We get behind the wheel of Hyundai’s first crack at a hot hatchback, and the i30 N doesn’t disappoint
The i30 N is the first hot hatch from a marque with a full works entry in the World Rally Championship, and therefore something to be taken very seriously indeed. That Hyundai’s aim has been to cram in as much performance for the least possible cost to buyers should also have your ears pricked up.Why now? Well, the brand is on something of a role, recording an 87 percent increase in European sales in the last five years. To build on that success and translate rally podiums into profit, it’s now launching a new performance arm – N.Enter Albert Biermann, long-time boss of BMW’s performance arm – M. He’s the type of man who expects the ‘ESC off’ button in a car to actually mean ‘off’ (in the i30 N, it does) and yet recognises that in 2017 a five-door hot hatch needs to be useable to be a hit in showrooms. This machine is very much his baby, and the German’s presence is a major reason for optimism about its ability to entertain.The fundamental i30 N package is nothing out of the ordinary – it’s a five-door hatch with a turbocharged DOHC 2.0-litre in-line four driving the front wheels. What is rather unusual is the level of hardware on offer for modest outlay, with the £24,995 base model getting 247bhp, an electronic limited-slip differential and three-way adaptive suspension. An optional Performance Package sees those figures increase to £27,995 and 271bhp.As for pace, the standard car hits 62mph from rest in 6.4 seconds while the Performance model shaves 0.3 seconds from that time. Both will hit 155mph and manage a claimed 39mpg combined.The five-door bodyshell is the same as that used for the standard i30, Hyundai claiming it to be already adequately stiff (the N gets underbody strut braces, nevertheless). Wider wheelarches have been grafted on and the N-car sits up to 8mm lower.Aggressive bumpers with deep intakes at the front, a red pin-stripe on the splitter and a triangular brake light sat within the gloss-black rear spoiler are other identifiers, though perhaps none are as conspicuous as the N’s rather lovely, and unique, signature colour – Performance Blue. There’s also a choice of 18in wheels (shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres) or 19in options (bespoke Pirelli P Zero).Components for the car’s upgraded brakes, fettled engine, toughened-up six-speed gearbox, reinforced clutch and sophisticated suspension are all either built in-house or supplied by Korean firms with whom Hyundai has a close relationship. It might have been developed at the Nürburgring, but the i30 N’s physical form is refreshingly home-grown, and that’s helped it undercut the competition.The car is also highly configurable, with settings for the e-differential, engine map, exhaust, suspension, steering and ESC. All in all, there are 1944 combinations, though by default they’re grouped into Eco, Normal, Sport and a hardcore N mode. There’s also an N Custom mode, with which you can deploy your favourite settings at the touch of a button. Inside, the i30 N gets either a 5in display atop the dash or an optional 8in unit. You get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as readouts for power, torque, turbo boost pressure, lap times and – sure to go down well with the local constabulary – acceleration. Performance Pack models also get a removable brace that stretches across the boot floor – how about that for intent?