Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Let’s start with the engine. It’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 276bhp and plenty of torque (or low-rev muscle) to pull you up hills and through bends. There's also an overboost function to increase performance for up to 20sec for a bit more kick when overtaking.
While it feels faster than the entry-level Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST (as confirmed by its rapid 0-62mph time of 5.9sec for the manual, 5.4sec for the auto), the falls short of matching the monster mid-range pace of more powerful rivals such as the 316bhp Honda Civic Type R. Don’t take that to mean the i30N feels sluggish, though – it really doesn't. In fact, the I30N feels very eager indeed, with a crisp accelerator response, and with plenty of oomph from 1500rpm and a willingness to rev to the limit sweetly and freely.
And this is confirmed the minute you launch it into a corner and feel how quickly it reacts to your steering inputs. Even with the switchable drive modes in the softest Comfort setting, the steering weights up nicely and telegraphs little sensations through the rim that give you a real feel for how much grip the car has on the Tarmac. True, it gets a little too heavy in the racier modes but, unlike many rivals (including the Civic Type R), you can mix and match the settings to achieve the set-up you desire. For instance, the sweeter Comfort steering setting can be matched with the fierce accelerator response of the wildest N mode.
To keep everything tied down, the N's suspension is up to 8mm lower than that of regular I30s, and is fitted with adaptive dampers whose firmness can be tailored in the drive modes. If that sounds like a pretty racey set-up, it is – but that doesn’t mean it’s uncivilised. In fact, with the latest i30 N hatchback adopting a suspension tune that’s closer to the softer setup previously reserved for the Fastback version, the i30N feels perfectly at one with the road and can traverse awkward mid-corner bumps without losing its composure. Granted, it’s still not quite as calm as a Civic Type R, but it’s more pliant than a Renault Megane RS.