot hatches today can crack six seconds for the benchmark sprint. Indeed, there’s a whole new breed, including the Audi RS 3, Mercedes-AMG A 45 and Ford Focus RS that dip well below five seconds. However, the Hyundai’s strength isn’t its brute pace; it’s the stunning way it corners. The front-end grip, the stability of the body, the traction of the driven front axle… all of these things are top notch, and rather like Hyundai has been doing hot hatches for decades, rather than for a few days.
It sounds tremendous.
You can never tell this from the pictures, of course, but the Hyundai i30 N has one of the best four-cylinder soundtracks on sale right now. You can drive it in quieter modes if you must, but we’d advocate having it in ‘N’ mode all the time (or using the Custom setting to keep the car’s exhaust in N), where it sounds properly angry and the exhaust spits, cackles and barks like a demented witch on a blasted heath (you can hear it in our video review of a prototype here). Lovely. Oh, and talking of drive modes…
It has not one, but two drive control buttons.
You’ll spot these hanging off the lower edges of the steering wheel’s centre arms and they’re a light blue colour. The one on the left cycles the i30 N through Eco, Normal and Sport. You won’t ever use Eco, Normal can do day-to-day stuff beautifully and Sport will cover the spirited Sunday back-road blast. The chequered flag button to the right, however, turns the Hyundai into its most ferocious incarnation in N, or gives access to Custom, where you can have the engine and exhaust in maximum attack dog settings, and then the dampers in their softest, most pliant character. A useful blend for the cratered tarmac we have out in the countryside…
The blue colour used in all the press shots is a signature shade.
It’s called Performance Blue and, along with Polar White, it’s a standard finish for the i30 N; it’s also the hue the company uses for its motorsport ventures, so you can pretend you’re in the World Rally Championship if you really need to. Four more paint colours are available and they’re mainly monochrome, although there’s a bright red option for those with an extrovert taste.
More Hyundai N models are on the way.
This isn’t just the birth of the i30 hot hatch – it’s the birth of a new breed. We’re kind of intrigued to see where the N gets apportioned next, because while we like Hyundais in general, the brand is lacking for much in the way of exotic motors as a basis. Nevertheless, a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive i10 N might be a proper laugh… although it’s of course highly implausible.
There might be scope for more i30 N variants.
At the same event where the i30 N was unveiled, Hyundai previewed the Fastback version of the regular i30, which already has a more focused chassis than the standard hatchback. So, it would be an ideal donor for full N treatment. Similarly, we’re suckers for fast estates and the i30 N Tourer would be magnificent. Although our main preference would be for a 300hp+, four-wheel-drive version of the i30 N that could properly take on the likes of the Focus RS, Mercedes-AMG A 45 and Audi RS 3. Now THAT would be an incredible performance from a fledgling fast-car brand.