Hot Hatch Game-Changer: Hyundai i30N Performance First Drive

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I bet you had a right ol’ giggle when you heard Hyundai was making a hot hatch. I know I did. Hyundai, looking to take on the Golf GTI? Pah! That would be like me taking on Usain Bolt in a 100 metres race – it would be a total failure. Yet, here we are in 2018, with the Korean brand putting its money where its mouth is with the new i30N.

On paper it looks very promising. Depending on which trim level you go for, you’ll enjoy a turbocharged 2.0 litre petrol engine offering either 247bhp or 275bhp. Those are some serious figures, but it’s not just power where the i30N impresses, it offers a good level of kit, it’s sporty looking without looking yobbish (I’m looking at you Civic Type R), it’s comfortable, roomy and a genuine day-to-day driver – just like a Golf GTI.

Surely not as good as Golf GTI?

Crikey, things are looking very good for the Koreans, especially when you consider this the brand’s first ever hot hatch. Surely, as a result it’s going to offer a drive that clearly shows that the brand is not a natural at such cars. You’d be wrong. Fire up the engine and you greeted with a rather fruity tone, which is made better still by putting the car in ‘N’ mode.

The N, in case you’re wondering, stands for Nurburgring and Namyang, which is where the car was developed. Once you’ve enjoyed the exhaust note, you’ll soon enjoy the inside. Yes, it’s all a bit serious, but it feels well made and it’s the sort of cabin that would great to live with on a day-to-day basis (remind you of anything?). I’m sure you’re more bothered about how the car drives though, so let’s get going.

Choose your poison

The i30N can be had in standard form, meaning it offers 247bhp with 353Nm, but the model tested here is the Performance model. This offers 271bhp (same torque figure) as well as bigger alloys, which are shod in stickier tyres, with bigger brakes lurking inside the spokes. The Performance will cost £3,000 more than the standard car, so if you’re more bothered about value then the cheaper car will be better for you, as that is a very reasonable £25,010.

Hyundai i30N First Drive
The inside has little fanfare, but it feels refined and pleasant

The Performance model will hit 62mph in an impressive 6.1 seconds whilst the standard car follows close behind with a time of 6.4 seconds. Both cars are limited to a top speed of 155mph, so I imagine the standard car will be just fine for most people’s needs. All the controls feel well balanced and the gear change has a short, snappy throw to it. First impressions are good, alarmingly good.

Start as you mean to go on

Once I was on the hill route of the Millbrook Proving Ground the car impressed me more. I had the car for a limited amount of time, so I spent most of my time in N mode, and my word was it good. The exhaust alone makes this car a joy to drive, it pops and bangs, yet it doesn’t sound like some godawful aftermarket fartcan.

The steering has got a lovely weight to it, although that can be adjusted if you find it too heavy in ‘N’ mode, and as you would expect, it’s direct and responsive. There’s plenty of grip to be had in the corners and there is little body roll. The car as a whole feel as solid as something built by the Germans.

Hyundai i30N First Drive

The pedal placement is good, meaning you can heel and toe, although there is a rev match function that takes care of this for you if you desire. The brakes are also strong, making it a strong selling point for getting the Performance model, but that’s not say the standard model will feel as if it’s running on old drums.

Is it really a game-changer?

I’ll be honest, I don’t really like to use the phrase ‘game-changer’ as I feel it’s used too liberally. Every new product appears to be a game changer in some shape or form, but the i30N certainly deserves such an accolade. This is not just some young pretender, this is the real McCoy, leading many to say they would opt to have it over a Volkswagen Golf GTI. If that isn’t the highest praise this car can gain, I’m not sure what is. To think, that this is the brand’s first attempt as well. I don’t envy them for trying to replace this model…

Hyundai i30N First Drive

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