Hyundai i30 N review: taking the fight to the big boys

Hyundai i30 N review: taking the fight to the big boys
Hyundai i30 N review: taking the fight to the big boys

GTI, RS, ST, WRX – four sets of initials that, while many might not know exactly what they stand for, every petrolhead knows what they mean – speed. ‘N’ might not immediately carry that same kudos, but it ought to.

The Hyundai i30 N is the first hot hatch from the Korean manufacturer and it’s a real statement of intent.

N stands for Namyang, Hyundai Motor’s global R&D Centre in Korea, where the idea was born, and for the Nürburgring, home to Hyundai Motor’s European Test Centre, where the i30 N driving experience was honed and tested.

Hyundai i30 N Performance 

Price: £28,850
Engine: 2.0-litre-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol
Power: 271bhp
Torque: 279lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, 279 lb-ft torque.
Economy: 39.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 163g/km

The performance arm is part of Hyundai’s drive to improve its brand appeal in Europe and N cars should showcase Hyundai’s engineering and put driving pleasure front and centre.

It’s a direct hit on all counts. I tested the i30 N Performance – which squeezes 271bhp out of the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine – and it’s punchy and gutsy, delivering a real kick up the backside beyond 1,500rpm.

As a proper hot hatch should, it features a short-shifting six-speed manual transmission as opposed to a complex semi-auto set-up.

The noise from the exhaust is absolutely terrific, something made all the more satisfying when you consider the relatively subtle styling compared with more lairy-looking competitors such as the Focus RS or Civic Type R. It’s a noise that means this is a car that turns heads without visual styling that makes it look like you crashed into a Halfords warehouse.

Hyundai i30 N

The interior styling keeps the clean lines and uncluttered layout of the standard car and adds a layer of sportiness with ‘N’ decals, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearstick, ‘N’ graphics on the information systems and contrast stitching. As well as ticking all the performance boxes the styling pack lifts the quality of the interior considerably.

But it’s the handling that is the star of the show. The car has been lowered by 8mm compared with the standard car and it’s been fitted with adaptive dampers which keep bodyroll under control while leaving enough softness that the car still feels supple rather than unyielding.

The Performance variant we tested also adds a limited-slip differential which helps it turn tighter and faster while maintaining grip.

Hyundai i30 N

We’re spoiled for choice in the C-segment hot hatch arena and the i30N Performance parks in the middle ground between the ‘everyday fun’ part of the segment and the uber-hatch. It’s up on power against the likes of the Golf GTI and Focus ST, but down compared with the Focus RS and hardcore Honda Civic Type R.

The most impressive thing is that in such illustrious company it doesn’t look at all out of place, as a showcase of Hyundai’s engineering ability it’s on the money and it ought to help add momentum to Hyundai’s drive to improve its brand appeal.

This hot hatch is a Hyundai with character.

Hyundai i30 N

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