With this i30 N hot hatch, Hyundai launches its new 'N' performance sub-brand. It's the kind of car you simply wouldn't expect from this Korean maker, with a choice of either 250 or 275PS outputs intended to provide performance to embarrass this car's Volkswagen Golf GTI arch-rival.
We can't wait to try this car. The stats certainly look promising. Beneath the bonnet, you'll find a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivering 250PS and 353Nm of torque. In the uprated 'N Performance' model, that output is boosted to 275PS. As a point of comparison, the most you can get from a Golf GTI is 245PS - and that's only if you pay extra for a 'Performance Pack' on that car. The i30 N is front-driven - there's no sign of a 4WD option - and if you're quick with the 6-speed manual stick shift, 62mph can be reached from rest in just 6.4s en route to 155mph in the 250PS variant. In the 272PS 'N Performance' derivative, that figure is slashed to 6.1 seconds, though top speed remains the same.
As segment buyers will expect, 'Launch control' for 'Grand Prix'-style getaways and a rev-matching function both feature in the standard spec, plus there are five selectable driving modes and an electronically managed suspension set-up. An 'N button' will switch the car into its most dynamic setup and drivers can tailor settings through an 'N Custom' mode. If you go for the 'N Performance' variant, you get an electronic limited slip differential, plus larger brakes, a variable valve exhaust system, and larger 19-inch wheels shod in Pirelli P Zero rubber. The handling of this variant was perfected at the legendary Nurburgring Nordschliefe race track - and you'll feel like you're on a circuit when you're pressing on behind the wheel, thanks to an Electronic Sound Generator that creates a rorty engine note.
The i30 N certainly talks the talk in terms of its looks. At the front, the headlamps have black bezels and the 'Cascading' grille has a red insert. There's a front splitter and a prominent rear wing spoiler for extra downforce and aero-balance. Air inlets have been added to each corner of the car's front end, aiding aerodynamics and brake cooling. The larger wheel arches house standard 18-inch rims with a 4mm lowered ride height - or larger 19-inch wheels with an 8mm lower ride height.
Inside, you get an exclusive blue-stitched 'N' steering wheel to the left of which is the drive mode selection system. To the right of the wheel, there's a chequered flag 'N' button for the 'N-mode' that releases this car most focused red mist performance setting. The red zone of the variable LED rev-counter changes according to the driving performance and varies with the engine's oil temperature. The 'ball-type' gear knob bears the N-badge. There are high-performance 'N'-embossed sport seats trimmed in a combination of suede and leather or cloth. These chairs feature extendable cushions.
So, will potential hot hatch buyers consider an i30 N in preference to a Volkswagen Golf GTI, a Ford Focus ST, a SEAT Leon Cupra, a Renaultsport Megane or a Peugeot 308 GTi? That's a big ask. These established segment players have had decades to cement their credentials in this sector.
Yet Hyundai has certainly gone about this the right way. The engineering's been done thoroughly and the performance stats certainly look promising, offering owners slightly more performance than competitors can deliver. We'd say that if you're shopping in this market, this Korean contender's well worth a test drive. At the very least, you'll certainly enjoy the experience.Click here to find out more about our Hyundai i30N range