Where are you right now? I’m asking because like one of those big world events, you’ll forever remember where you were and what you were doing when the Hyundai i30 N arrived in Australia. Yeah, okay, that may not be quite true, but while the landing of the i30 N here is no moon expedition it’s a big arrival in the car world.
Until now that is, because Hyundai’s i30 N may be in line for the throne. Could it snatch the crown and outrun the rest of them based on its performance and price?
The i30 N shows Hyundai has moved to the next level beyond just making cars we like, but to cars we desire with the creation of its high-performance N Division. The ducks are in a row – ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer is overseeing Hyundai’s styling, and now former BMW M boss Albert Biermann has been brought in to head up N Division.
More than just a regular i30 with a sporty body kit, the i30 N is impressive on and off the racetrack.
The chunky exhaust, the rear diffuser, and spoiler mounted brake light are all indicators that this thing is a bit potent.
The lower ride height improves handling and gives the i30 N a tough stance, especially on those 19-inch rims.
The i30 N is the first vehicle to be let loose from N Division and we drove the most powerful version of it – the Performance grade – at its Australian launch. This was not just a chance to strap ourselves to it take it onto racetrack, but also our first opportunity to drive it on Australian roads.
The i30 N Performance is so different under its metal skin to the normal i30 that Hyundai can’t even say if the maximum five-star ANCAP rating from that car can be applied to it and will probably have to crash test it to know for sure. That mainly has to do with the chassis bracing which has been added under the i30 N and the stiffness bar which is bolted inside the boot. The increase in rigidity this bracing and bar brings boosts the handling ability of the i30 N.
More than just bracing has been added. The i30 N was been put through 10,000km of testing at the Nurburgring Nordschleife race circuit to develop the car’s suspension set up. MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link in the rear, the dampers are adaptive – not only can you switch them from soft to firm, but they’ll adjust themselves on the fly as conditions change.
The front bumper inlets channel air to cool the brakes and improve aerodynamics.
The rear spoiler provides downforce and helps maintain aero balance.
Then there’s the electro-mechanical limited slip differential, the motor-driven rack and pinion steering, the ducting which cools those big brakes (345mm x 30mm up front and 314mm x 20mm at the rear), the 235mm wide low-profile Pirelli P-Zero tyres, the heavy-duty clutch, launch control and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine – none of which come on a regular i30.
Neither is the driving mode configurator – there’s two buttons on the steering wheel one that says Drive Mode which will allow you to select from Eco, Normal and Sport and the other which just has a chequered flag, that’s N Mode. In N Mode the dampers stiffen to their firmest setting, the engine becomes more responsive with rev-matching, weight is added to the steering, the stability control relaxes and the exhaust note changes to an angrier tone. Listen to it in my video, it’s delicious.
In Europe there are two versions of the i30 N: both front-wheel drive, there’s the standard car and the more powerful Performance grade which is the one that’s arrived first in Australia. It’s still unclear if the standard version will come here.
We tested it along a route that snaked through of the Australian Alps to see how it coped on local roads and then finished up at Winton Raceway for laps of this technically challenging track.
The ride is plenty comfortable in Normal and Sport modes.
As much as that racetrack kept calling my name, my priority was to see how the car coped on shoddy Australian roads.
When Andrew Chesterton drove it in Europe, he felt the ride was so firm that it would be intolerable rolling on anything bumpier than a billiard table. He needn’t have worried – the ride is plenty comfortable in Normal and Sport modes, and even the hardcore N Mode it wasn’t as brutal as you’ll find in some high-performance cars.
Why so comfy, then? Well the product people at Hyundai Australia had the same concern Chesto did, so they took N Division’s big boss Albert Biermann for a drive on Sydney’s roads. He agreed that a more compliant tune was needed, and Hyundai’s local engineering team came up with a slightly different suspension set up. Thankfully.
Hyundai admits the Australian suspension tune has subtly more body roll and a slower or calmer big bump recovery. Does that really affect the way it handles? Well, I can report that its handling is still superb. On the road the i30 N Performance feels balanced, with fantastic turn-in to corners thanks to the quick steering, adaptive dampers and that electro-mechanical LSD which lets you carry more speed in and get on the gas faster on the way out, all while reducing understeer.
The grip from the Pirelli P-Zeros is magnificent, and those big brakes do well to pull it up.
On the track the i30 N Performance is more fun than weapon with its agility and predictability.
It’s in those corners that the i30 N Performance shines, but in a straight line it’s not as impressive with a 0-100km/h time of 6.2 seconds. Still that matches the Golf GTI Performance. While it could do with more oomph, the engine mapping with maximum torque from 1450rpm and almost no turbo lag means the grunt is right under your foot almost the entire time.
On the track the i30 N Performance is more fun than weapon with its agility and predictability. The grip from the Pirelli P-Zeros is magnificent, those big brakes do well to pull it up and while there’s a lack of monster power this also means the hot hatch will be more forgiving and controllable if you’re new to performance cars and racetracks.
Finally the driving position - it does feel a little too high, but the sports seats, including the standard ones, are excellent - supportive and comfortable, even for tall, lard arses like me.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
The i30 N Performance has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that produces 202kW of power at 6000rpm and 353Nm of torque (378Nm with overboost) from 1450-4700rpm. That’s more mumbo than the Golf GTI (180kW/370Nm) and the Ford Focus ST (184kW/345Nm) but not quite as much as the Honda Civic Type R (228kW/400Nm).
The i30 N Performance has 22 kW more than the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
If you want an automatic transmission you might have to wait and see if Hyundai decide to bring the 'standard' i30 N to Australia. Hyundai hinted that the lower-powered version of the hot hatch may arrive with dual-clutch automatic, while the 'Performance' grade launched here first comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
I didn’t try to conserve fuel at any point during our 500km test through the Australian Alps and the trip computer was reporting an average of 8.4L/100km. Hyundai’s official fuel economy is 6.4L/100km on open roads and 8.0L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 9/10
Yes, and lots, are the answers to those two questions. The i30 N Performance lists for $39,990 and even if all the interior consisted of was just a milk crate and a steering wheel that would still be pretty good value given the amount of go-fast hardware fitted to it, but the standard features list is impressive.
There’s an excellent suite of advanced safety equipment too, which you can read all about in the section further down.
The beauty of hot hatches is they often retain most of the practicality of the cars they’re based on.
VW’s GTI should be a little bit nervous because despite the Hyundai’s interior not being quite as refined, the i30 N has more power and costs $2000 less.
Coming standard is an eight-inch touch screen with sat nav, reversing camera, digital radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
In N Mode, the dampers stiffen, the engine becomes more responsive, and the exhaust note changes.
The i30 N gets a heavy-duty clutch for the six-speed manual.
A $3000 Luxury Pack adds power-adjustable leather and suede sport seats in the front – they’re also heated and so is the steering wheel; there’s a wireless charging pad, proximity key and start button (yeah, it's a turn-key setup in the base model), front parking sensors, LED puddle lights, power folding mirrors, auto wipers, a luggage net and tinted rear glass.
I’d get that pack, but I wouldn’t spend another $2000 to have the Luxury Pack with a panoramic sunroof. The glass roof adds weight and in my view it may affect rigidity; plus, sunroofs make me feel like an ant under a magnifying glass in the hot Aussie sun.
What are the rivals to the i30 N Performance? Volkswagen’s Golf GTI should be a little bit nervous because despite the Hyundai’s interior not being quite as refined, the i30 N has more power and costs $2000 less than the manual version of the VW. Ford’s Focus ST is starting to age but undercuts the i30 N by a grand and there’s the Honda Civic Type R which seems overpriced at $50,990 even if it has more grunt than the lot of them.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 9/10
There is a risk some people may dismiss your i30 N Performance as just a regular i30 with sporty plastic bits stuck to it or you may even think Hyundai hasn’t gone extreme enough with the design. Either way, it has more hardcore styling than the conservative Golf GTI and unlike the Honda Civic Type R it won’t make you go blind just by looking at it.
What’s satisfying is knowing that many of the design elements are functional. There’s those front bumper inlets which channel air through to cool the brakes and improve aerodynamics. The front splitter also actually works and so does the rear spoiler with both providing downforce and helping to maintain aero balance.
Headroom is excellent up front – I could wear a helmet on the track without bashing it on the roof and the same goes for the back, too.
I can only just sit behind my driving position, but I am 191cm and it’s unlikely I’m going to be sitting behind somebody my height.
The chunky exhaust, the rear diffuser, the spoiler mounted triangular brake light – like a poisonous tree frog, these are all indicators this thing is a bit potent.
At 4335mm long, 1795mm wide and 1447mm tall the i30 N is 5mm shorter end-to-end than a regular i30, the same width and sits 8mm closer to the ground. That lower ride height improves handling and gives the i30 N a tough stance especially on those 19-inch rims filling the wheel arches with low profile Pirelli P-Zero tyres.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The i30 N has not been crash tested and with so much bracing added to the vehicle the regular i30’s maximum five-star score can’t just be applied automatically to this performance version.
That said the level of standard advanced safety equipment on the i30 N is great. There’s AEB which will bring the car to halt at speed under 75km/h and there’s lane keeping assistance which will alert you if you veer out of your lane and even steer you back on course again.
Along with stability control which can be relaxed slightly in N mode there are also seven airbags.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the second row.
While an ANCAP or EuroNCAP score is yet to be released, the i30 N is expected to perform well.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
The beauty of hot hatches is they often retain most of the practicality of the cars they’re based on despite being honed for performance. In the case of the i30 N the only losses in practicality are to the boot which has a cargo capacity of 381 litres, down 12 litres compared to the regular i30. That’s due to the stiffness bar bolted across the cargo area – but you can remove it.
The only losses in practicality are to the boot, which has a cargo capacity of 381 litres.
Compared to the standard i30, the boot space is down 12 litres.
The reduced space is due to the stiffness bar - but you can remove it.
Storage throughout the cabin is the same as a regular i30 with two cupholders in the rear and another two up front, bottle holders in all of the doors and a large centre console bin. The nook in front of the shifter is also quite large with two 12-volt power outlets and a USB port, plus if you’ve optioned the Luxury pack this is where the charging pad lives, too.
Headroom is excellent up front – I could wear a helmet on the track without bashing it on the roof and the same goes for the back, too. That second row doesn’t offer huge amounts of legroom, however, and I can only just sit behind my driving position, but I am 191cm and it’s unlikely I’m going to be sitting behind somebody my height.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 9/10
The i30 N is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. What’s exceptional is that the warranty covers you for track use, too, provided it’s not a competitive or timed event. Hyundai recommends servicing the i30 N at 12 month/10,000km intervals. Servicing is capped price and while Hyundai is yet to release the breakdown in costs for each visit, we feel confident it will be very reasonable and in line with the pricing for the rest of their vehicles.
I’m going to put it out there and say that the i30 N Performance is absolutely going to be one of the standout new cars of 2018. When it comes to bang for your buck this the car is exceptional with great performance, plenty of standard features, advanced safety equipment, and a decent level of practicality at a great price. Volkswagen Golf GTI and co. should be afraid.
Should the Golf GTI being afraid for the i30 N? Tell us what you think in the comments below.