Hyundai’s first hot hatch, the i30 N, is extremely impressive but not quite a performance bargain in Singapore
Hyundai’s i30 wagon is pretty good…
Like Kia’s ceed hatchbacks, this Continental-centric offering from HMC (Hyundai Motor Company) are its equivalent of Volkswagen’s Golf. With Hyundai also making big investments into high-performance, naturally there is a hot hatch version – the first to come from Hyundai – in the form of the i30 N.
..does that mean a hot i30 is fantastic?
‘N’ is named after Hyundai’s R&D centre in Namyang, and its newer European Test Centre at the Nurburgring – the latter is shared with sister brand Kia, so you can read how Ju-Len’s very first go at the infamous Nordschleife was, rather ironically, in the Kia Stinger.
In fact our own first glance at the i30 N was while attending the Nurburgring 24h race with BMW, who of course claim (not without merit) that it’s been there ages ago and everyone else is just starting to get their toes in the water.
After you read Julen’s story, and what with the hoo-hah the Stinger caused in Singapore last year, we know the Koreans are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making fast cars now, so the i30 N is nothing to be sniffed at.
There’s the usual raft of performance enhancements, so the i30 N resembles its World Rally Championship incarnation far more than a normal i30.
The Performance Blue colour is spot on for the greyish-pastel trend fast cars are touting now, while the front splitter, rear diffuser and dual pipes plus hatch-mounted spoiler are just the icing on the cake of a confidently-executed car that shows how far Hyundai has come with its design chops.
Inside is a more restrained approach, with the pale blue N paddles on the steering wheel, the sportier seats, subtle ‘N’ badging – and the presence of a H-gate shifter and clutch pedal to clue you in. Interestingly, the i30 N is the only hot hatch on sale with a manual-only option, and the second Hyundai in recent times that’s been offered with three-pedals after the Kona 1.0 manual.
Components-wise, there’s a lot to like with a 250hp 2.0-litre turbo engine, rev-matching for the manual box, and electronically-controlled adaptive suspension.
The manual sport seats offer a supportive, if slightly elevated position, and prodding the start button rewards you with a subdued roar and gurgle that sounds exactly like a hot hatch should, with a slightly bassier undertone. There is an electronic sound generator Hyundai says, at the base of the windscreen) and it doesn’t sound artificial like some systems do, though doubtless this loses a minor point on a purist’s checklist.
The chassis is uniformly excellent and the real highlight. The damping and suspension is as a hot hatch’s should be, it’s one of the best-riding performance cars around and able to take on any sort of road, and add nothing but confidence for the driver especially with its nicely-balanced steering response and feel. It lives and breathes speed, with elevated velocity everywhere coming easy and intuitively, but also does normal driving with finesse too.
There are six different drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport+, N and N Custom – and you can fiddle with the steering, suspension, power delivery, electronic stability and more then recall the setting with a second push of the steering-wheel mounted N button (first push gives your full-bore N mode with everything in maximum attack). This is all done through the N menu on the infotainment system, where you can scroll through turbo boost, G-forces and other telemetry.
The powertrain is good, though not outstanding, the 2.0-litre delivers plenty of power and torque in a fat spread, the six-speed gearbox is clean-shifting though not quite rifle-bolt precise in its action, while the rev-matching (which can be used in any mode) is useful even in normal driving.
Performance aside, everything else is almost the same as on an i30, such as the infotainment with a color touchscreen and smartphone connectivity, wireless charging, LED headlights though no cooled seats to add comfort to the hot moments. There’s a visible body brace spanning the boot, which may make loading big, flat items hard, but Hyundai says it adds six percent to body stiffness.
So a very impressive effort for Hyundai’s inaugural hot hatch, but there are a few buts.
Our sister magazine Top Gear rates the i30 N very highly, but that’s the model with the Performance Pack, which bumps power to 275hp, adds an electronic front diff and more interior leather – it’s currently not offered in Singapore, we presume due to price reasons.
Despite having less than 3,000km on the odo, our test car seemed to be rather tired in the tyre and clutch department (yes there is launch control). Just when things got hot enough for the big smiles to come out, the i30 N would come unstuck and understeer more than expected, while the clutch was vague with no obvious biting point.
If you look at it one way, the i30 N, which Hyundai markets as a hot hatch in the old-school vein that focuses on fun rather than outright speed, has no direct rival at $146,999 with COE.
On the other hand, the current crop of the best hot hatches like the Renault Megane RS and Volkswagen Golf GTI ($166,400 with COE) are priced higher, but also a step above in terms of all-round ability. Super-hatches, like the Mercedes-AMG A 45, Honda Civic Type R, and Volkswagen Golf R are even further away, performance wise, though the Seat Leon Cupra offers almost 300hp for $160k.
On the other other hand, let’s also not forget that at that $160k price level the Kia Stinger 2.0 exists too, and it’s not only feature-packed but also faster in a straight line.
Below the i30 N it has a major rival in the form of the much less expensive Skoda Octavia VR245, which undoubtedly delivers the most performance punch for the pesos here and now.
Still there is nothing quite like it, or rather, nothing quite like it in this price bracket. The only other manual-only hatchback is the monstrous Honda Civic Type R (at about $180k with COE) and that is in another league altogether. For more sane hot hatch fun though, the i30 N may be new to the scene, but it’s not niggardly when it comes to nice driving.
|Engine||1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||250hp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||353Nm at 1450-4000rpm (378Nm overboost)|
|Gearbox||6-speed manual with rev matching|
|Top Speed||6.4 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||B / 159g/km|
|Price||S$146,999 with COE|