Now I should start off by saying this car is anything but basic. However, it demonstrates so many of the characteristics from a time where Hot Hatches were made to put a smile on your face, as opposed to just chasing fastest lap times.
We had the i30N for a long weekend, it just so happened to be the weekend of the Nurburgring 24HR where Hyundai had a strong presence, so we thought it would be rude not to head over! Now while we wouldn’t be able to take it on track, the point we want to make is you don’t have to. We set out a route which gave us a mix of driving roads, from motorways to some nice twisties approaching the Nurburgring to see how the car performed.
The first thing to note about the Hyundai i30N is it’s looks. We were given ours in Performance Blue, as seen on all their racing cars from World Rally, to Touring Car Championships, and it really does have something about it which even catches the untrained eye. With its aggressive front and rear bumpers, rear spoiler and sporty 19 inch alloys, it certainly stands out from the crowd.
The interior I was less enthused with, don’t get me wrong it isn’t terrible but there is certainly room for some improvement. The infotainment screen surround already looks dated with its piano black finish. I struggled with the driving position (I am 6ft 1), I needed either the pedals to be set back a little further, or the steering wheel to come further forward to be in a comfortable driving position. One huge plus though was the seats, I found them to be very comfy and supportive on the mix of driving and the overall feel in the cockpit was generally quite positive. It’s worth remembering that compared to what Hyundai were making 10 or 15 years ago, there is a definite leap forward. But their ambitions of taking the fight to the big German car manufacturers mean they are up against some tough competition, and on elements such at build quality, they’re not quite there yet.
So we headed out on our 1200 mile round trip and quite quickly became acquainted with the N button. We had the i30N with the Performance Pack, meaning an increase in power to 275bhp from 250bhp, bigger 19 inch wheels to cover the bigger brakes, the electronic diff and a few other perks. The noise that comes out of this little 2.0 litre engine is hilarious and so unexpected. Ok I know we are in a less than pure world now with trickery going on to create these sounds, but I don’t care! It is great fun and really adds to the occasion when going for a hoon.
We did quickly learn that N isn’t the most perfect of modes however, in addition to opening the exhaust, increasing the throttle response etc, it stiffens the dampers quite significantly. Now we started our trip in the southwest UK and our roads are really not the best. As such, the custom N mode was a very welcomed feature, we were able to set everything to N, but exclude the dampers which made for lot’s of fun, but also saved us a fortune in chiropractic bills!
A lot of miles had to be covered on the motorway for which we mainly drove in the Normal setting. The car remained comfortable and we maintained low to mid 30s (mpg) when cruising at speed limits, which is ample for most use cases. Having Apple Car Play and Android Auto as standard is a real plus and made for an effortless drive having familiar navigation software, as well as our music and podcasts.
When we got to Europe, everything started to change. No longer was there the need for the custom N mode with their smooth roads, no longer were we trying to eat miles on motorways to get to our location, instead we found ourselves deviating constantly heading to squiggly lines on the map! The weather was great, the tyres were warm, and the grip was phenomenal.
The turn in is so accurate and the traction out of corners is incredible. The gearbox feels solid and direct, and you really feel connected to the car. Hearing the pops and crackles from the exhaust as you shift through the gears adds an element of drama, it gives you the sensation that you are going somewhat faster than you actually are. Don’t get me wrong, the i30N is certainly a little pocket rocket, but there is no denying it has some very stiff competition.
Regardless, we arrived at the Nurburgring with a grin from ear to ear. Yes there are quicker Hatchbacks out there, but Hyundai have done a cracking job in developing a car that you don’t need to be doing licence loosing speeds to simply enjoy. I can’t wait to drive back!