2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N - price, specs and release date

Hyundai's excellent i30N hot hatch has been reworked into a five-door coupé, promising added dynamism as well as some extra boot space...

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Neil Winn
14 January 2019

Hyundai i30 Fastback N On Road

Priced from £29,995 | Release date Now

Over the years we’ve seen numerous automotive trends come and go – we’ve had the rise and fall of estate cars, the demise of non-premium executive saloons (a la the Ford Mondeo) and, more recently, the staggering rise in popularity of family SUVs. But if there’s one type of car that us Brits have a seemingly unwavering love affair for, it’s the hot hatch.

Ever since the Mk1 Golf GTI hit our shores in 1977 (albeit in left hand drive configuration), we simply haven’t been able to get enough of them. With the same function and practicality as a regular hatchback, but with sports car rivalling performance and handling, there’s arguably never been a type of performance car that’s more suited to the nadgery, tight roads of the UK.

Which is why it's somewhat of a surprise that Hyundai has taken the bold decision to build a saloon version of its already fantastic i30N hatch. The idea of course (well, at least according to Hyundai) is to bring premium five-door coupe styling, as seen on the likes of the Audi S5 Sportback, to a wider market. But as we all know, from the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 to the Volkswagen Jetta, compact saloons have typically proven about as popular in the UK as horse meat.

Indeed, with less practicality than their hatchback equivalents and ill-proportioned styling symptomatic of tacking a small boot to a rounded body, small saloons have always appeared – well, to us at least – to be little more than compromised versions of their former selves. But the i30 Fastback N looks like it might be the first to buck that trend. Because unlike the hatch based saloons that have come before it, the Fastback N actually features a larger boot than the standard car, and aside from a bit of an odd front-three quarter view, it looks surprisingly well proportioned, too.

It also benefits from its own distinct suspension set-up, which includes slightly softer front suspension that should help improve turn-in and front-end feel, and with more weight behind the rear axle thanks to that more substantial booty, the weight bias has been moved further back, too. Whether this change, in combination with that slackened-off front axle, makes the i30 N Fastback even more of a riot is something we’re about to find out.  

Hyundai i30 Fastback N Rear

2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N on the road

Aside from those aforementioned suspension tweaks, the Fastback N remains mechanically identical to the standard car. However, unlike the hatch, you’re unable to specify your Fastback in non-Performance spec. Not that it will matter one jot to buyers, of course. After all, less than ten per cent of all hatches sold were in base trim. But we always felt that the standard car handled a little more sweetly on the road, thanks to its less aggressive set-up. Thus the omission of such a trim is a little disappointing.

However, we’re not ones to grumble. After all, you do get a tasty list of trick parts in Performance specification, namely a tweaked 272bhp (the base output being a more conservative 247bhp) version of the standard car’s turbocharged 2-litre ‘Delta’ four-cylinder engine, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential that helps get that power to the ground, larger 19-inch wheels shed in sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres, and a fruity sounding performance exhaust.

And yet, such is the rate of development in the hot hatch class, the Fastback N’s straight line performance – in terms of raw figures, at least – isn’t all that remarkable. Indeed, with 0-62mph coming up in 6.1sec, it’s nearly half a second down on the rampant Honda Civic Type R and over a second slower than the all-wheel drive Golf R.

 

Thankfully, on the road that 'lack' of outright pace is largely irrelevant. On the tight and twisting country roads of Gran Canaria acceleration is strong and immediate without ever feeling overwhelming, and thanks to the standard fit performance exhaust, the engine sounds properly raw, spitting all sorts of pops and bangs on the overrun. It’s properly addictive stuff.

But while the Fastback N’s lag-free straight-line performance is impressive enough, it’s the car’s handling that really steals the show. On the road, the i30 Fastback N feels like all the hot hatch you’d ever need. With the suspension set to Comfort and the engine set to Sport – Hyundai allows you to fine tune your own settings via a Custom mode – you can tackle bumpy B-roads at a pace that would leave plenty of sports car struggling to keep up.

And despite the Fastback having a more rearward-biased weight distribution than the hatch, it still retains the standard car’s beautiful balance. Which is to say it remains benign and grippy, without ever feeling inert and boring. You’re never left second guessing what the chassis is going to do, which means you can key into the car’s abilities almost instantly - something that most definitely can’t be said for the entertaining, but rather wayward Renault Megane RS.

All in, the i30 Fastback N is no less thrilling to drive than its fractionally lighter sibling. And if anything, by softening the the front springs by 5 per cent, the Fastback is even more pliant, making it a more useable everyday hot hatch. 

2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N interior

Aside from the hatch’s pale blue stitching making way for red, the Fastback is virtually unchanged from the standard car, which is somewhat of shame. Yes the pale blue N button on the steering wheel hints that you’re in something special and the suede and leather trimmed sports seats trimmed are bespoke to the ‘N’, but otherwise there’s very little sporting fanfare. Compared to the Honda Civic Type R, it all looks rather less exciting.

Mercifully, however, Hyundai has nailed the ergonomics. The seat adjustment allows you to get sat nice and low behind the wheel, while the heavy bolstering around your midriff and shoulders means you feel securely held when pushing on. Together with electronically operated lumbar support, a wide range of height and reach adjustment to the steering wheel and well-positioned pedals, you feel instantly at home.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N Interior

Unsurprisingly, the standard 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system remains untouched from the standard car, but that’s not bad thing. It is so much better to use than the Civic Type R’s confusing infotainment system, with snappier responses and menus that are easier to grasp. It’s also very well equipped; sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as well as online connectivity for live traffic, weather and speed camera reports are all standard.

So far so good then, but what about practicality we hear you ask? Well, by five-door ‘coupé’ hatchback standards, things are actually not too bad. Rear head room has been compromised somewhat, but there is still enough space for an average-sized adult, while the boot is actually larger than that in the i30 hatch at 450 litres (versus 395 in the standard model). Indeed, our biggest complaint is that the small rear window limits visibility somewhat, but that’s the price you pay for style.

Next: 2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N verdict