There are two ‘approaches’ when styling a hot hatch: a subtle, reserved approach, or the utterly bonkers, stand-outish one. From now on, I will think of the latter as the ‘Hyundai i30 N’ approach. There’s nothing subtle about it. It’s in your face, shouting and waving its arms about, spoiling for a fight.
It’s a bold move by Hyundai, but they have executed it to perfection. My test car was finished in exclusive Performance Blue. For those of you of a rallying disposition, you will recognise the colour from the Hyundai i20 WRC rally car, giving the i30 N a motorsport feel.
At the front, you are drawn to the big, gaping honeycomb grille complete with ‘N’ badge. The corners of the bumper are angular and give the car an aggressive stance. A big red pinstripe on the bottom lip makes sure that people who see the i30N approaching in their rear-view mirror know it means business. Completing the front end are the sculpted LED headlights.
To the side, the black side skirt brandishes the ‘N’ logo at the back. 19-inch alloy wheels look good with a gloss black and polished two-tone finish. The wing mirrors are also gloss black, which was a nice contrast against the Performance Blue paint. Also effective is the privacy glass and black window surrounds.
The rear of the Hyundai i30 N is what people will see most often. In the centre of the gloss black spoiler is a triangular brake light, which furthers the motorsport feel. Two large, round exhaust pipes sit either side of a diffuser; below which is another red pinstripe. The rear bumper itself is as angular and aggressive as the front.
There is no denying the Hyundai i30 N is a car with serious road presence, and kerb appeal.
The interior of the Hyundai i30 N isn’t quite as bonkers as the exterior; instead opting for what I expect Hyundai would call more ‘focused’ styling. There is a lot of black and grey and, despite the blue contrast stitching, this gives a monotonous feel.
Front seat passengers are treated to big, sumptuous sports seats, complete with big bolsters, shoulder support and an adjustable knee cushion. Once settled in the driver’s seat you notice the subtle ‘N’ badges on the steering wheel and gear knob, in addition to the less subtle race and drive mode buttons on the steering wheel.
The dials are reasonably plain; with a manual speedometer and rev counter sitting either side of a multi-function display. I like the dynamic rev limiter, which changes as the engine reaches temperature.
What isn’t so plain is the inclusion of shift lights. Located at the top of the instrument panel they light up as you approach the redline, flashing once you get there. Yes, they are a bit childish, but they are also brilliant.
The steering wheel itself is chunky and grippy, with perforated leather and blue stitching. Usually I prefer a flat-bottomed wheel, but in this case it didn’t bother me.
In the centre of the dashboard is the 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. It looks a bit like a tablet in the sense that it is ‘stuck on’ the dash as opposed to being incorporated. This seems to be a growing trend among car makers.
On the whole the plastics are of a good quality, but I took a particular dislike to the handbrake which is a cheap, scratchy plastic. I also think the interior would have benefited from a more prominent finisher to bring a bit of texture and contrast; for example a brushed aluminium or carbon-effect trim.
Engine / Performance
Powering the i30 N is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine. It produces 275PS and 353Nm in the i30 N Performance. Five drive modes are available – Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom, making it versatile.
With a 6-speed manual gearbox this Hyundai is a rather pokey hot hatch. 0-62mph takes 6.1 seconds and the top speed is 155mph.
Those performance figures are in the ball park of the Volkswagen Golf GTi Performance, so will spark the interest of petrol heads. But the stats on paper are only half the story; the reality of getting behind the wheel of the Hyundai i30 N, prodding the start button and going out for a blast is completely different.
Unlike many rivals, the i30 N has a sports exhaust. A proper sports exhaust. Stick the car in ‘N’ mode and the chatter from the tailpipes is incredible. At low revs there’s a rumbly bass. It also pops and bangs on overrun. Shift at the redline and you are greeted to a delightful bang. It’s borderline antisocial, which is a refreshing change from the quiet, boring exhaust notes usually found on turbo cars.
The Hyundai i30 N comes with rev matching technology. What this does is blips as you enter neutral on the downshift, so that when you hit the next gear (i.e 3rd to 2nd) the revs match and the change is seamless. It works too: even the most aggressive downshifts are smooth and natural.
If there was ever a car to upset the ‘status quo’ of hot hatches, it would be the Hyundai i30 N. Until now, Hyundai’s best offering was the i30 Turbo: a rather uninspiring car with lacklustre performance. Then we get the i30 N: a car which can shrug off a Golf GTi Performance.
Ride / Handling
In order to ensure the i30 N is as impressive around the bends as it is on the straights, Hyundai has fitted the i30 N with adaptive damping. Coupled to the different drive modes it works well.
In Eco and Normal modes the i30 N is somewhat firm, but edging towards comfort. Then in the ‘N’ mode the car stiffens up and edges more to the hardcore end of the hot hatch ride spectrum. The up side of this is minimal body roll and predictable behaviour on bumpier, undulating roads. Open the boot and you’ll find a strengthening bar, which helps chassis stiffness.
In N Custom mode you can set the i30 N up exactly how you like. Choose settings for the engine, rev matching, e-LSD and exhaust system.
The steering is nicely weighted and direct. As for the e-LSD, you wouldn’t know it was electronic. You can use all 275PS, and understeer is never really a problem. Through the corners, the front end is pulled into the apex, as would be the case with a mechanical LSD.
If you were to drive the car in N mode all the time then you would end up with chattering teeth. But if the i30 N was set up for comfort all the time it would be compromised on the track, so it’s nice to have the different modes.
To provide stopping power, the i30 N performance has 345mm front discs and 314mm rear discs. Although there are no 4-piston or 6-piston callipers, there is still ample brake force to ensure the i30 N halts with the same ferocity that it accelerates.
To be a true hot hatch, a car must not be terribly uneconomical. It must have the power to cause upset against larger, more powerful cars whilst still enjoying the frugality of a family hatchback.
The official figures for the i30 N Performance is 39.8mpg on the combined cycle. How close you get to that figure will depend largely on how restrained you are with your right foot. Take the Hyundai on a long, gentle run and it will sip fuel at a rather leisurely rate.
Go a bit bonkers mind you – it’s easily done, trust me – and you will find yourself making acquaintances with the local petrol station cashier.
CO2 emissions are 163g/km. Whilst that’s doesn’t set the class alight – a Golf GTi Performance manual emits 148g/km – it’s still fine. Company car drivers will be worse off, but I would guess that there won’t be many people with a Hyundai i30 N on their P11d.
Road tax costs £515 in the first year and £140 thereafter. Whilst the first year rate may seem steep, it’s all relative to the overall price of the car. See the “Value For Money” section further down. As the i30 N is less than £40,000 to buy, there’s no danger of the VED surcharge.
Technology helps the Hyundai i30 N be reasonably efficient. You have the ‘Eco’ drive mode. The car features start/stop technology. Whilst there is no fancy DCT automatic option to further improve efficiency, it’s not required, and with rev matching the manual is far more rewarding to drive anyway.
A hot hatch must also be a practical car to live with. You should be able to get your kids in the back and the shopping in the boot. It should be easy to park and, when not hooning around on the local B-road, be composed and pleasant to drive around town.
The cabin on the Hyundai i30 N has ample space for adults both front and back. The boot – at 381 litres – is more than big enough for the Aldi big shop. It should also be said that the aforementioned strengthening bar does not intrude on the boot space.
The boot is also quite deep, so the family dog could be comfortable in it, although that’s unlikely if you go for an ‘N’ mode blast…
As for how the i30 N is to drive and live with, you soon learn to appreciate the varying characteristics of the different drive modes. You are able to rein in the bonkers-ness by switching to Eco or Normal. And in doing so the i30 N is not a fire breather, but an everyday family hatchback.
Visibility is great, which makes parking a doddle. Despite having large wheels the turning circle is fine, so you don’t end up doing a fifty-point turn at the supermarket car park.
When spending a mere week with a car, it’s hard to suss out exactly what it’s like to live with. But with the i30 N I could tell that life would be great. In a busy week filled with various jobs and drives, it was a pleasure throughout. I could quite easily have kept it; had Hyundai not politely insist I must give it back.
I think if there is one area where hot hatches have most moved on; it would be in the level of equipment and technology offered.
In the past the hot hatch was reasonably-poorly equipped, because you were paying for the mechanical bits and bobs that resulted in the performance.
Nowadays, the hottest model in a line-up is often the top-of-the-range model too; it is therefore the one with the most gadgets and gizmos as standard. That’s definitely the case with the Hyundai i30 N.
There are no optional extras in the i30 N: you get the equipment as standard. And the list of equipment you get is rather comprehensive.
Keyless entry and go; satellite navigation; cruise control; reversing camera; front and rear parking sensors; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; wireless charging pad; Lane Departure warning system; Emergency Autonomous Braking. All this is standard on the i30 N, and makes it an effortless car to live with.
But you also know you are getting the performance kit too. Those big brakes. The adaptive dampers. A sports exhaust system doesn’t come cheap, and neither does the aerodynamic bodykit. With the i30 N you can see exactly what you are paying for and, unlike some rivals, it isn’t a badge.
Value For Money
It’s probably clear by now that I like the Hyundai i30 N, so much so that I have had little criticism of it. But the question of cost is one that can make or break a car’s desirability, especially in the competitive hot hatch segment.
Prices for the i30 N Performance start at £28,010 on the road. With Performance Blue paint my test car cost £28,595 which is also the most you could spend on this car (save for dealer-fit accessories).
There is no denying that, at that price, the i30 N is a game-changer in this segment. A Golf GTi performance starts at £30,585 but bear in mind that you would have to spec options to get the same kit as in the Hyundai.
You see this is why I still scored the i30 N well in terms of economy: because despite the seemingly-large £515 first year rate it’s price is still more than competitive enough to sway you away from rivals.
What’s also remarkable is that this excellent value doesn’t seem to come with a compromise. Whilst the interior isn’t the most premium in the segment, the i30 N has more than enough to make up for this. If I was in the market for a hot hatch, then the Hyundai i30 N would be the benchmark against all other cars being considered. And I can’t think of a more complimentary way to bring the review to an end than that.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||275PS at 6,000rpm|
|Max torque||353Nm at 1,500rpm|
|Drivetrain||6-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive with electronic limited-slip differential|
|Fuel tank size||50 litres|
|Fuel consumption||39.8mpg, combined cycle|
|Towing capacity||1,600kg braked / 700kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||381 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£28,595|