The i30 N has been quietly (exhaust tone aside) etching its likeable character into the minds of PH's staffers, and is well on the way to becoming our preferred all-rounder. We're just a few weeks in but already it's proved to be equally well-equipped for a dreary slog through London's traffic hotspots as it is at sampling the jaw droppingly gorgeous coastal roads of Cornwall's western perimeter - as this PHer found out during a recent four-day holiday there with friends.
On the outbound journey there were four of us packed into it, with a boot full of luggage behind. A time-honoured usability test then - and you know what, the i30 did a fine job of mimicking its arch rival, the Golf GTI. It sat happily with the cruise control on and climate control set just so, and, to be honest, it was a very comfortable place to be for four hours. From behind the wheel I can't actually think of a more effortless car to drive in this segment, largely because the i30 N's standard-fit lane keep assist technology leaves it a step ahead of the rest for ease of use. Such a system - which can essentially steer the car on a laned motorway so the driver's inputs are lessened - is unlikely to appeal to set-jawed PHers (what with it being the first step toward autonomy) but on a mundane motorway route it really does reduce driver fatigue.
Other things to note: after 120 miles my passengers didn't agree that the exhaust should remain in the (admittedly rather anti-social) Sport+ setting for the entire trip. Apparently it was too droney for the two (wimps) in the back, so the hushed Normal mode was voted in. We did at least agree that the i30 N rode nicely on the motorway, although it never gets to that cushioned, supple state that a DCC-equipped VW Golf GTI can do in Comfort mode. But then perhaps that's to be expected in a car with a top performance setting - N Mode - that, with four in the car, is akin to throwing a pair of trainers into the tumble dryer. The middle ground Sport setting was actually pretty good even with so many passengers aboard, but Normal won the day here, too.
That was until I managed to shelve a couple of passengers into the other cars included on our trip. Now with just two onboard Sport mode felt well suited to the B-roads that dart and twist around Cornwall's topography, while the 275hp engine felt potent and muscular again (350kg of human cargo having somewhat hampered its responses). This experience confirms that the i30 N has, without doubt, the broadest character of any car in its class. The earlier Golf GTI-mimicking cruising personality was now replaced by a thuggish temperament that no hot Golf or even razor-sharp Civic Type R can match. Am I tired of the pops, crackles and gargles of the exhaust yet? Not one bit.
No surprise then that the i30 N commanded the highest fuel bill of the trip - by some distance. Our trip computer claimed an economy of 29mpg after just over 800 miles across the four days, even when using the two accompanying diesel hatchbacks as pace-setters. The highest we saw was 35mpg, but on most of the technical A-roads the figure was closer to, ahem, 22mpg.
Yet, despite being faced with the prospect of contributing to a higher fuel bill, everyone on our trip not automatically tied to a car wanted to ride in the i30 N. For a group containing only a couple of other car enthusiasts, that speaks volumes about the easy-to-like character of the Hyundai. More importantly, I'm not convinced a Golf GTI would have received as much affection in the same circumstances.
Car: Hyundai i30 N Performance
On fleet since: August 2018
Run by: Sam Sheehan
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: The i30 N is already getting under our skin, but our love for its most thuggish mode means it's also developing quite a drinking habit