RE: Hyundai i30 N Fastback vs Skoda Octavia vRS 245

RE: Hyundai i30 N Fastback vs Skoda Octavia vRS 245

Tuesday 12th February

Hyundai i30 N Fastback vs Skoda Octavia vRS 245

Performance, practicality and punchy value have always been the Octavia's smarts - can the new Fastback match them?



For near enough 20 years now, the Skoda Octavia vRS has offered a hot hatch package that has won it many UK fans, in both showrooms and the media. By bringing together proven VW mechanicals with huge amounts of space, understated good looks and conspicuous affordability, it has never been difficult to understand the appeal. For anyone that's needed to move a lot of things a lot of distance discreetly but rapidly, there has always been a lot to say for the big Skoda. Once the swap had been made for the second generation from Golf Mk4 to Mk5 underpinnings, it was even quite good to drive.

Therefore the arrival of a direct competitor on the Octavia's patch is fairly big news, because nothing thus far has offered such a broad array of talents: rivals were smaller, slower, more expensive or more obvious. While perhaps never the most exciting, the vRS has delivered on a lot of fronts for a lot of people, hence its continued success. And, presumably, why Hyundai is keen to muscle in on its patch.

The i30 N is a car we're already familiar with, having impressed since its 2017 launch and already surpassed one VW group hot hatch in the shape of SEAT's 300 Leon Cupra. Here, though, we have the new i30 N Fastback, a car that - while not exactly cavernous - does sit alongside the regular hatch in the N range as ostensibly the more practical alternative. And if it's a functional, sturdy, unassuming yet still entertaining hot hatch that you're after, there's really only one rival to call on...


Hence a PistonHeads twin test of grey Skoda and darker grey Hyundai, on a day greyer than both in the middle of winter. You want real world? This is it, down to cleaning cars with kitchen roll, slogging down the M4 in torrential rain and desperately hunting for a bit of B-road space to see how the two compare on a Friday afternoon. Still, a representative test if nothing else...

The day begins in the Hyundai, here in Performance guise that will be the sole specification offered to UK buyers. Given how much is shared with the extremely likeable hatch, it should come as no surprise to hear the Fastback is immediately more than passable company. Much is made - probably too much in fact - of Albert Biermann's influence on Hyundais and Kias since his transfer from BMW M, but there really are areas where a link between M and N can be detected.

Now, obviously, this is not a six-cylinder, rear-wheel drive German saloon - we get that. It should be noted, however, that like recent M cars the i30 N has a front end of great tenacity and response, an electronically controlled mechanical diff that is great for traction and, most pleasingly, a slightly loutish (and rather naughty) character. The Hyundai makes more noise than it probably should, goads its driver into pushing that bit harder and, while of a different kind, will indulge anyone's penchant for skidding around a bit.


There are more subtle influences, too. See the drive mode buttons within easy reach on the steering wheel, as the M1 and M2 presets are in BMs; the shift lights that mean your eyes can stay ahead, found in in the HUD on M cars and a permanent part of the dash here; and the clever calibration of a mid-way traction control, ensuring the driver never feels that much is being lost out in terms of fun with one eye on safety. They've all made it across, and make a difference.

That said, the Biermann effect does have its less positive impacts as well. Like in any M cars you care to mention of the past decade, the i30's steering wheel is too chubby and connected to a system that prefers weight to feel, up to and including a chronically over-assissted sporty setting. It also features a stiffest suspension mode that feels very nearly too much on all but the smoothest UK roads - sound familiar?

Finally, the plethora of driving modes has to be mentioned. There's clearly a faith in them that's carried over, but in the same way that an M3 doesn't requite three different steering modes, neither does a Hyundai hot hatch need different strengths of rev matching. It's overkill, and not to the benefit of the experience. A Custom mode of more focussed powertrain settings with less intense chassis ones suits most situations, with Normal there for pretty much every other scenario. Don't forget the total number of dynamic configurations is 1,944, which is quite a few to get through in an afternoon on the A338.


It won't come as much surprise to discover that the M link feels most vague to the point of invisible when it comes to the i30's engine. The 2.0-litre turbo under the Fastback's snout is tuneful, potent and effective enough, but fails to match others in this segment - Skoda included - for response, eagerness and efficiency. It does the job, as does the gearbox, though not an awful lot more. It says a lot about the commendably high standards of the class, really, because there's not a great deal to fault it for. And anything that makes this much of a juvenile racket (when the situation suits, of course, and the right mode is selected) will always find fans on PH.

Despite the smorgasbord of settings, the joy of an N is in its relatively simple approach to thrills; it doesn't revolutionise expectations of a hot hatch (or hot fastback), rather it delivers on all the criteria we've come to use in classifying a good'n. The brakes are progressive and strong, the performance plentiful and the damping adept, if not class leading.

Get on the throttle too early and the wheels will spin; come out of the throttle too abruptly and it will oversteer; push and push and the Hyundai largely continues to deliver, surely testament to an exhaustive testing regime and proper investment in the hardware. To drive the i30 quickly feels old school but not old fashioned (to steal a catchphrase) and all the more likeable for it.


In comparison, the Skoda's obvious maturity feels a little subdued, and - to be honest - a little plain. The upside of that, naturally, is a more restful nature when the journeys are less interesting. A calmer, less punishing ride around town is easy to appreciate; although perhaps not its less boisterous attitude generally. Even as a range topping variant with power matching the Golf GTI Performance, the impression of the Octavia being the sensible, demure hot hatch in the VW empire never subsides.

That's not to say it can't be entertaining - not at all. Indeed there are areas where it's demonstrably better than the Hyundai. The steering has less unnecessary resistance but no worse a sense of connection (and a much nicer wheel), and this 2.0-litre turbocharged engine feels keener at high revs and it doesn't appear to be any slower than the more powerful i30 - which can be credited to a lower kerbweight and higher peak torque figure.

What the Skoda lacks - indeed what's always been missing, but is brought into sharper focus here - is some excitement, that point where competence becomes flair and talent morphs into something more memorable. Even in its most aggressive Sport mode, the Octavia is fairly meek; the sound is uninspiring, the VAQ diff still nowhere near as precise as the Hyundai's mechanical unit and the damping lacks conviction. It's a fine set up for everyday use - but what's the point of configurability if there's not some genuine, tangible differences between the modes? Certainly that's not a criticism that could be levelled at the i30, even if its array of choice verges on the bewildering.


Put simply, the vRS never quite ups its game to the level of a really decent hot hatch. It's perfectly pleasant, with an accurate manual gearbox, pleasingly neutral balance and laudable agility for something so large, yet it never comes alive in a way that it arguably should, and which the Hyundai certainly does.

Now before the Octavia army come charging in, we get it - the vRS has lots of similar cars rivalling it on the same architecture that it mustn't tread on the toes of, a problem the Hyundai doesn't have. It must strike a balance between performance and practicality (that's different to other VWs) which, by and large, it does very well. It shouldn't be forgotten, either, just how vast the Skoda is - for some buyers the very fact of the i30's pokier dimensions will discount it.

But if that can be tolerated, the i30 N Fastback delivers a compromise more appealing than that of the Octavia vRS. The chassis modifications made in the light of hatch buyer feedback have made it a tad more liveable, albeit not at the expense of that car's up-and-at-em enthusiasm and fun. What that means for this comparison is that Hyundai can't quite offer the sort of mellow, detached comfort of the Skoda, but that it offers greater reward for those who like driving. That it manages the latter feat without being anymore more taxing to use as a family car - albeit a slightly smaller one - is more than enough for it to win out in our book.


SPECIFICATION - SKODA OCTAVIA VRS 245
Engine:
1,984cc, turbocharged four-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 245@5,000-6,700rpm
Torque (lb ft): 273@1,600-4,300rpm
0-62mph: 6.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,445kg [EU, including 75kg driver]
MPG: 42.8
CO2: 150g/km
Price: £27,625 (price as tested £29,345, comprised of Canton Sound System for £510, Electrically adjustable, heated, folding auto dimming door mirrors for £210, Lane Assist and Blind Spot detection for £400, Temporary space saver spare wheel for £150, Virtual Cockpit for £450.)

SPECIFICATION - HYUNDAI FASTBACK N
Engine:
1,998cc, turbocharged four-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 275@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 260@1,450-4,700rpm
0-60mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,516kg (including 95 per cent fuel and a 75kg driver)
MPG: 34
CO2: 178g/km
Price: £29,995



















 

Author
Discussion

DanielSan

Original Poster:

13,700 posts

105 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
I saw a fast back i30N last week, they look so much better in person.

Nerdherder

443 posts

35 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Jesus, those kerb weights. Kinda like the look of the Skoda though, would work as a company lease for me I’m afraid.

British Beef

1,146 posts

103 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Is the real world mpg of the Skoda really 15-20% more than the Hyundai?

Need interior shot of Hyundai, to compare the living space.

Some big discounts available a new Skoda, I think around £23-24k these can be picked up for, what are the discounts like on a Hyundai?


westernlancia

29 posts

103 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
What you're basically saying is that VAG couldn't make an interesting car if their lives depended on it. They just turn out grey, efficient, predictable, dull washing machines on wheels, with coalmine black interiors and powered by the same capable but staggeringly tedious group of engines, and any 'difference' between a Skoda and a Bentley is just 'engineered' in by a bloke with a mouse. God, I hope they never get to take over Alfa...

GTEYE

1,240 posts

148 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Would be the Skoda for me.

One of the problems I have with Hyundai and possibly Kia, they change the generations so often, the last models look dated really quickly. When the next gen bears no reference to the last, as they usually do, they quickly lose appeal, and residual value as a result.

There are sound reasons why VW do what they do with the Golf (and Apple with th iPhone).
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kambites

55,882 posts

159 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Nerdherder said:
Jesus, those kerb weights.
Do you think they're unexpectedly high or low? 1445kg EU sounds amazingly light for a modern car that size to me; I thought the Octavia was heavier. The Hyundai is about what I'd have expected.

I'm not a big fan of big hot hatches but these both appeal in their own ways.

Edited by kambites on Tuesday 12th February 08:01

Augustus Windsock

1,592 posts

93 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all

British Beef said:
Is the real world mpg of the Skoda really 15-20% more than the Hyundai?

Need interior shot of Hyundai, to compare the living space.

Some big discounts available a new Skoda, I think around £23-24k these can be picked up for, what are the discounts like on a Hyundai?
As a matter of interest I just went on ‘DriveTheDeal’ and an Octavia like the one above could be had for £21,231, but I’m sure others will be able to find offers that a little better?
I’ve just swapped out my Octy estate and got a LEON ST 190 DSG.
Not as a commodious (wasn’t he the evil emperor in Gladiator...?) and not as quick but it feels a tad more agile.
My Leon is available from the same company for £20,304, making a £927 difference...


nunpuncher

1,082 posts

63 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Turning a hatchback into a slightly different shaped hatchback seems a bit pointless. Should have put the effort in to making an estate or a 2 door version.

Robert-nszl1

270 posts

26 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Be nice to see the Hyundai interior.....

Sford

86 posts

88 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
For me it's the Hyundai. I hate the Skoda looks and front grill, it's as boring as boring gets in the looks department elsewhere. The Hyundai doesn't take itself too seriously and makes a boring pub performance figures focused market segment interesting. I'm sure it isn't perfect but then no great car is perfect, they all have little bits of 'character' that make them interesting.

johnsu123

18 posts

15 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
I love my VRS 245 - Its practical - fits the kids, bikes, ikea stuff delivers 35mpg. I like the interior and it quiet for my long mid week commutes. A tap of the VRS button and i get a little noise and bit of fun.

I would consider the N next if there is decent lease or pcp deals available

kambites

55,882 posts

159 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
We've had a mk2 Octavia VRS as a family car for about eight years now. For me it's an enormously admirable but entirely unlovable car. It really does do nothing badly (except reliability in the case of ours) but it's impossible to think of anything it does exceptionally well either. The Hyundai seems to be a far more entertaining car and for that they should be applauded but we'd probably have the Skoda simply because fast, sensible and dull is really quite a good combination in a family car and I have an Elise for fun. driving

Edited by kambites on Tuesday 12th February 09:13

Simonium

500 posts

90 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
“stiffest suspension mode that feels very nearly too much on all but the smoothest UK roads”

Doesn’t this translate into actual English as “fine”? If you mean it’s unacceptably crashy on most roads, just write that.

GTEYE

1,240 posts

148 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
kambites said:
We've had a mk2 Octavia VRS as a family car for about eight years now. For me it's an enormously admirable but entirely unlovable car. It really does do nothing badly (except reliability in the case of ours) but it's impossible to think of anything it does exceptionally well either. The Hyundai seems to be a far more entertaining car and for that they should be applauded but we'd probably have the Skoda simply because fast, sensible and dull is really quite a good combination in a family car and I have an Elise for fun. driving

Edited by kambites on Tuesday 12th February 09:13
The simple fact you’ve kept it 8 years suggests it must be doing something right....

The thing with many VAG products, they aren’t exciting but they fit into many peoples lives. The Hyundai may be the better car technically, but perhaps not on you’d keep 8 years.

C.A.R.

3,386 posts

126 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
That Hyundai looks great - especially from the back.

Be interesting what others have noted regarding significant discounts from Skoda. I imagine, with the Hyundai being newer, that the discounts aren't as significant?

But one big aspect to remember with the Hyundai is that there are often very few boxes to tick which will bump the price up - most equipment is standard, whereas rivals need options adding to be comparable.

Love the little ducktail lip spoiler.

thiscocks

1,868 posts

133 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Simonium said:
“stiffest suspension mode that feels very nearly too much on all but the smoothest UK roads”

Doesn’t this translate into actual English as “fine”? If you mean it’s unacceptably crashy on most roads, just write that.
Yes as this means its 'sporty'.

thiscocks

1,868 posts

133 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
kambites said:
Nerdherder said:
Jesus, those kerb weights.
Do you think they're unexpectedly high or low? 1445kg EU sounds amazingly light for a modern car that size to me; I thought the Octavia was heavier. The Hyundai is about what I'd have expected.

I'm not a big fan of big hot hatches but these both appeal in their own ways.

Edited by kambites on Tuesday 12th February 08:01
Yes, I thought they would be a fair bit heavier than that. Makes for decent power to weights.

wst

3,176 posts

99 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
thiscocks said:
Simonium said:
“stiffest suspension mode that feels very nearly too much on all but the smoothest UK roads”

Doesn’t this translate into actual English as “fine”? If you mean it’s unacceptably crashy on most roads, just write that.
Yes as this means its 'sporty'.
Allegedly it's actually helpful on your typical billiard-table racing circuit, and as the warranty covers track day use it's nice that the manufacturer provides a way to get a bit more out of the car when you go.

jason61c

3,021 posts

112 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
GTEYE said:
Would be the Skoda for me.

One of the problems I have with Hyundai and possibly Kia, they change the generations so often, the last models look dated really quickly. When the next gen bears no reference to the last, as they usually do, they quickly lose appeal, and residual value as a result.

There are sound reasons why VW do what they do with the Golf (and Apple with th iPhone).
Have you looked at Kia residual values? I'd say they're just about as strong as you can get. Much better than Skoda and a lot of VW.

jm28

45 posts

53 months

Tuesday 12th February
quotequote all
Are these two really getting considered by buyers at the same time though? There’s a throwaway line about the i30 being ‘pokier’. The crucial question is to what extent? Can I still get a young family and all the associated guff in and is the ride actually going to be too rough for them? Because it sounds like a second car at best, and great though I’m sure it is it’s no more use than a Golf or Leon. Why not just go all out, get the hatch and park it up next to your SUV? I can’t afford to do that so unless my life fits in the i30, I’ll get another Skoda.