CAR OF THE WEEK
Hyundai i30 N Performance
4.5 out of five
Now, what was that I said about Dry January last week? We tried, we really did. But then along came the mini-break at the health spa, which rhymes with bar, and more to the point actually had one. The rest, you can guess.
But it was only a minor blip. Honestly, it was. Along with the curry night. And the Chinese the day after. We’re back on board now. Back on the wagon for the rest of the month. For sure.
The Hyundai i30 N Performance is the brand’s first-ever contender in the sizzlingly competitive world of the hot hatch
Now I don’t know about you, but I can never remember what’s supposed to come in threes. Bad news, good news or London buses?
Or is it audacious first forays into new sectors of the car market by companies that previously would have been run out of town for even daring to dream of such folly? After Kia’s debut Stinger GT and Citroën’s C3 Aircross SUV, here we go again, for the third week on the bounce.
Allow me to introduce Hyundai’s first-ever contender in the sizzlingly competitive world of the hot hatch. Could the Koreans really come up with something to rival such smoking icons as the Golf GTi and Honda Civic Type R?
Answer: oh yes.
Hot hatches, especially brand new ones, must make their mark quickly or risk disappearing without trace. The i30 N did that straight away at our house simply by being painted in perhaps the most attractive car colour I’ve ever seen.
Performance Blue is what Hyundai calls it. Think Parma Violets with a hint of lavender. Absolutely fabulous, darlings. Never seen a car colour even remotely like it.
In profile the car has the look of a slightly longer, slightly flatter, softer, more rounded Golf, with a Mazda-ish rear end and a bit of Volvo- ness thrown in for good measure. Hyundai might have ended up with a hotchpotch of stolen calamity, but everything here blends together perfectly, magically establishing a character all its own.
Performance Blue is what Hyundai calls it. Think Parma Violets with a hint of lavender. Absolutely fabulous, darlings. Never seen a car colour even remotely like it
Lift the tailgate, then (the remote boot release didn’t work once) for the first of many surprises, a competition-style strut brace. A clue of what fun is to come. And removable too! (I say, steady on, Hyundai, you’ll have all the other hot hatches ganging up on you if you carry on like this.) Its purpose? To tether the two rear suspension turrets together, thus achieving a twist- and flex-free rear end. Serious stuff.
The two/three rear passenger space is adequate but easily the least attractive bit of the whole car. It’s all a bit bleak and dark back there, whereas up front there’s the genuine whiff of excitement with tons of creature comforts: heated seats, heated steering wheel, auto door mirrors, dual climate control, to name but a few.
The centre function screen may not be the most elegant thing to look at but it’s a good size, combining manual and touch operation, packed with the sort of menus that get hot hatch enthusiasts’ juices flowing: lap timer, 0-60 timer, G-force graphs, turbo and torque gauges.
Engine 2.0-litre petrol
Gearbox Six-speed manual
0-60 mph 6.1 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 39.8mpg
First year road tax £500
All good fun, as is the sound system, which is officially ‘awesome’, according to the ankle-biters. But the crowning glory is undoubtedly the versatility of the car set-up, with over 2,000 combinations to choose from.
With precious little to gripe about thus far in, I can happily report similar once the start button is engaged. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine instantly strikes up an ‘entirely natural’ fruity exhaust note, promising a healthy dose of 271hp and 353Nm of torque.
This is spread over a wider rev range than the standard road car to bring a track driving experience to the whole shooting match. Which it does quite convincingly. There’s also some cheeky ‘over-boost’ available, which usually means something has gone wrong, but in the N’s case gives the option of an extra eight per cent of torque in 18-second bursts.
Does such rule-bending keep you on your toes? It most certainly does. It can actually be very hairy, especially on more uneven roads when the driven wheels lose traction, and this is when the i30 N is at its most feral and most different to the sophisticated Golf GTi. The VW will already be sitting at the bar sipping a cocktail while the Hyundai is still having a tear-up with security trying to get in.
What’s most striking is the difference across the five driving modes, all the way from chalk Eco mode to Stinking Bishop N mode.
What’s most striking is the difference across the five driving modes, all the way from chalk Eco mode to Stinking Bishop N mode, writes Chris Evans(pictured)
Handling-wise, it’s all about the stiffness of that chassis and the efficient and thoughtful power distribution, not to mention the Pirelli tyres that were specifically commissioned for the i30 N. All of which comes together in a beguiling exhibition of grip, grunt and balance. Sharp and precise from a steering point of view, this car is a joy to be let loose with on a country road of your choosing.
My kids’ favourite thing was playing with those dazzling driving modes and telemetry on the info screen. My favourite thing (apart from the paint job) was the trick rev-matching on down-changes, which makes the less-nimble-footed of us sound like we are much better pilots than we really are.
The only vaguely major niggle came from Mrs Evans, who said the ride was never totally ‘not bumpy’.
A critique I could temper by mentioning that she was looking at her phone a lot of the time in the car, which always makes her feel queasy.
But that would just be stupid of me and not worth the grief.
In conclusion, the i30 N is a worthy and welcome addition to the hot hatch market, and at £27,995 the price is almost as attractive as…
…did I mention the paint?