Hyundai has gone to nice lengths to banish its picture of being a discount basement carmaker during the last decade, with a spread of aggressive, high quality small automobiles, household automobiles and SUVs on the books. However up till now it’s shied away from efficiency choices, leaving European rivals to dominate the market.
Lastly, after the hiring of ex-BMW M division head Albert Biermann in 2014, Hyundai has launched its ‘N’ efficiency sub-brand with this: the i30 N. We had been impressed with it out in Germany earlier this yr, but that is the true acid take a look at on our damaged and scarred British tarmac. It’s additionally our first probability to strive the cheaper 247bhp base automobile, which is £three,000 lower than the 271bhp Efficiency Bundle mannequin we drove beforehand.
Hyundai’s engineers did a whole lot of laps of the Nurburgring throughout growth of the i30 N, although fortunately the corporate isn’t feeling the necessity to shout about it an excessive amount of. The quietly aggressive bodykit, wider wheelarches, larger wheels (18-inch objects on this automobile, an 19-inchers on the top-spec mannequin), pink particulars and enormous twin exhausts give the sport away to fanatics, however these after showiness and extravagance from their scorching hatch shall be higher served by automobiles such because the Honda Civic Kind R.
It’s an analogous story inside. Hyundai has transferred over the stable but unexciting cabin of the usual i30, with solely the drive mode selector on the steering wheel and a pair of properly supportive sports activities seats added as distinguishing options. However that’s the identical as you’ll discover in most rival scorching hatches, and the i30 N’s cabin is well-finished, spacious and intuitive to make use of.
We’d forgive you for having some scepticism in regards to the i30 N’s driving expertise. Even placing the truth that that is Hyundai’s first scorching hatch to 1 aspect, the usual i30 is much from an entertaining steer. That’s what makes the N all of the extra shocking while you get behind the wheel and discover out that it’s, actually, a real challenger to the present scorching hatch elite.
With the Civic Kind R, plus four-wheel drive opponents just like the Ford Focus RS pushing past the 300bhp mark, the i30 N seems down on energy even in Efficiency Bundle kind. However the 2.Zero-litre turbo petrol engine appears virtually as energetic as extra muscular rivals, partly due to the quick gearing. We drove the usual and Efficiency Pack fashions back-to-back, and when you can discover barely extra pull at excessive revs within the latter, the previous feels simply as quick more often than not.
It rips proper as much as the redline with urgency and with virtually no lag, which means you may rifle by means of the gears with the i30 N’s slick guide shift and end up overlaying floor at a shocking charge of knots. The bottom automobile lacks the switchable energetic exhaust of the Efficiency Bundle, however there’s nonetheless sufficient engine and induction noise to offer it the harder-edged growl desired in scorching hatchbacks. We additionally love the rev-matching tech, permitting fast and clean downshifts with out the necessity to heel-and-toe. It’s glad to quieten down at a cruise and ship diesel-like low-rev torque, too.
The engine is powerful and prepared, then, however the dealing with is much more spectacular. Doing with out the Efficiency Bundle means this automobile lacks the digital differential and greater brakes, but it hasn’t suffered an excessive amount of. Whereas the diff within the pricier i30 N retains it locked into its chosen line out of a bend it doesn’t matter what you do, even this normal automobile grips and holds on keenly. The steering is fast, direct and surprisingly feelsome, boosting your confidence within the automobile’s skills.
Including to the large feeling of agility is the spectacular physique management, with the i30 N feeling remarkably nicely tied-down no matter which mode you could have the suspension in. The drive modes are endlessly configurable, in contrast to in some rivals, so you may depart the adaptive dampers in Regular mode and ramp up the throttle response and steering weight individually. We’d advocate doing this, because the i30 N’s journey is agency however nicely damped in the usual setting – ramping as much as Sport or (particularly) N mode merely makes it too stiff and simply unsettled for British B-roads. The usual automobile is best on this space than the Efficiency Bundle, although, as the marginally smaller wheels take away a layer of harshness from the i30 N’s bump absorption, and cut back street noise.
The i30 N’s rounded skills and distinctive sharpness make it one of many best front-wheel drive scorching hatches round. That’s fairly one thing, contemplating most producers have been perfecting their choices for years. In case you’re planning on performing some observe driving then the Efficiency Bundle is the one to go for, however on the street the bottom automobile gives very almost as a lot pleasure for considerably much less money. At £25,000, it undercuts mainly each rival, making it look improbable worth for cash.