Test Drives

2019 Hyundai i30 N Performance Pack review: A Powerful N-tity



The arrival of a Performance Pack means Korea’s debut hot hatch can now finally reach its full potential and challenge for the hot hatch crown in Singapore

SINGAPORE

They say that late’s better than never, right?

Few cars have caused as much of a stir around these parts as the Hyundai i30 N did when we broke news of its arrival in Singapore last November. Yet for all the initial hype and fanfare, disappointed reactions weren’t long coming.

That’s because local Hyundai agent Komoco Motors were only bringing in the slightly watered down “base” i30 N, not the full-bells-and-whistles Performance Pack version that was grabbing headlines and praise all over the motoring world.

Derryn reviewed that back in January, and found the handling (one of the biggest draws of a hot hatch) a little wayward and messy due to shagged tyres, and the do-it-yourself gear-swapping experience (one of the biggest draws of the i30 N itself) marred by a vague clutch.

All is right with the world now though, as Komoco is now bringing in the i30 N Performance Pack (PP), the car it was always meant to be in the first place.

For your extra S$20k over the base i30 N (S$10k of which is due to different VES banding), the PP adds 25hp to the power output for a total of 275hp (torque is unchanged at 353Nm, or 378Nm on overboost). It also adds nicer-looking 19-inch wheels (18s are standard), wider tyres, larger brakes, and most tantalisingly, an electronically-controlled limited slip differential. The century sprint is clocked at 6.1 seconds (0.3 faster), while top speed remains at 250km/h.

The PP also adds electric adjustment and memory functions to the front seats, an active exhaust system, and unlocks full customisation of the car’s parameters in its Custom drive mode.

Not having driven the base car, I can’t say how much improvement the PP parts bring, but I can say this: in this ultimate form the i30 N is a stupendously complete package, perfectly straddling the divide between the all-rounded Volkswagen Golf GTI, and the exhilarating but polarising Renault Megane RS.

Let’s cut right to the chase – the i30 N PP is a drivers’ car through and through, and it begins with your interactions from the very moment you step in.

It’s not often stressed, but part of what makes a good drivers’ car isn’t just performance and handling, but also how comfortable you are being in it and operating it; and the i30 N allows you to do just that. There’s a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment on offer, the control weightings (wheel, pedals, gearstick) are well-judged, and the switches to swap drive modes are right in front of you on the steering wheel for instantaneous changes, instead of down in the centre console.

Not only can you get your seating position just so, you can also do likewise to the car’s setup. in Custom mode, every single one of its seven parameters (engine response, rev matching, e-LSD, exhaust, suspension, steering, stability control) is independently adjustable, unlike some brands which force you to take the sharpest drivetrain and chassis modes together. For car guys who know exactly what they want, this is a godsend.

I quickly found my sweet spot and stuck with it all the way: all the drivetrain settings at maximum sharpness and all the chassis ones at their softest.

Setup this way, the i30 N is lively without being punishing. The comfort suspension mode is still plenty firm, but rounds out the roughest edges in the road.

It’s a perfectly adequate performance, but at extreme bumps it doesn’t have quite the envelope of range as the Megane and its trick dampers.

Handling-wise, it’s much more exciting than a GTI, yet isn’t as rabidly intense as the Megane. Hyundai says the i30 N is calibrated for accessible fun rather than time attack levels of precision and sharpness, which means the chassis allows for a decent amount of lateral slip at the limit instead of snapping sideways off your intended line.

It’ll even indulge in playful tail exercises given the correct mindset and aggressive inputs, thanks to stability control that actually stays off when you tell it to.

It helps that even in its comfort setting the steering hasn’t been calibrated to be fingertip light at low speeds. Its heft makes for a reassuring weight that’s reminiscent of old hydraulic assisted racks, although like practically almost all modern systems it’s devoid of granular feel.

Thanks to its limited-slip diff (arguably the biggest highlight of the PP over the base car), the i30 N is a devastatingly effective ground-coverer. You don’t notice it at work in the same way as in the Skoda Octavia RS245, which comes into play with more fun and aggression but less precision.

In the i30 N, it doesn’t tug at the steering and it all feels very natural, and you might not even notice its presence until you realise you just fired out of that second-gear off-camber corner with full throttle and zero wheelspin.

Adding to the fun, rather than serious factor of the i30 N is the gearbox. Yes, a manual will never be as quick as a modern auto or twin-clutch, but when you use it, you just won’t care. It may not snick through the gates quite as solidly as a Honda Type R’s, but it’s still slick and well weighted, and the shift knob looks great to boot. Shift lights in the instrument cluster simply add to the drama and involvement of rowing your own gears.

 

And with the auto rev match function, anyone can look a hero. As a die hard stick shift proponent I enjoy the challenge of mastering this myself, but when you’re pushing hard this removes one extra element that you need to keep track of, so you can concentrate more on other things like nailing your braking zone and maintaining your line without upsetting the car’s turn-in balance.

The fact that it’ll get it right 99% of the time means the dark art of heel n’ toe is reduced to a vanity exercise in this car, though you can still go DIY and deactivate the system.

At the core of it, what is a hot hatch supposed to be if not both thrilling to drive and easy to live with?

Two of our current favourites, the Megane RS and Golf GTI, excel in their own way, but effectively bookmark the two ends of the pace-practicality spectrum.

The party trick that Hyundai has pulled is that the i30 N Performance Pack falls smack in the middle between them, in every conceivable metric.

The only fly in the PP pie is price and brand – are you willing to pay S$164,999 with COE for a Hyundai hot hatch, especially considering the Megane is cheaper at S$162,999 with COE and the more refined and polished, almost luxurious GTI around S$10k more?

Hyundai may have been late entering the hot hatch game, and the i30N Performance Pack itself late to reach our shores, but it thoroughly proves that good things come to those who wait.

Hyundai i30 N 2.0 (Performance Pack)

Engine 1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 275hp at 6000rpm
Torque 353Nm at 1450-4700rpm (378Nm overboost)
Gearbox 6-speed manual with rev matching
0-100km/h 250km/h
Top Speed 6.1  seconds
Fuel Efficiency 7.1L/100km
VES Band / CO2 C1 / 163g/km
Agent Komoco Motors
Price S$164,999 with COE
Availability Now

 

about the author

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Jon Lim
CarBuyer's latest addition is its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s. He also strongly believes any car can be a race car if you have a sufficient lack of self-preservation, which explains why he nearly flipped a Chinese van while racing it.