Updated: Jul 1, 2020
The hot hatch segment is filled by pretty much every manufacturer you can think of, its big business in Europe for brands like VW ,Ford, Seat and even BMW, Audi and Mercedes having quite serious models on sale that its quite understandable that the Koreans wanted to have a go as well.
The i30N and i30N Fastback are Hyundais first go at creating a sporty fast hatchback for the road. Actually its their first go at creating anything fast and sporty what so ever... The specs:
2.0L turbocharged in-line 4
250hp - 353nm
275hp - 353nm (i30N performance)
Manual 6 speed transmission
FWD (optional LSD)
The Hyundai i30N is available in 2 engine variants standard with 250hp and a €3.500 upgrade to the Performance pack that bumps power up to a whopping 275hp.
Now that may sound like a lot of money for just 25hp but you do get mote than just an ECU tune... For your €3.500 you get a fantastic LSD, 19'' wheels with sticky Pirelli tyres, possibly the loudest sport exhaust fitted on a hatchback from factory, and ventilated disk brakes all round.
The models that I got to drive were both the N performance models so that's the spec we're mostly going to be focussing on here.
I had heard good things about the i30N ever since it launch but never got my hands on one till the hype had really died down, Hyundai Belgium lent me a lovely 'Engine red' i30N for a couple of days just at the end of winter so it was unfortunately fitted with winter tyres which was kind of a let down to my driving experience, I didn't really like how the car felt in the corners as it wasn't gripping as much ad I'd like and it really struggled for traction under acceleration. But not to worry, those issues were sorted once Hyundai lent me a 'shadow grey' i30N fastback, and oh boy did I fall in love with it.
How this car gripped to the road was incredible and really showed just how much a tire can change the whole driving experience of a car.
The tire in question? A specially designed Pirelli P Zero made in partnership just for this car! Now enough nerding over a tire, you want to know how it drove!
After setting up your Hyundai 'N' mode button where you can choose out of more settings than you can really imagine (I had dampers on comfort, steering on sport, exhaust on loud and throttle on 'N') you can set off!
175hp may not sound like much but remember 353nm of torque is quite an impressive number of twists for such a car. The sheer brut of acceleration was actually quite impressive to experience especially from a front wheel drive car. Yes torque steer was an issue when launching from lights but it was very easily corrected and never played a role in 2nd gear or higher (in the dry)
Keep the car's adaptive dampers in comfort mode would be my main tip though as in sport or N mode it was a bit too bumpy even for your typical Belgian road and could make the car feel a bit skippy at speed.
Besides that the cars centrepiece for me had to be its 6 speed manual gear box, perfectly weighted and positioned it was a dream to work through the gears.
Carving down backroads in this car is simply put it 'fun' like a hot hatch should be gripping in and inspiring confidence like a good hot hatch will do it was just asking you to keep pushing on, that LSD really was a magical piece of kit helping those front tires find all the grip they needed to pull you round. And even when you did get a tad of lift off oversteer it was very easy to control. Another standard option that I really enjoyed when I had to dot he occasional U turn was the handbreak, even it was set up to be used for having fun, the guys at Hyundais N devision really did think of everything...
Practicality is also a huge part of the hot hatch ownership and the i30N certainly ticks those boxes.
The i30N seats 5 although room in the back may be a bit tight with 5 adults on the back, it was defiantly more than fine for doing the school run with my 5 year old niece in the back.
Both feature large boot space with standard fold down seats although there is a tensioning bar just behind the seats that at first glance may seem a hinder to longer objects but no worries, it's perfectly removable with the undoing of a couple of screws.
Talking about standard options this car comes loaded, sat nav, speed limit info, wireless phone charging, electric heated seats, heated steering wheel, front collision warning, LED headlights,... tbh the car only has 1 option and thats a panoramic sunroof. All in this car will cost you less than €40.000 and thats quite the deal for what you get. Now yes the quality of the interior may not be the best but you have to be willing to trade off some of that for the performance numbers this car has.
Now lets talk about the negatives and this is maybe the only reason I did not buy one: FUEL CONSUMPTION.
You'll hear me speak of 'smiles per gallon' quite often when talking about fuel performance but this is a hot hatch, they're meant to be good on fuel... You can tell the i30N was built to be a more pure performance car as the gearing is set up for performance and not economy.
Cruising at motorway speeds (120km/h) in 6th gear the car was pushing 3000rmp which may not seem bad but it really was eating away at my fuel tank.
Now for the 2020/2021 facelift models Hyundai will be adding a new DCT gearbox as an option that may or may not fix this problem (Or really just a longer 6th gear would be nice)
Overall thoughts: The i30N is possibly my favourite hot hatch besides the BMW M140i but thats more of a super or hyper hatch than a hot hatch so it doesn't really count. Even despite the fuel economy being poor I think its a great choice and definitely a more unique car compared to the Volkswagen Golf GTi and Ford Focus ST. If you are in the market for a hot hatch definitely give this a good consideration and if you can, go for a testdrive in one.