Has Hyundai created a world beater, out the blue, straight from the starting gates? The much anticipated ‘N’ Performance Division has finally had its local launch. The brave claims coming from the brand include that the i30 N is “road and track ready”. I recently covered some incredible roads through the Victorian Alpine region plus a lengthy track session at Winton Motor Raceway. It’s fair to say I flew home confident Hyundai has created a hot hatch to take on the world’s best.
The comparison tests will follow but let’s just look at the on-paper attributes. Australia scores the one 202kW model. A 2.0-litre turbo engine generates that power through the front-wheels with 353Nm or 378Nm due to an 18 second overboost function available between 1,750rpm to 4,200rpm. Prices kick off at $39,990 before on roads and options such as a luxury pack for $3000, or if you’d like to add more bling a panoramic sunroof will take the same pack to $5000. Via a launch control feature the ‘N’ can shoot to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds.
Aside from dollar per-kilowatt value Hyundai also has the hide to offer a standard five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty that covers weekends at the track. Although it applies to non-competition events, you’re even allowed to fit your own tyres. That’s a serious dose of confidence in what is basically a new venture.
Driving the i30 N
It would be hard to find a more challenging drive program. The route we covered from Albury through Anglers Rest, stopping at The historic Blue Duck Inn, back up to Falls Creek, through Bright and eventually back to Albury was epic. The roads were about as narrow and tree-lined as you’ll find, the surfaces often covered in huge amounts of leaf debris all while covering altitudes that saw the temperature fall from 30-degrees to just 8-degrees, including a total fog whiteout on our way to Falls Creek.
The car has been injected with 15 months’ worth of local suspension development, it shows. Personally, I was amazed with the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system. There are ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport+’ modes. Sport mode allows some extra play while Sport+ turns off ESC completely.
So well calibrated is this system there was rarely, if ever a time when power would be typically taken away from the driver. In fact, the only computer-controlled nanny system that seemed to want to save the day was ABS, occasionally.
The magic all occurs at the front end of the i30 N via a sharp Electronic Limited Slip Differential (E-LSD). When pushing hard into corners and even firmer on the throttle out the other side the car easily pulls itself out of drama. You can feel the torque being shuffled side to side through the Pirelli P-Zero HN tyres wrapped wheels. It’s almost a little too easy.
Like many performance-oriented vehicles there are various drive modes. In this case Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom are selected via steering wheel mounted buttons. I must say I probably stayed in Sport mode a little too long for one of my fellow co-pilots. Some of those Alpine roads need a little less tension from the adaptive dampers. It quickly, as you’d expect, became a harsh, bumpy ride. The separate N mode button gives the i30 N a significant bark, with a couple of cracks occurring with almost too much regularity, thanks to the manufactured nature of the cracks and pops. But it did earn the admiration of one motorcyclist who probed me with questions when we were bailed up at roadworks.
On the Track.
I have no idea how 20 odd V8 Supercars manage to squeeze around the Winton Motor Raceway. It’s a tight affair, with a decent straight, long right-hand sweeper and a series of right and left turns that are hard to navigate without really scrubbing the front end into submission. The car did feel slightly less at home, probably because of the huge increase in speed and my determination to not be the one that ends up in a wall. The steering meets exacting standards, sure when pushing hard, life was far harder in the cabin, but it’s precise and delivers ideal feedback.
But again, the i30 N did show it is capable of a serious thrashing. Hitting 150km/h down the main straight was not uncommon, but the N branded (No Brembo’s here) did an excellent job of allowing me to perfectly judge how well they can wash that kind of speed off. A marshal’s hut seems placed very much like a target after turn one, miss judge that corner and you will set sail straight for it.
The six-speed manual can be thrown into rev matching mode, handy when you’re getting used to a track and the prospect of the old ‘heel and toe’ technique is the last thing on your mind. Overall the cars on offer handled lap after lap of mostly full pelt driving, on a 30 plus degree day. Aside from constant monitoring of the tyre pressures I saw no evidence of any car experience issues.
There was plenty of wheel screeching and I’m sure the E-LSD made me look better than I am, but overall for a first attempt and for what underneath is an i30 it was a very impressive debut.
The car scores 19’’ alloys, front sports seats, a nice and chunky sports steering wheel, alloy pedals, N race computer that includes a lap timer and F1 style instrument cluster shift lights. On the outside is a full aerodynamic package, with aggressive front and rear bumpers, side skirts and rear spoiler. The i30 N also sits 8mm lower than the usual i30 setup.
An Everyday Drive.
This hot hatch is perfectly capable at being a runabout during the week if you like a manual. It benefits from all the safety gear found as standard in the i30 range, including Autonomous Emergency Braking. There’s standard Satellite Navigation plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto displayed on the eight-inch colour touchscreen. You can score a wireless inductive charging pad for smartphones but only on the Luxury Pack option. The latter also adds incentives such as automatic wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and some suede inserts and leather bolsters among others.
The EFTM Rubber Stamp of Approval.
There are around 300 i30 N examples in the country set to go on sale soon. However, there was some concern about supply issues, the car is selling up a storm in Germany and parts of Europe. But that may well be a promising sign as that region certainly has well-honed tastes when it comes to anything performance orientated. After my experience with the car, I’m going to have to award it the EFTM Distinction Rubber Stamp of Approval. In this category, at that price and with that performance it sits proudly alongside the world’s best.