RE: Hyundai i30 N: Review

Tuesday 26th September 2017

Hyundai i30 N: Review

Can a hot hatch from Korea really take it to the established Europeans? Absolutely!



In case you hadn't guessed already, the i30 N is an extremely important car for Hyundai. Not only is it the brand's first hot hatch - no, neither the Accent MVI nor Getz Sport count, you weirdos - it also represents the launch of a new performance sub-brand. This 275hp i30 must announce the 'N' brand to the world, prove Hyundai can do a fast car and give its reputation amongst enthusiasts a much-needed boost. This is also pretty significant for PH as well, this only the second Hyundai review on the site after the Veloster...

Big pressure, then, though Hyundai is of course free from expectation too. There won't be comparisons to previous hot hatch icons by old farts (because there aren't any), no illustrious direct predecessor to match (because there wasn't one) and no counterparts in the Hyundai range that it must match. Because, well, you know the answer.

Fortunately, and very pleasingly, this Blu Tack blue five-door Hyundai is - apologies for spoiling the surprise - absolutely terrific. No, seriously. There is more detail coming, but be in no doubt: the i30 N can stand comparison with any hot hatch you care to mention at £30,000, and in some cases beat them.


Nticing?
It would be understandable if you found the exterior a little underwhelming, though it must be difficult for manufacturers to strike the right balance: follow the Golf GTI style guide and it's supposedly tedious, adopt the Type R method and it's divisive to say the least. For what it's worth the i30 seems sporty enough in isolation, the badges, bumpers and skirts doing just enough to convey the more focused nature of the car. It's smart, if not a car that lingers in the memory for its stylistic menace or magnificence.

Inside is where things begin to improve for the i30 N, as a theme becomes established that runs throughout the rest of the car: namely that the basics are done really well, with nothing left to chance and an overriding sense that car people have been involved. Examples? A round steering wheel, with the important drive mode buttons large and easy to access. A small, round gearknob. Clear, accurate dials with shift lights that are actually useful. Supportive (if slightly too high) seats. A Civic Type R is more enticing still, though that's not what the Hyundai is aimed at: as a rival for the 308 GTI and Focus ST the Hyundai has a superior driving environment.

Before there's any driving though, there's a tech briefing from development boss Albert Biermann. As well as referring to the car as a 'corner rascal' and discussing the 'corner carving' differential, there are some really useful (and encouraging) facts. When Biermann starts discussing the car's confidence inspiring aero balance at Schwedenkreuz, Flugplatz and the Fuchsrohre, you know there's some serious development behind it. The clutch is uprated, the stupidly-named diff is a proper mechanical item, there's aluminium in the suspension to reduce weight and boost stiffness, the tyres are a bespoke compound, camber stiffness is up, the dampers are unique to this car... What you would want changed for a hot hatch has been, basically.


Ngaging
Furthermore, despite Biermann's claims that they weren't making this a circuit warrior hot hatch (there won't be a 'ring time, in case you were wondering), the i30 N is brilliant on track. Really, really good. The 2.0-litre turbo is from other Hyundais but with a new turbo, a new intake manifold and a new exhaust; it revs enthusiastically, punches hard from really low revs and has great throttle response too. Matched to a precise clutch and a really satisfying six-speed manual it's a great powertrain to use on track. Certainly fast enough, as well.

The limited-slip diff works effectively with the Pirelli P Zero tyre (on the 19-inch wheel; the 18s use a Michelin Super Sport) to deliver strong traction out of slower turns, the car only leaning on its assists if you're unreasonably greedy. The brakes are spot on too, powerful and easy to modulate right from the top of the pedal. If you want to heel and toe every pedal is well positioned and placed; should you prefer not to, an excellent rev-match system is a button press away.

Perhaps more importantly than that though, the i30 N feels durable and resilient on track. Typically claims of circuit staying power are taken with a pinch of salt, but here the car feels good for everything you can throw at it. You might scoff at such a remark, though it feels like the race development on the 'ring has paid dividends. Indeed the track session feels to end all too early; the Hyundai so confidence inspiring, capable and eager that lapping all morning would be a pleasure.

Alright, that might stretch the point a bit; certainly a Type R feels more track focused still, a Megane more flamboyant and an RS sillier, though the i30 treads a clever path between their circuit focus and the more ordinary hot hatches - it's a very neat compromise.

Because, if anything, the Hyundai is even better (and even more of a surprise) on the road. Sadly our time with the car was limited, restricted to fairly crummy Italian roads, but there's easily enough to be very excited about for the UK. Well, assuming you've selected the right mode, that is ...


Enough of this
Perhaps it's old man whingeing, perhaps we're not representative of car buyers, or perhaps they would all suit at some point on a longer test. However, to have five drive modes, including an individual mode with 1,944 permutations, seems daft. The driver can choose to adjust the engine response, suspension, diff behaviour, intake noise, exhaust noise, ESC threshold and the steering for at least two settings, so you'll never really know if you have the optimum set-up. Heaven forbid you want to adjust the individual mode on the move either, as it's a right faff.

More frustrating still is that the i30 is a car of genuine and substantial dynamic talent, one where a couple of settings would surely match everything it would need to cover. It can be refined and subdued as well as aggressive and alive, so to have the mush in between seems unnecessary. Most importantly though, the i30 is a brilliant hot hatch to drive when you want to drive like... well, when you want to drive like it's a new fast car and you're not paying for the consumables, to be frank.

The quality of the damping shines through immediately; the ride with the ECS Electronic Controlled Suspension is always firm regardless of the three settings, but the Hyundai has a purpose and poise that eludes cars like the Leon Cupra for example, which can occasionally feel a tad hollow and lax in its damping. It simply does not get flustered, even over really terrible tarmac, the i30 level and expertly controlled. This gives the tyres something to work with, the traction out of bumpy second-gear bends remarkable. As on track, the cars feels very well dynamically calibrated - all elements work very well in harmony, the car not relying on super sticky tyres or draconian traction control to hide handling deficiencies.

Steering that felt accurate and well weighted on the circuit is less encouraging on the road - certainly in Normal mode, at least - too light and with an unwelcome willingness to self-centre. That being said, in the more aggressive settings and with higher cornering loads it did begin to feel more natural again. You kind of have to drive it quickly, basically...


Custom made
For what it's worth, on a limited drive the best 'Custom' mode setting appeared to comprise the most aggressive engine and diff settings (the exhaust pops are particularly good fun), with the mid-way steering setting, the mid-way ESC pre-set the most comfortable suspension. Configured thus the i30 is a fun, involving, deeply impressive hot hatch.

Truth be told, it's a very hard car to pick fault with. There wasn't chance to try the standard 250hp car though, purely off spec, the Performance Package looks worth the extra with its bigger brakes, additional power and limited-slip diff. Still, as a car pitched as an all-rounder, one to deliver a great hot hatch for all different types of buyer, the i30 N fulfils its brief superbly. It's less overt than Civic Type R, better to drive than a 308 and cheaper than a Golf GTI. As car to have come from one of the established hot hatch makers it would be very, very good - as a first time effort the i30 N isn't far off a triumph. If you're looking for a hot hatch in the next few months the Hyundai has to figure on your shortlist, and we can't wait to try it more thoroughly in the UK soon.


HYUNDAI I30 N
Engine
: 1,998cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive (limited-slip differential with Performance Package)
Power (hp): 250@6,000rpm (275@6,000rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 260@1,500-4,700rpm
0-62mph: 6.4sec (6.1)
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,400kg (1,429kg)
MPG: 40.4 (39.8)
CO2: 159g/km (163g/km)
Price: £24,995 (£27,995)
(Figures in brackets for Performance Package; on sale January 4th 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

Resolutionary

Original Poster:

725 posts

102 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
Good article.

It looks like they've taken all the 'best' bits (styling wise) from all the best hot hatches available and chucked them together to make what in my view is a rather nice looking product to enter the segment with. Manual too!

Certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea; may not pry many punters off the usual stock, but like the Cee'd GT I look forward to seeing them on the road.

Michael77

28 posts

85 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
Yeah good article. I think it looks pretty good. Yeah the brand snobbery is always going to be an issue for Hyundai, but I reckon this would make for a great daily driver in a few years time on the second hand market.

kambites

54,330 posts

152 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
It seems odd to me that people continue to be even remotely surprised when the Koreans produce a good car.

It'll be interesting to see what the people horrified by the idea of a cheap looking tablet stuck to the dash think of the fact that they appear to have gone one step further and glued a Gameboy Advance there instead. biggrin

Krikkit

12,523 posts

112 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
I'm going to stick my neck out and say this looks bloody excellent. Not too shouty in styling, the attitude of development sounds about right too - driving first without going too mental stiff etc, proper diff, lots of nice customisation (I like the idea of intake and exhaust noise separately configurable, I'd have intake++ and exhaust-- I think).

I suppose everyone will be waiting with baited breath for the new Megane before plumping one way or the other.

culpz

3,893 posts

43 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
The more i see this, the more i like it, exterior styling-wise. The car in general looks terrific. I like how it's been carefully developed over the years and not rushed into immediate production. I'm also glad it's gone full hot-hatch mode, as apposed to the KIA Cee'd GT, which was more of a warm variant.

I've seen that order books are going to be open for these in January. I'd love one but they need to do some good lease/PCP deals on them for me. Looking at what normal i30's go for, which is surprisingly alot, i'm not sure this will be the case. I'd personally go for the base model at under 25k. It just looks great VFM.
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GiveItSomeWellie

2,607 posts

127 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
That looks really neat, seems quite well priced too.

Animal

4,404 posts

199 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
Very keen on this, but timing is going to be tight: I've got a baby coming at the end of March so need to have a new car and be settled in well before then.

skippy68

13 posts

112 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
Liking what I see,
think they have styled it just right and sounds like it has the credentials to be contender in a crowded market place.
Shame only a handful full of people will buy them due to badge snobbery.

jonosterman

50 posts

23 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
I'm sure badge snobbery will put some off, but I think the bigger issue is going to be price.

The OTR price is competitive in this segment but VW (amongst others) have really aggressive PCP deals out there and if this comes in several hundred pounds a month more than, say, a Golf R, it becomes a very difficult car to buy.

Glasgowrob

1,819 posts

52 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
Bloody good looking car,

MrsGlasgowrob agrees and is currently reminiscing about the good old days when she had a MK1 Leon Cupra R, (mid life crisis methinks)

this looks to be a very very strong contender to replace our current family Kuga next year

kambites

54,330 posts

152 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
I think Hyundai's (and Kias) generally have stronger residuals than VWs, probably because of the longer warranties, so there's no real reason this shouldn't be competitive on lease deals.

silentbrown

3,615 posts

47 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
A *round* steering wheel??

Return to common sense, at last!

spikyone

200 posts

31 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
jonosterman said:
I'm sure badge snobbery will put some off, but I think the bigger issue is going to be price.

The OTR price is competitive in this segment but VW (amongst others) have really aggressive PCP deals out there and if this comes in several hundred pounds a month more than, say, a Golf R, it becomes a very difficult car to buy.
Depends what you mean by "buy" - you won't really end up buying a Golf R, because when it comes to the end of the PCP you'll probably have a huge amount of negative equity, so all you will have done is rent it for three years. The VW route of artificially low monthlies is fine if you want to swap cars every three years, but if you actually want to pay it off and own the car then higher monthlies are better.

Agree with many of the other posts though; kudos to Hyundai for pulling this off, they've done it without just stealing everyone else's ideas and it seems like a very nice package. They've come a very long way since the days of the Getz. I wish them all the best with selling them by the boatload.

culpz

3,893 posts

43 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
kambites said:
I think Hyundai's (and Kias) generally have stronger residuals than VWs, probably because of the longer warranties, so there's no real reason this shouldn't be competitive on lease deals.
Are you sure?

https://www.nationwidevehiclecontracts.co.uk/Hyund...

Unless they do special deals for this specific i30N model, like the infamous Golf R deals. I hope they do but i honestly can't see it.

The cooking Golf models are cheaper than the equivalent i30's too.

https://www.nationwidevehiclecontracts.co.uk/Volks...

jonosterman

50 posts

23 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
spikyone said:
Depends what you mean by "buy" - you won't really end up buying a Golf R, because when it comes to the end of the PCP you'll probably have a huge amount of negative equity, so all you will have done is rent it for three years. The VW route of artificially low monthlies is fine if you want to swap cars every three years, but if you actually want to pay it off and own the car then higher monthlies are better.

Agree with many of the other posts though; kudos to Hyundai for pulling this off, they've done it without just stealing everyone else's ideas and it seems like a very nice package. They've come a very long way since the days of the Getz. I wish them all the best with selling them by the boatload.
Oh I don't disagree, but for a lot of buyers (myself included), it's nice to keep yourself in a new car and the negative equity is someone else's problem as you're never charged it. Decide what you want to spend per month to stay in a new car and shop around for the PCP deal. The list price, GFV, equity etc., becomes largely irrelevant.

em177

2,869 posts

95 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
"Can a hot hatch from Korea"

Is that a headline from 1997?

Turbobanana

1,005 posts

132 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
spikyone said:
They've come a very long way since the days of the Getz. I wish them all the best with selling them by the boatload.
The Getz was OK. Some of their earlier stuff was just miserable (Pony, anyone?). They've been building cars since 1967 - the first was a licence-built Cortina MkII.

PH said: "as a first time effort the i30 N isn't far off a triumph": older car enthusiasts will be falling out of their bathchairs at this.

Al U

1,468 posts

62 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
I like the triangular CHMSL. A nice little design element that is a nice change from the horizontal bar on pretty much everything else.

The seats aesthetically look a bit underwhelming. I can't help but think they may have left some headroom for an NR(?) version depending on how well this sells that has more sporty seats along with a host of other upgrades. When I look at the seats they look a bit obese, the same way the standard seats do in Renaultsport cars that don't have the Recaro's etc.

jonosterman

50 posts

23 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
Al U said:
I like the triangular CHMSL. A nice little design element that is a nice change from the horizontal bar on pretty much everything else.

The seats aesthetically look a bit underwhelming. I can't help but think they may have left some headroom for an NR(?) version depending on how well this sells that has more sporty seats along with a host of other upgrades. When I look at the seats they look a bit obese, the same way the standard seats do in Renaultsport cars that don't have the Recaro's etc.
IIRC one of the original EVO articles on the N30 talked about a future version with AWD and 380bhp. Not sure if that's still on the cards but would be pretty interesting if it is...

MorganP104

2,058 posts

61 months

Tuesday 26th September 2017
quotequote all
Turbobanana said:
The Getz was OK. Some of their earlier stuff was just miserable (Pony, anyone?). They've been building cars since 1967 - the first was a licence-built Cortina MkII.

PH said: "as a first time effort the i30 N isn't far off a triumph": older car enthusiasts will be falling out of their bathchairs at this.
To be fair to the article's author, the suggestion is that "first time effort" refers to Hyundai making a hot hatch specifically, not cars in general.