It’s weekend and I finally decided to sit down and write a bit of a review for my Hyundai i30N. I bought the car last year in June and back then I also mentioned I would try to do an Oppo review, so I guess I have to stick to my word.
Full disclosure: Hyundai wanted me to drive this car so bad, that they made it appeal to my inner child with silly pops and bangs coming through the exhaust, bone stock. They also made sure to send a car in the config that I wanted to my local dealer before I even started shopping around for this car, saving me months of waiting. Also, I have no experience in very high performance cars, so when I describe stuff it is relative to other hot hatches and regular cars, not relative to a BMW M2 or high end Lambo etc.
So what is the Hyundai i30N you might ask? It is Hyundais entry into the hot hatch market, and more importantly, it is their first step into providing “sporty” or at least more enthusiast versions of their line-up. With the success it has had after release, Hyundai feels encouraged to add more models to their N-lineup. Right now you can expect a i20N, probably a Sonata N, a Kona N etc.
In a more direct explanation though, the i30N is a regular i30 beefed up with a more aggressive look and stance, a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 202kW/275hp and 353Nm of torque (378Nm on overboost). In nonsense units that would be 260-278 lb/ft respectively ;).
It also features a electronically controlled, mechanical LSD up front, adjustable/adaptive suspension, comes with Pirelli P-Zeros all around, a nice 6-speed manual ONLY and still comes with up to 7 years of warranty that (depending on your country) also covers non-competitive track events. It also features one of the best sounding stock exhausts among the 4-cylinder hot hatches.
All this for a price that handily beats the regular Golf GTI in almost all markets while offering up more power and a lot more features included in the base car.
The exterior of the i30N is aggressive, but not overly so. It manages to look more sporty than the Golf GTI while not going overboard like the Civic Type-R. You can roll up to a business meeting in this car without coming across as a wannabe Fast & Furious dude so to speak.
The design is mostly a matter of taste so I will not waste too many words on it. I just really like it. The front reminds me of the aggressive Lancer Evos. The rear is a bit of an acquired taste I suppose. I personally think it fits the overall design, though I don’t think it necessarily needed the second set of lights/reflectors. You run the risk of making another BMW i8 that is pooping out a Porsche...
If you get the car without the panoramic roof, I think it makes it look a bit monotone... Too much one color. The pano roof basically makes the entire roof + the little antenna black and it adds to the overall look.
The car is available in a sort of baby blue called “Performance Blue”. It is Hyundais marketing color for the N cars, or at least the i30N. It’s an interesting color, but for me the novelty would wear off. Other options are “Polar White”, “Phantom Black”, “Micron Grey” and my “Engine Red”. I went for the Engine Red because 1) it was available straight away and 2) red and black just go together so damn well.
On the inside, the i30N shows part of where it managed to make the car a lot cheaper than the Golf GTI without really affecting the technical side of things. You will find a fair amount of hard, cheap feeling plastic here. And the surround of the media display is piano gloss black for some inexplicable reason. I thought we left those fingerprint and dust finishes behind some time ago.
It sounds worse than it is though. These lower end materials make up parts of the car that you will hardly ever interact with. Anything that you touch frequently feels higher end, well thought out and solid. The steering wheel is nice and beefy, wrapped in high quality leather with accented stitching. The gear shift lever is similarly treated. The seats are leather and alcantara, with a good amount of bolstering. I am not extremely tall (about 1,82m or 6ft), but I am too fat, so I am getting a nice hug from the seats. Still, the seat is not too narrow and people who are more fit then I am have also mentioned the bolstering is quite good in spirited driving. Both front seats are electrically adjustable, heated and have a sliding leg extension (think BMW seats).
The touchscreen is responsive and appropriately matte finished. It features dials and buttons on the bezels. The buttons are a bit plasticky but click well enough, and the dials feel solid and are satisfying to turn. The same goes for climate controls. Nice dials, solid buttons in this case. I usually leave it in auto and only adjust the temperature from time to time. The air vents move around smoothly, the Start/Stop button is another one of those satisfying experiences, and overall the regular user experience just feels higher end than it actually is.
Personally, I’m fine with this approach to design and cost effectiveness. I appreciate high end materials as much as the next guy, but also don’t see the point in paying for expensive materials in places I probably won’t even notice.
In the rear we have enough room for adults to sit normally. I’ve been on several 3-hour roadtrips with 2 adults in the back without complaints. With the driver seat in my driving position, the leg room in the driver-side rear seat is still sufficient for myself to climb in and out, though I will hit the front seat with my knees when sitting. I am driving with my seat a bit back from “center” though, so that’s easily solved.
The rear seat folds down in the 60/40 kind of split, and provide a fairly even platform if you need to load larger items. The trunk itself is pretty standard for the class of vehicle and basically on-par with the Golf. One thing to note here is that there are provisions in the trunk for an optional stability bar that stiffens the chassis by up to 6% according to Hyundai. I did not get the option, might fit it later. Installing this will limit your trunk space when loading larger items though, as it will be bang in the middle of your trunk floor.
As mentioned in the intro, the i30N gets a 2.0L turbocharged inline four producing 275hp and up to 378Nm of torque during overboost. This is coupled to a 6-speed manual gearbox that has relatively short gear throws and feels very satisfying to get into gear. It is notchy enough to let you know it is not your general run of the mill hatchback gearbox, but not too much so that it would be annoying to shift. The clutch is sharp and has a well defined catch point, allowing for muscle memory shifting instead of feeling around for that catch point.
The power comes in fairly quick as well, you don’t have to rev the bejeezus out of it. The turbo does its work noticeably up to about 5500rpm, revving much higher will not yield much. It is rated by Hyundai for a 6,1 second 0-100km/h but it has been shown to be able to do it quite a bit faster. The fastest verified time I have seen is about 5,4 seconds. I have not tried this out myself, I honestly don’t care much. The car just feels quick, though it mostly shines from second gear up and not in a sprint of the line in first.
Overtaking on the highway is a breeze, you could shift down a gear and spurt past or just put your foot down in 5th or 6th and the overboost will kick in to give pretty decent acceleration at the relatively low RPM. For twisty roads, the car just loves to live in 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear. The noise it makes are great, the shifts satisfying and the power and acceleration just feel right. The car also has an auto-rev matching feature that will blip the throttle for you on shifts to make you look and sound like you know what you are doing. I do not fancy myself a race car driver and don’t bother to heel/toe so this feature is perfect for me. It is of course configurable and you can switch it off completely as well. It even has its own dedicated button on the steering wheel.
While it offers a fair bit more power than a base Golf GTI, it is down on power compared to a Civic Type-R and more equal to a Peugeot 308 GTi but heavier. Configured with a panoramic roof like mine, you are adding even more weight. It is never going to be the quickest hot hatch, so if that is what you are after, look elsewhere.
Ride and handling
The i30N has a total of 5 different drive modes. Normal, Sport, Eco, N-Mode and N-Custom. In normal, the ride is fairly stiff. Not bone-rattling, but enough to make you say “Hey, I didn’t know there was a bump in the road there before today”. When you switch into sport, the steering gets a little heavier, the exhaust a little louder and the suspension a tiny bit stiffer. The throttle response is a bit faster as well. In Eco it becomes just a normal car that happens to have a bit of power.
N-Mode is where the fun starts, everything just gets turned up to 11 for on the track. The ride is very, very firm in this mode. N-Custom is where the fun continues. Set the car up the way you like, you can adjust 7 or 8 different variables which have up to 4 settings or so. Mine is setup like N-Mode but with the suspension set to Normal so the ride is not as firm for the lesser roads here.
This car is amazing fun to throw into and pull out of corners. The Pirellis just stick up to speeds where you think you shouldn’t be putting it into a corner. And halfway through you hit the throttle again and the LSD sorts out the power delivery and pulls you out of corner very, very fast. The rear end can be playful and sliding if you like, with the ESC set to Sport or Off.
Overall, compared to non-hot hatches, it is just a world of difference. The steering is nicely weighted, the car just sticks and goes like hell when you want it to. It is not the fastest of the hot hatches, or the most capable on track, but I’d wager right now, it is one of the most fun to drive hot hatches on the market (Ha, but not in the US, sorry. The Veloster N should do quite well for you guys though, if you don’t mind the kinda weird form factor).
Like any modern car, it’s packed with features. All kinds of safety stuff like automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, cornering lights, auto dimming rear-view mirror etc. The in car entertainment system is capable as well. The sound can use some improvement but I rarely listen to the radio, and suggest others to also just listen to the exhaust tones if you drive the N.
It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well, but not wireless. You can get the car with a wireless charger in the little storage below the climate control. The built-in navigation is solid in my experience. No wrong turns yet. You can attach a USB stick with media as well, though it sometimes seems a bit picky about the type of stick or formatting of the storage. On the main display you can also show some more performance focused gauges like G-forces, lap timers, 0-60 timer, boost, power etc.
There is plenty of storage with compartments in the doors, center console, below the center armrest, a decently sized glove compartment and a sunglasses holder in the top center above the rear-view mirror.
Overall, I would say that in the hot hatch department, the Hyundai i30N is the best bang for your buck available right now. Anything with more power will cost more. Anything with more tech will cost more. You are getting a fast, great to drive hot hatch, stuffed with tech and able to hold its own against the established names. And this has just been a first attempt by Hyundai, which is impressive. If they continue down this path I have no doubt the next N-cars will be a hoot as well.
If you feel I missed anything or have any questions, let me know in the comments!