BEST TESTS ’22 Astounding i30N Resets Auto’s Hot Hatch Record Book

Think hot hatch and the obvious contenders spring to mind. GTI, Type R, RS and more. Better you add N to that list then. Meet Hyundai’s rare racetrack capable everyday sports car. Unashamedly designed to be fun to drive, i30N encompasses Hyundai’s three N cornerstones of a nimble handling everyday sports car with great racetrack ability. So we really looked forward to test. And hoo boy, did it deliver!

N For Nurburgring

Hyundai’s N stands for its Namyang, Korea global R&D Centre. As much as it does for its Nürburgring European Test Centre, where the i30n was extensively developed on the legendary Nordschleife. It shows! Our tester was appropriately clad in Hyundai’s racing Performance Blue war dress. You see traces of it on its WRC cars. They also have a darker hue on their wheels, just like i30N’s 14,4 kg lighter 19-inch five double-spoke forged alloys.

This hot Hyundai possesses an aggressive racetrack-inspired stance. Its purposeful hexagonal grille, front and rear bumpers, and a new rear spoiler not only look the part but they reduce lift too. V-shaped DRL headlamps and LED rear combination lamps at the rear are backed by triangular third brake light in the chunky rear spoiler. Atop a pair of big bore exhaust pipes integrated into the rear diffuser.

The business end of this car comprises a 206 kW 392 Nm 2-litre turbo four-pot engine that’s 39 Newtons up on its predecessor. Power is delivered in a flat curve with maximum torque between 1,950 and 4,600 rpm. It has a 5,200 rpm power peak and drives the front wheels. Via an N DCT paddle shifter eight-speed dual clutch transmission with three N performance functions.

Balls-Out i30N Power Shift Transmission

The N DCT double clutch transmission delivers the choice of manual paddle or optimal automatic sequential automatic shifting in N Power Shift, Grin or balls-out Track Sense mode and a creep function. Which leaves the the driver to focus on driving. They tell us it has dual electric oil pumps to reduce friction and improve clutch cooling and allow greater torque transfer through the gearbox. Clever.

An N Corner Carving Electronic Limited Slip Differential enhances grip and improves maximum cornering speed aided and abetted by a rack-mounted motor-driven electric power steering. Hyundai claims improved mid and high-rev acceleration for 0 to 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds and 250 km/h. Not that it needs it in Track mode with its growl, pops and bangs, but i30N also has a Electronic Sound Generator for extra acoustic drama.

Settle in behind the exclusive N steering wheel with a body colour pair of Performance Blue selectors for Normal, Sport and Eco drive modes on the left and the N mode button to the right. It sits ahead of a clean and conventional variable LED-topped red zone rev-counter that doubles as a cold temperature warning and a shift timing indicator. Metal pedals and other cool finishes add to the racy effect. For best effect however, just thumb that N button to expunge the ESC and out the beast.

Activate Launch Control

You also activate Launch Control by selecting N mode. Just floor it and release the brakes and i30N bullets off the line and tears towards the horizon. It’s a great traction control system. A little ginger off the line, it dodges full power to curb huge wheel spin, but wakes up a little as it rev-match shifts through to second. And boy oh boy, does it get busy from third gear on! The i30N easily matches and improves on Hyundai’s claims to smash Auto’s hallowed fastest accelerating hot hatch crown.

The hot Hyundai then blasts onward to deliver quite mesmerising chassis performance. In that Power mode, it hops and bounces just like a seriously tuned race winner over the road’s undulations. And come the corners, golly, this car is good. Probably the best front-wheel drive car we have driven. And then some. You feel its race-like 1.5-degree negative camber, performance dampers, springs, bump-stops, and kinematics, while that 60 kilo saving in unsprung weight certainly adds to the party.

Braking is supreme too, although there’s a degree of bump steer, but i30N’s bigger 360 mm front rotors certainly do the job. There was no fade or fuss across our own little Nürburgring Franschhoek Pass. Believe us, that’s a huge plus! Its finely tuned underpinnings bring out the best of the i30N, especially with the ESC turned off and forgotten about as that N Corner Carving Differential gets on with the business of putting down the power. Downsides? Yeah. It’s thirsty!

Yet i30N is Calm & Gentle on the Other Side

Yet on the other side, tap the more conventional, or even Eco modes and i30N forgets all about its wild, raucous, hard and uncompromising racing manners. She becomes compliant as a puppy having its tummy rubbed. Quiet and so easy to drive, thanks to a great variation in damper and other chassis settings. Yes, the Hyundai i30N is a great all rounder. Awesome to drive. And really well hooked up too.

It’s also supremely safety equipped with everything from upgraded pedestrian detection Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist to Lane Following, Blind-Spot, Rear Cross-Traffic and even Fatigue Warnings among its comprehensive armoury. Add front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, curtain and driver’s knee airbags. Pretensioner 3-point inertia reel seatbelts and ISOFIX child seat anchoring too.

Don’t forget connectivity. The Huyndai i30N gets an updated and apparently easier to use Performance Driving Data System to hopefully even improve the driver’s track skills. It saves and displays driving data, engine power, torque and turbo boost and includes a lap and acceleration timer. Add a customisable N mode screen to set the engine, suspension, steering, differential, transmission rev matching, and even exhaust sound and stability control.

All the Bells & Whistles Too

There is of course also a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with CarPlay, Auto and a wireless charging pad. Best of all however, there are no stupid faux switches, buttons or knobs. Just good old school regular and simple to use click, turn and push switches, buttons and knobs. It may look a bit old fashioned compared to some of that newfangled crap, but it works so much better!

The brilliant Hyundai i30N is not cheap at R750K. Even if it comes with the Korean carmaker’s 7-year, 200,000 km warranty, a 5-year, 75,000 km service plan and the rest. It is R70K more expensive than both its obvious rival Golf GTI and Mini John Cooper Works rivals. But it undercuts the Honda Civic Type R by about ninety grand. The Hyundai i30N is however by far the quickset of those. And dare we say, the best sorted. And from what we gather, it will likely remain more exclusive too.

So dare we say, the GTI King is Dead. Long Live the King N! – Michele Lupini

Images & Testing: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Hyundai i30N
Engine: 206 kW 392 Nm 2-litre turbo I4
Drive: 8-speed DCT Auto FWD
0-60 km/h:        2.82 sec
0-100 km/h:       5.27 sec
0-120 km/h:       6.99 sec
0-160 km/h:       11.56 sec
400m:             13.5 sec @ 168 km/h
80-120 km/h:      3.12 sec
120-160 km/h:     4.69 sec
VMax:             250 km/h
Fuel:             8.9 l/100 km
CO2:              191 g/km
Warranty/Service: 7y 200K/5y 75K km
LIST PRICE:       R749K
RATED:            9
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