2017 Hyundai i30N review – price, specs and release date
The Hyundai i30N isn't just a new hot hatch, but the beginning of a whole new Hyundai sporting sub-brand. So, it has to be good, right?...
Priced from £24,995 Release date January 2018
‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ That's from 'The Little Prince' by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. And why do we begin with this literary extract? Well, for its beauty and aptness, because if you’re looking at the new Hyundai i30N hot-hatch thinking ‘it's just another i30’, you’d be very wrong.
What is essential to know, but hidden from sight, is the work the engineering team behind the i30N – led by ex-BMW M Division chief Albert Biermann – has done under the skin, then honed diligently around the infamous Nürburgring race track.
Naturally, there’s more power: the turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine makes 247bhp (or 271bhp if you go for the top-spec Performance version) and 260lb ft of torque at 1500rpm, which should prove to be a decent slug of muscle.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard – there’s no automatic option – and to keep the body under control, the suspension has been lowered by up to 8mm and fitted with adaptive dampers. The i30N also has a heavily revised, quicker steering rack.
Opt for the Performance model and you also get 19in wheels (compared with the standard car’s 18ins) shrouding larger brakes, plus an electronically controlled, limited-slip differential - there to help the front-wheel-drive i30 N get its power down successfully out of corners.
2017 Hyundai i30 N on the road
Well, no doubt the Focus RS, with its four-wheel-drive traction thrown into the mix, would blitz the i30N in a drag race, but from behind the wheel, the Hyundai is still entertaining.
For one thing, the i30N has less lag – that delay between putting your foot down and the turbo kicking in - than its rivals. As a result, it’s livelier at low revs and still pulls strongly and evenly the rest of the time - just not quite as strongly as its rivals do.
There are various engine modes, controlled from convenient buttons on the steering wheel. In the most relaxed Normal mode, it sounds unusually muted for a hot hatch. That's no bad thing, because add in the impressively retrained wind and road noise, and you can relax on motorways.
But dial it up to maximum-attack N mode and the i30N sounds like an angry mobster, growling menacingly under acceleration, before firing off reports of Tommy Gun spits and splutters on the overrun. Contrived? Certainly. Amusing? Definitely. As it happens, it sounds near indistinct from the Focus RS’s invigorating bark.
The steering is too heavy in the N mode, but dropping back to Normal takes out the excess weight, making it progressive and feelsome. Thankfully, Hyundai has added an Individual mode, so you can set it up to keep the good steering but still have other aspects of the car scalpel-sharp, such as the adaptive dampers or better throttle response.
Excellent grip means you can fling the i30N in to bends confidently, and the zeal with which it turns in and holds its line is something to savour. And clearly some painstaking work has gone into the suspension settings, because body roll is well checked, along with its ability to ride over even the nastiest of mid-corner furrows without getting flustered.
Now, if there’s one thing that should convince you the Performance version is worth the extra cash, it’s the way its limited slip differential literally drags you out of bends. Just like in the Civic Type R, it shifts power effectually between the two front wheels, so instead of the front tyres washing wide in a bout of lurid wheelspin, when you get hard on the accelerator it simply hooks up and goes.
If there’s one quibble with the i30N, it’s the ride. Even in Normal mode it’s less elastic than the Type R’s. However, it's still tolerable for a hot hatch, and nothing like as bouncy as the Focus RS's.
2017 Hyundai i30 N interior
The i30N follows the usual i30 format, but sadly with little in the way of sporting fanfare inside. So, while the seats are trimmed in suede and leather and grip you nicely around the mid-rift and shoulders, it must be said there’s little else that sets this car apart from any other i30.
That has plus points, though; it means you get a fine driving position and there’s plenty of space in the front.
Rear head room is good, but leg room is tight compared with in the Civic Type R, and the boot isn’t as big as the Honda’s, either. It’s still bigger than the Focus RS’s, mind, with enough space for a couple of large suitcases without the resorting to dropping the 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
The standard i30N costs £24,995 and the Performance £27,995. Both come with plenty of standard kit, including an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system that is far better than the Civic Type R’s for ease of use. You also get sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, along with online connectivity for live traffic, weather and speed camera reports.
For the PlayStation generation, there are some specific additions to the N models. Should you wish, you can keep tabs on your engine’s power and torque outputs and boost pressure on the screen. Or, if you venture onto a track, it’ll inform you what g-force you’re pulling through corners and relay your lap times.