WHAT IS IT?
When Hyundai sets their mind to something, they get it done, so when they decided to out-GTI the Golf the motoring public was excited to see what they delivered. After driving the i30 N for ourselves, it is evident that it is an unparalleled success and a triumph of vehicular engineering.
There are so many reasons to buy an i30 N, as the car really does manage to live up to the mantra of ‘everyday sports car’. It is an almost perfect balance between performance car and daily driver, doing everything well and nothing badly.
When I was driving it I thought it might blend with the regular, low-spice i30s on the road, so I was quite surprised to see how many heads turned as it drove by.
The i30 N differs from the regular i30 subtly, much like the Golf GTI differs from the tamer Golfs in the range. It is set apart by the unique 19-inch alloy rims and red brake callipers with the ‘N’ logo, more aggressive bumpers with larger air intakes and a red character line, an aerodynamic rear spoiler with a triangular brake light, and a dual muffler exhaust. The quality of the paint job also seems a step up from the normal hatches, and my test car shimmered in a resplendent red. I do like the blue version though, which is Hyundai’s signature colour for their race cars.
It all starts with beautifully crafted leather and suede bucket seats and a sports steering wheel, but the rest of the interior is a little underwhelming for an ‘everyday sports car’ – it feels too much like a normal i30, with not enough reminders that you’re driving something special.
If you’re OK with that, you’ll find it both comfortable and well kitted out with things like a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and front seats, wireless charging for your phone and an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple and Android connectivity.
This is what it’s all about, isn’t it? The i30 N is tricked out with a Electronically Controlled suspension (ECS) and Electronically Controlled Limited Slip Differential, and it has five drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, N and Custom) to make it even more flexible and easy to live with. They change settings on the engine, suspension, accelerator responsiveness and the note of the exhaust, and there is a big difference between them. Normal is, unsurprisingly, a great all-round setting, but N left me wondering where you could use it. It makes the suspension just too hard for enjoyable driving on anything but snooker-table-smooth roads, which are extinct in South Africa.
Under the bonnet is a 2-litre turbocharged engine that produces 202kW of power and 353Nm of torque, sent to the front wheels. A sublime six-speed manual is an absolute treat with precision gear changes – a rarity in these days of multi-geared automatic transmissions.
It’s rollicking good fun to drive the i30 N fast, with the exhaust crackling and it cornering like a cartoon bird evading a coyote, but the same is true of its rivals.
Many of my peers have labelled the Hyundai i30 N the best hot hatch they’ve ever driven. One of them told me he thought it was the best car he has driven. It really is that good. That said, if I were to buy a hot hatch, I would like it to appeal to me on a visceral level – I’d like to feel emotion every time I drove it, and the Hyundai didn’t do that for me.
At the price, you simply have to love the i30 N to buy one – and there will be a waiting list of people who do.
If you’re even thinking of buying a GTI, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least take an i30 N for a test drive to give yourself something to think about.
GO GET IT
R679 900 for a Hyundai hatchback is a lot of money, of that there is no doubt, but it does come with a class-leading 7-year/200 000km warranty, roadside assistance for 7-years or 150 000 km, and 5-year/75 000 km service plan. Visit www.hyundai.co.za for more information.
- A complete driver’s car
- Incredible handling
- Cracking engine
- The manual gearbox would be hard to better
- Too subtle for some
- Expensive, but all hot hatches are