Hyundai's i30 N was Korea's very first really credible performance hot hatch and we loved it. Jonathan Crouch looks at the revised version.
Ten Second Review
With this i30 N hot hatch, Hyundai launched its 'N' performance sub-brand with the i30 N hot hatch, a model now usefully improved, primarily with a paddleshift auto gearbox option. The i30 N remains the kind of car you simply wouldn't expect from this Korean maker, with an output of up to 280PS intended to provide performance to embarrass this car's Volkswagen Golf GTI arch-rival.
Hyundai continues to get serious about performance. For proof, take a look at this i30 N hot hatch, now usefully improved and originally developed by a team led by former BMW M Power boss Albert Biermann. Before original launch, it underwent a lengthy testing period that included over 6,000 miles of running on the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife racetrack and its aim continues to be to slot right in amongst the established players in the volume part of the family hatch-sized GTI segment. The 'N' in the model name stands not only for 'Nurburgring' but also for 'Namyang', Hyundai's vast research and development centre back in South Korea.
The main change here is the addition of something the original version of this car never offered, a paddleshift auto transmission, the sort of thing all this model's rivals have. Hence the addition here of an optional 'N DCT' 8-speed auto, equipped with three N performance functions: 'N Grin Shift', 'N Power Shift' and 'N Track Sense Shift'. We'd still be tempted though, to stay with the 6-speed manual which, as before, features a selectable rev-matching system to make you sound like Fernando Alonso when you're downshifting through the gears.
Beneath the bonnet, you'll find much the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine as before, developing 250PS in base form. The alternative 'Performance Pack' model gets a 5PS increase to 280PS, this top variant featuring the brand's 'N Corner Carving Differential', an Electronically Controlled Limited Slip Differential (eLSD). Additionally for the Performance Package, the front brake disc size has been increased from 345mm to 360mm for a better braking performance.
The i30 N is still only offered in front-driven form - there's no sign of a 4WD option - and if you're quick with the 6-speed manual stick shift, 62mph in the 280PS model can be reached from rest in just 5.9s (0.2s faster than the 'Performance Pack' variant could manage before) en route to 155mph. As segment buyers will expect, 'Launch control' for 'Grand Prix'-style getaways features in the standard spec, plus there are five selectable driving modes and an electronically managed suspension set-up. An 'N button' will switch the car into its most dynamic setup and drivers can tailor settings through an 'N Custom' mode.
A Performance Driving Data System is included on the centre dash screen to monitor and improve the driver's track skills, with updated graphics for even more ease of use. This feature saves and displays driving data, including information on PS, torque, turbo boost. It also includes a lap and acceleration timer, which comes in handy on the track.
Design and Build
The i30 N certainly talks the talk in terms of its looks and a subtle serious of aesthetic enhancement feature with this revised model, offered as before in hatch or sleeker 'Fastback' body shapes. There are new LED headlamps with V-shaped Daytime Running Lights. Meanwhile, the outer bumper corners, dominated by the typical aerodynamic side fins, incorporate the air curtains to significantly improve the airflow and reduce turbulence into the wheel housing.
The i30 hatchback N features an updated rear end design that sees a large wing spoiler with the distinctive N triangular brake light creating optimum downforce, while the rear lamps have also been updated and feature a fresh LED signature. Two large exhaust pipes integrated into the lower bumper diffuser complete the hot hatch image. The large wheel arches house standard 18-inch rims with a 4mm lowered ride height - or larger 19-inch wheels with an 8mm lower ride height.
Inside, the graphics of the central infotainment screen have been updated and you can have said screen in a larger 10.25-inch size. Otherwise, things are much as before. You get an exclusive blue-stitched 'N' steering wheel to the left of which is the drive mode selection system. To the right of the wheel, there's a chequered flag 'N' button for the 'N-mode' that releases this car most focused red mist performance setting. The red zone of the variable LED rev-counter changes according to the driving performance and varies with the engine's oil temperature. The 'ball-type' gearknob bears the N-badge. There are high-performance 'N'-embossed sport seats trimmed in a combination of suede and leather or cloth. These chairs feature extendable cushions. Out back, there's a 381-litre boot (the Fastback version has 436-litres).
Market and Model
Pricing for the i30 N starts at around £34,000 for the 280PS 'Performance' hatch model. For fractionally more, you can opt for the sleeker Fastback body shape with the same mechanical set-up. Both body shapes come with the option of 8-speed paddleshift DCT auto transmission for just under £2,000 more. The 'Performance' package comes with 19-inch Pirelli P-Zero high-performance Hyundai N tyres, distinctive red N brake callipers and larger brake discs (18-inch at the front, 17-inch at the rear). An 'E-LSD' Electronic Limited Slip Differential and a Variable Exhaust Valve System are additional features included in the Performance Package to provide the optimal race track experience.
As standard, buyers now get an 10.25-litre centre-dash touchscreen navigation system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It is also available with the latest version of Bluelink, Hyundai's state-of-the-art connected car services. This offers a range of new benefits and services for Hyundai customers including Connected Routing, Last Mile Navigation and live parking information, and a new user profile feature.
A range of extra Hyundai SmartSense active safety and driver assistance features have been aded into this improved model, including a pedestrian detection system for the Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist autonomous braking system; and Lane Following Assist. The hatch version also gets Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist.
Cost of Ownership
The introduction of new engine technology has kept Hyundai right on the pace of the class best when it comes to efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions. The brand says that this 2.0 T-GDI petrol model will return combined cycle and CO2 WLTP returns that are very competitive with obvious rivals (read VW Golf GTI). Sure enough, the 280PS 'Performance Pack' model manages a reasonably competitive CO2 return of 188g/km with a combined cycle fuel return of 34.0mpg (both WLTP).
What else might you need to know? As ever with Hyundai, a strong buying incentive is the five year unlimited mileage warranty that comes as standard. It's backed up by breakdown cover that last the same length of time and free annual vehicle health checks over this duration. True, rival brand Kia claims to better this package by offering a similar seven year deal, but there, you're limited to 100,000 miles. As for servicing, well your i30 N will need a garage visit once a year or every 10,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. If you want to budget ahead for routine maintenance, there are various 'Hyundai Sense' packages that offer fixed-price servicing over two, three or five-year periods. You can pay for your plan monthly and add MoTs into the three or five year plans for an extra fee.
So will potential hot hatch buyers consider an i30 N in preference to a Volkswagen Golf GTI, a Ford Focus ST, a Renaultsport Megane or an Audi S3? That's a big ask. These established segment players have had decades to cement their credentials in this sector.
Yet Hyundai has certainly gone about this the right way. The engineering's been done thoroughly and the addition of paddleshift auto transmission corrects the original car's one real oversight. Plus the drive stats certainly look promising, offering owners slightly more performance than competitors can deliver. We'd say that if you're shopping in this market, this Korean contender's well worth a test drive. At the very least, you'll certainly enjoy the experience.