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Hyundai i30 N Performance: PH Fleet

Our time with Hyundai's 275hp hot hatch is finally up - and we're rather sad about it

By Sam Sheehan / Friday, November 30, 2018

The muscular tone of that 2.0-litre four-pot up front and the gargle of the twin-pipe exhaust behind - sadly it's all a distant memory now. The i30 N is gone. Flawed, fantastic and now much missed with the winter setting in. No car left on the PH fleet is quite so good at turning the commute home into a night time rally stage. Or burrowing under the skin when all the day needed was pops, crackles and growls at the end of it.

No less lovable than its Sport+ mode was the ability to flick it all off again. It was brilliantly fun when the circumstances were right - like when you're faced with mile upon mile of traffic-free B-road - but in other scenarios, the car's quietened 'Normal' setting ensured that the i30 N never seemed like a one-trick pony. It made for a rather nice place to be - stuck in traffic or not.

If that makes it all sound a bit Golf GTI-like, then so be it - certainly that was the connection we were inclined to make upon receipt of Hyundai's first ever (proper) hot hatch back in the summer. But now, after a much longer relationship, it's clear this car is a quite different proposition to the perennial class leader from Germany. Its talent is just as broad - thanks to its maker's endless benchmarking - but this is far more adept at indulging the silly end of the spectrum.

For starters, the i30 N never fully shuts up like the Golf. So wound back is a GTI in Comfort mode that it'd be easy to confuse it for a base TSI. The i30 N never stoops so low. Were you blindfolded and in ski gloves, you'd know you were certainly not in a stock Korean hatchback. The burly engine note and always-weighty steering ensure that. The difference is that the i30 N is a sports hatch that's easy to live with, rather than a family hatchback with an attitude.

True enough, there are downsides to this approach. The car never exactly proved frugal, for example. Averaging 29mpg on a sedate motorway journey is fairly awful in a modern context. It made us think twice about taking it on some journeys - and that's a demerit in the big book of hot hatch excellence. On the other hand, it always felt like it was only a squeeze of the throttle away from becoming a five-seat touring car again - like it was Usain Bolt in a pair of loafers. And that's rather lovely.

Which leads us to the loafer-less elephant in the room: N Mode. It's been censured elsewhere, and, had we not done a track day, we'd be heading in the direction of the same opinion. No road surface delivered by the UK's topography is worthy of the damper's stiffest setting, that's true. But as soon as those Performance Pack 19-inch wheels and Pirelli P Zero tyres met the asphalt of Silverstone's GP circuit, it all made sense.

N Mode is sublime on track, as it was intended to be. You get motorsport-rigid body control and, in turn, immense confidence - even into very, very high speed corners. Without it, not only would the lap time be slower, the input from behind the wheel would be greater, meaning you'd have less capacity to really wring the car's neck. Most importantly, N Mode makes the whole track day experience that much more exhilarating. Which is kind of the point, no?

For us, the foibles were of a more personal nature. Yours truly, at a not exactly lofty five foot eleven, never found a seating position you'd call spot on, and mostly everyone who drove it felt just that wee bit too high up (save for Nic, of course, who's about four foot nine). The engine, too, is not quite the paragon of hard-edged performance its rivals can claim to feature. Volkswagen's EA888 and Honda's VTEC unit are faster revving and ultimately more sophisticated turbocharged motors than Hyundai's try-hard effort - certainly you get the feeling that Albert Biermann and his miracle workers have wrung everything possible from the powerplant they were handed.

Ultimately, it is their hard work which has paid off. We miss the i30 N already. Excellence across the board was required to top the class (something it didn't quite manage) but it is not needed to convince us of the car's calibre as a proposition for ownership. We'd recommend the N wholeheartedly to anyone, but in particular to someone looking for something a little different - and dead set on having a good time. Because that's what we've taken away in retrospect: on the fun factor Richter Scale, the i30 was an 8.9. Not devastating, or life changing - just a riot when it needed to be.


FACT SHEET
Car:
Hyundai i30 N Performance
On fleet since: August 2018
Run by: Sam Sheehan
Mileage: 14,476
List price new: £28,010 (As tested £28,895 comprising £300 for winter pack and £585 for metallic Clean Slate paint).
Last month at a glance: Our hot hatch-cum-wannabe touring car has departed - and we miss it!

Previous reports:
The i30 N joins the fleet
A holiday with a Hyundai
On track at Silverstone
i30 N vs hot hatch royalty

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