First Drive: Hyundai i30 N
Hyundai’s first hot hatch is a turning point for the brand, says Alex Grant.
SECTOR Lower Medium PRICE £24,995-£27,995 FUEL 39.8-40.4mpg CO2 159-163g/km
In its seven generations, the Golf GTI has become so segment-defining that it’s easy to forget how implausible it must have seemed in 1975 – a performance car from a manufacturer with no heritage in that space, and only recently emerging from the Beetle era. Credible Hyundais are far more established of course, but the brand’s first proper hot hatch has its work cut out.
Hyundai knows this, and no holds are barred; styled by ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, and tuned by the brand’s new N department, led by Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW’s M Division. This has branding hurdles to overcome, but getting the right people behind it is a good way to make enthusiasts take notice.
Hot hatches have to work for head and heart; both trims include commuter-relevant kit including sat nav, adaptive cruise control and keyless entry and start. Move up to N Performance, as most are expected to do, and power jumps from 247bhp to 271bhp, paired with bigger wheels and brakes, fast-road tyres and an electronic limited-slip differential, plus leather and suede upholstery, which can be deleted to trim 12.7kg from the kerb weight.
This feels just as good as you’ll want it to; blisteringly quick through the gears, sure-footed while cornering and with tight, precise controls, it’ll satisfy even the keenest driver without making dull commutes hard work – just as a hot hatch should. Its only real drawback is the multitude of settings for the drivetrain, and that N mode is for masochists and track days only. Its damper settings are far too stiff for the road.
So it’s a convincing newcomer; a great halo car with real user-chooser appeal and scope for N-inspired styling packs lower down the range. Like the first Golf GTI, implausible-sounding machinery is often worth a second look.