Naughty and nice Hyundai i30N

The third generation Hyundai i30 was born in Korea, but raised in Germany. More specifically the latest i30N grew up at the legendary Nürburgring racetrack with nearly 500 laps and 10,000km of testing undertaken there to create their most track focused model ever.

 ‘Track focused’ can be code for rubbish at everyday driving in some cars, but not the i30N. This fun little hot hatch can be naughty when you want it to be, but for the rest of the time it is a comfortable practical hatchback perfect for everyday driving. The niceness is enhanced thanks to the optional Luxury Pack that was fitted to my i30N that I recently spent a week with.

The i30N has four drives to choose from that are accessed via the powder blue buttons on the sporty steering wheel. The left hand button gives you access to Eco, Normal and Sport mode and the right hand button engages N mode and loads your preset selections for powertrain and chassis set up. This allows you to quickly switch the i30N from nice to naughty at the touch of a button.

The naughtiness is largely thanks to the 2.0 litre, four cylinder in-line engine with twin scroll turbocharger that produces 202kW at 6,000rpm and up to 378Nm of torque on over boost between 1,750-4,200rpm. All of that power driving the front wheels only does mean that they can struggle for traction under hard acceleration and you get torque steer as well. If you are cornering hard in the i30N you can also induce understeer, so in order to get the most out the i30N requires some finesse by the driver of the engine and the slick six speed manual gearbox.

In Sport or N mode practising this is a whole lot of fun, the ride is stiff and the car feels planted and you get the added drama from the exhaust system, with a pop pop on upshift and when you lift off at higher revs. How does all of this fun impact on fuel efficiency? Well the official combined fuel use is 8.0L/100km and for my week with the i30N I used 10.1L/100km, which is about the same as the Honda Civic Type R and less than the Renault Megane R.S. that I have previously driven.

I didn’t get the opportunity to drive the i30N on a track, but I imagine it would be a real hoot! Hyundai do remind you though, many times, in their i30N brochure that the new vehicle warranty does not cover defects where “the vehicle is used under racing conditions, speed endurance trials and timed or rallying competitions.” The good news is this exclusion does not include informal track days!

But for the 99% of time that you are driving the i30N on the road it is a nice place to be. In Normal drive mode the ride is comfortable and the Luxury Pack adds suede effect/leather appointed front seats with 12-way power adjustment for the driver and passenger and two memory positions for the driver. You also get heated front seats and a heated steering wheel and you may think these are not all that important, but on a cold winters morning you will be very happy that these are fitted to your i30N. Although the i30N seats were comfortable they didn’t offer a great deal of lateral support and I thought they weren’t as nice as the seats in the Renault Megane R.S.

The eight inch touch screen in the i30N gives you access to the multimedia system and this comes with the usual features like sat nav with SUNA live traffic updates and your audio options, of which there are plenty. These include AM/FM radio, DAB radio, AUX, USB input and Bluetooth and your charging options for devices at the front of the centre console include two 12V outlets, one USB port and wireless charging for compatible devices (part of the Luxury Park). You get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard and the voice control button on the steering wheel only works when your phone is connected via these.

The fun stuff accessed via N mode on the multimedia system includes lap timer, G force meter, turbo PSI readout, torque output and power output. You can also customise many features of the powertrain and chassis set up and save these under N mode. This includes engine (normal, sport, sport+), rev matching (off, normal, sport, sport+), e-LSD (normal or sport), exhaust sound (normal, sport, sport+), suspension (normal, sport, sport+), steering (normal, sport, sport+) and ESC (normal, sport, off).

The rear seats of the i30N have enough head and leg room for two adults to sit comfortably, but there are no USB ports or air vents back there meaning it can get a bit stuffy. There are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat anchor points, but in reality you would only fit two child seats in and this means the central arm rest can be folded down and you get two decent sized drink holders in there and there is also decent drink holders and cubby storage in the doors as well. The one problem in the back though was my children struggled to lock in the seat belts because the latch was at a weird angle.

The boot is OK sized and would fit a small stroller and the weekly shop with some creative packing and if more room is needed the rear seats do have a 60/40 split folding mechanism.

A feature that I am liking on the cars I have been driving is courtesy lights that light up as you approach your car and even before you open it. These along with puddle lights are also part of the Luxury Pack on the i30N and both offer an added convenience and safety feature when you are out at night.

The i30N comes with standard cruise control and auto lights and wipers. Active safety features include forward collision avoidance assist and lane keep assist. You also get a standard rear view camera with front and rear sensors and guidance lines. Passive safety features include driver and passenger front airbags, knee air bag for the driver and side airbags. Although the i30 model variants do have a five star ANCAP rating, this does not apply to the i30N.

Every new Hyundai is backed by Australia’s first 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and the first service, which is due at 1,500km or after one month whichever comes first, is free of charge. After that owners can use the online quoting and booking tool to know the price of their next service before they arrive at the dealer. Owners also get 12 months Hyundai Roadside Support and if you get your annual scheduled service done at a Hyundai Service Centre you qualify for an additional 12 months complimentary Roadside Support, every year for up to 10 years.

The i30N I drove had over 18,000km on the odometer and was aging well. I think the i30N is a great hot hatch that ticks all the boxes of this genre; it can be a naughty little car when you are in the mood for some fun and can be perfectly nice to live with for the rest of the time. As tested with the Luxury Pack the i30N I drove was $43,490 plus on road costs and if you are after a small car that offers plenty of performance I suggest you visit your preferred Hyundai dealer and test drive one for yourself.

Pros Cons
The engine and gearbox Front seats lack side support
N mode Hard to engage rear seatbelts
Nürburgring DNA Some torque steer and understeer

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.