Hyundai i20 VS Hyundai i30
- Cracking exhaust
- Fun rather than ferocious
- A hoot on a track or (we expect) a winding road
- Too soon to properly judge it
- Manual only will deter shoppers
- Lacks the out-and-out punch of bigger hatches
- Well-equipped, even in cheapest trim
- Plenty of tech in top-spec cars
- Ride and handling balance on point
- Engine can feel lethargic...
- ...and harsh in the cabin
- Cheaper cars feel... cheaper
After we spent what felt like an eternity with the Hyundai i30 N being an only child in Australia, the lauded hot hatch is finally getting a smaller sibling, with the Korean brand confirming the i20 N will debut in Australia next year, likely in the first six months of 2021.
On paper, at least, the city-sized hot hatch promises to deliver the performance thrills of the N brand to a whole new demographic, given its utterly family-proof dimensions and what will obviously be a more affordable price point.
But is it truly worthy of the N badge? We put an early prototype version to the test on the track to find out.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Hyundai i30 Sedan is the artist formerly known as the Elantra, with the brand renaming its small-car sedan to make a little more sense in its line-up.
But it's more than an Elantra with a new name. The all-new i30 Sedan rides on a new platform, wears a new design, carries new technology and new safety equipment, and falls under a new - and more expensive - price structure.
Is that enough to put sedans back on the small-car map? Or is it destined to play second fiddle the i30 hatch? Let's find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
We'll reserve full judgement until we've lived with a production version of the i20 N, but after our short, track-based taste test? We like it a lot.
Fun rather than ferocious, it's the kind of hot hatch you can have an absolute blast in without feeling like you're going to kill yourself or your licence, and you can't help but climb out smiling..
Again, this more an arbitrary score here, as the only i20 N we've seen to date was dropped in camouflage inside and out.
That said, you can tell from its silhouette that this a wide, hunkered-down hatch, with bulging arches and 18-inch blacked-out alloys, a domed bonnet, and little roof spoiler jutting out from above the rear windscreen.
Hyundai tells us the i20 N will also serve up a new air intake on front bumper, unique side sills, a new radiator grille, and a new rear bumper with a diffuser, as well as new rear lights. You can get the i20 N in seven colours, one of which will be the Performance Blue that's become the signature of the brand.
Inside, Hyundai says you'll find a "high-performance driving space" (whatever that means) with a host of N stuff, like a sports steering wheel and shifter, metal pedals, sport seats up front and blue highlights throughout the interior trimmings.
The i30 Sedan continues Hyundai's adventurous Sensuous Sportiness design language, though CarsGuide opinions are a little split on how successfully it's been applied here.
The front-end looks sharp and shapely, with a cat-clawed bonnet split by two swept-back headlights. The bonnet points down towards the tarmac, with these angular inverts on either side that, in Elite models, house deep-set fog lights.
The body, too, is a collection of sharp lines and angles, but both it and the front-on view look accomplished and premium, in our humble opinion.
It's the rear, though, that raises the questions, with the lip of the boot jutting out dramatically before angling in sharply before jutting back out again, a little little a pyramid laying on its side. It's adventurous, no doubt, but it might not be to everyone's taste.
The ambience in the cabin of the i30 Sedan depends on which one you're sitting in. The Elite models are lovely - all quality-feeling materials (save the hard plastics on the upper doors), including a vaguely denim-feeling fabric that trims the inner door panels, and those big twin screens that feel plenty tech savvy.
The Active model makes do without the niceties, though, feeling decidedly cheaper inside - a feeling not helped by the fact the smaller 8.0-inch touchscreen is housed in the same surround as the bigger 10.25-inch screen, meaning you're suddenly confronted by a lot of flat, black plastic.
Not particularly practical, to be fair. While Hyundai is yet to confirm the specification details of the i20 N, it is based on the brand's existing city car, so expect similar dimensions here.
It does, though, have four doors, which puts it ahead of some of its hot-hatch competition, and means climbing into the backseat isn't as hard as it could be. Once there, though, you won't be spoiled for space.
For reference, the regular i20 serves up twin cupholders up front, and bottle storage in each of the doors.
That car also stretches some 4035mm in length, 1734mm in width and 1474mm in height. That's enough to squeeze 326 litres (VDA) into the boot, or 1042 litres with the 60:40 split rear seat folded flat.
It's a small sedan, but it doesn't feel small. It's longer and more practical than the hatch, for example - at least in terms of seats-up boot space - and there's a surprising amount of room for rear-seat passengers, too.
This is a seriously spacious backseat - at least for those in the window seats - with a heap of room between my knees and my own 175cm driving position, and plenty of headroom, too. Yes, three adults across the back will prove a squeeze - this is a small car, after all - but two can ride in comfort.
The rear seat is split by a pulldown divider that's home to two cupholders, there's bottle storage in the doors, and two ISOFIX attachment points, too.
Upfront, the cabin feels plenty spacious, and the light-coloured, denim-look materials used in the Elite models add a sense of airiness not found in the cheaper, more plasticky Active models. Up front riders get cupholders, bottle holders in the doors, twin USB connection points, a power outlet, and wireless charging for phones.
Cubbies abound, too, including one at knee height under the dash, and more in the doors and centre console.
Hyundai says the i30 Sedan will swallow some 474 litres (VDA) of luggage, up from 395 litres in the hatch - with the rear seats in place - and around 1350L with the seats folded flat.
Price and features
This is a tough one to answer, without yet knowing the pricing details. But Hyundai has told us that it will be priced on or around the money for the segment, which should see it land around the early $30k mark.
In terms of exactly what you get for that money, well, that remains to be seen. But here's what we know so far.
Expect 18-inch alloys wrapped in Pirelli rubber, a digital driver's display and a second, central touchscreen that will deliver both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote unlocking with push-button start, power windows, and...
Well, that's about all we could glean from our very camouflaged car. But you will also get a whole heap of performance kit, which we'll touch on under the Engine and Transmission section.
For everything else, though, you'll just have to watch this space.
The i30 Sedan range kicks off with the Active trim, available as a six-speed manual ($24,790) or a six-speed automatic ($26,790), before stepping up to the auto-only Elite trim at $30,790 - all about $3000 more than the hatch.
Before the end of the year they'll be joined by the sporty-flavoured N Line models, available in manual ($30,290) or seven-speed DCT automatic ($32,390), or the fancy-feeling N Line Premium, for $37,290.
Active cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-appointed interior, wireless smartphone charging, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a comprehensive safety suite - which we'll circle back to under the Safety sub heading.
Elite cars add dual-zone climate control, twin 10.25-inch screens - one in the centre of the dash, the other in front of the driver - with satellite navigation, a BOSE eight-speaker stereo and DAB+ digital radio.
Finally, N Line cars will add a sportier engine, unique bodykit with new-look front and rear bumpers, and a new mesh grille. There's also twin exhaust tips, LED headlights and taillights, and 18-inch alloys, while the N Line Premium adds a sunroof, front parking sensors, 10-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
Engine & trans
I like the engine. A lot. Not the most powerful in the class, sure, but not underpowered in my opinion, either.
That's enough grunt, Hyundai says, to deliver a "class-leading" power to weight ratio of 126kW per tonne.
So how does it stack up? It puts the i20 N about a touch under segment standard, power-wise, with cars like the Polo GTI making 147kW and 320Nm, while the Fiesta ST makes 147 and 290kW. Unsurprisingly, it’s also comprehensively shaded by the Toyota GR Yaris, which makes a whopping 200kW and 370Nm.
We have managed to extract some other key details surrounding Hyundai’s newest hot hatch, too. We know, for example, that there’s torsion-beam rear suspension, a mechanical LSD, Sachs dampers, dual-mode exhaust and, like it’s i30 N big brother, the i20 N should get Pirelli rubber wrapped around its 18-inch wheels. It also weights just 1250kg.
More? Well there's rev matching for the manual gearbox, launch control and the brand's N Grin Control System which allows you to dial through Normal, Eco, Sport, N and N Custom drive modes.
The chassis and suspension have been overhauled, too, and there's bigger performance brakes fitted.
It's a pretty tried and true powertrain this, with the i30 Sedan Active and Elite both fitted with Hyundai's 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 117kW and 191Nm, pairing with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
The combo feels dependable, rather than exhilarating, but does produce enough grunt to get you humming along easily enough. Frustratingly, there are some super-clever hybrid-assisted powertrains available internationally, but we don't get them in Australia. At least, not yet.
That I can't tell you, at least not yet. We were driving pre-production cars exclusively on a race track, and so taking an computer reading would have been grossly unfair, and Hyundai hasn't dropped an official figure on us yet.
We do know that the i20, in regular guise, is fitted with a 50-litre tank.
How should the success of a city-sized hatch truly be measured? Raw power and out-and-out pace? I don’t think so. There are bigger, more powerful vehicles for that.
Price? Well, at least a little. This segment forms the stepping stone to the performance vehicle world, and so they really can’t be too inaccessible, right?
If you ask me, the biggest - and possible only - criteria a car has to hit in this segment is that it’s fun. Plain and simple. Does it make you want to take the longer, twister way home, emerging at the other end of a winding road with a face-splitting grin and fighting the urge to turn around and do it again in the other direction? Or does it make you want to stick to the freeway?
Well, it’s safe to say that in the i20 N - in prototype form at least - the answer is definitely the former.
Yes, the light hot hatch segment has been in something a power arms race of late - one now won by the GR Yaris - but the i20 N doesn’t really step into that ring. Its 150kW and 275Nm puts it at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of pure outputs.
But damn if it ain’t fun. The numbers on the page only really tell half the hot hatch story. The rest of it is how it feels, or how big a smile it paints on your face, and I can tell you this car painted a plenty big grin on mine.
One of the things I like about the i20 N is that it feels a little Mazda MX-5-like, in that you don’t need to be traveling at warp speed to feel like you’re having a good time behind the wheel. It means you can unleash it on any twisting road you come across, and have a whale of a time, without risking your entire driver's licence.
There are some cars where you really need to be travelling at pace to feel like you’re having a good time in them, but this isn’t one of them. It feels fun all the time.
It feels really connected to the track, too, like you’re in control of the vehicle, And I think the mark of a hot hatch is one that makes you feel like a better driver, and this does that. It forgives you mistakes, it urges you to push a little bit faster, a little bit further, and all of which results in a pretty good time behind the wheel.
Now a caveat, of course. This is a pre-prod car, and this test also took place on a race rack, so how this thing drives on the streets near your place, and what it's like to live with, is anyone’s guess, but as a taste test, it certainly seems to continue the N legacy of building cars that are simply a ton of fun.
It's not an excitement machine, the i30 Sedan (the incoming N Line models with their turbocharged engines should better fulfil that role) but what it lacks in outright speed it makes up for with its road manners.
We came away impressed with its ride and handling balance, with the newest Hyundai feeling genuinely competent in corners - so much so that we were longing for more grunt - yet comfortable on the dodgy road surfaces of the city, too.
Part of that is likely down to Hyundai's local chassis tuning, but could also be down to the fact the Sedan rides on a new and different platform (the K3) to its hatch sibling. Either way, this i30 balances the dual roles of comfort and connection to the road below with aplomb.
There are some downsides, though. The engine, though providing enough shove to move you around fairly easily, lacks the urgency required for overtaking or for spirited take-offs. Instead, planting your right foot makes things get louder and more gruff in the cabin, without producing much in the way of extra performance. You're far better off treating it gently, and letting it do its thing without asking too much of it.
It's an easy, breezy, largely care-free drive. It won't get your heart beating any faster, but nor will it have you kung-fu-gripping the steering wheel in frustration. But we do wish Hyundai could have gotten its hands on those European mild-hybrid engines.
More mysteries here, I'm afraid. Hyundai is yet to confirm full safety specification for the i20 N, but we would expect it to get most of the brand's advanced safety kit.
Safety is an interesting one, given Hyundai won't be submitting this vehicle for ANCAP testing. Recent changes to the testing regime require the addition of a central airbag to qualify for a full five-star rating, and the i30 Sedan doesn't have one, meaning it would likely max out at four stars.
Does that mean it's unsafe? Nope. Just that ANCAP's testing requirements are moving quickly, and not all cars have managed to keep up.
You'll find six airbags, along with the usual braking and traction aids, before the tech steps up to the active safety stuff, like AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as junction detection, plus lane keep assist, lane following assist and active cruise - all in the Active model. The Elite trim then adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors.