In its continuing quest to rival the best of Europe's car makers, Hyundai is branching out.
It has launched its own luxury sister brand, Genesis, in the US and Asia, it's forging ahead with hydrogen fuel cell technology, and now it's planning to take on the world's best hot hatchbacks with its new i30N.
As its name suggests, this i30 is the first model to come from Hyundai's new N performance car division – best thought of as Korea's answer to BMW's M or Mercedes-AMG. Designed to deliver "maximum driving fun in an accessible high-performance package," the performance-oriented i30 gets a lowered ride height and more aggressive bodywork than the regular i30 family hatchback.
Hyundai i30N interior
Inside, there's a bespoke N-badged steering wheel and an electronic display in place of traditional analogue dials in the instrument cluster – the display includes LED shift lights that let the driver know when it's the optimum time to change gear.
Drivers can choose between five different modes via buttons on the steering wheel – Eco, Normal Sport, N and N Custom – which adjust the engine note, accelerator response, steering and other attributes depending on the conditions.
A 8.0in infotainment touchscreen comes as standard. The system offers sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring and various displays to show the car's engine outputs, as well as a lap timer. A wireless mobile phone charging mat is also available.
The i30N is available with 18in or 19in alloy wheels, and buyers can choose from six exterior paint colours. Available safety features include automatic emergency braking, a driver attention monitor and lane-keeping assist.
Hyundai i30N engines
Powering the front-wheel-drive i30N is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which in its standard form produces 247bhp. Drivers can upgrade to 271bhp via a so-called Performance package.
In its more powerful form, the i30N has considerably more power than the current Golf GTI and only 4bhp less than the Focus ST. It's quick, too, accelerating from 0-62mph in 6.2sec – faster than the Golf GTI – and on to a top speed of 155mph.
As standard, the i30N comes with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Other features include a launch control function, rev-matching for faster gearchanges and quicker steering designed to make the car "instantly responsive at lower speeds".
Hyundai i30N price
The i30N will go on sale towards the end of this year, and while Hyundai has yet to announce official pricing, an entry-level price of around £27,000 seems likely, given that Hyundai will want to be competitive next to its key rivals. The Golf GTI currently costs from £28,320, while the Focus ST will cost you at least £25,235.
Also new: the Hyundai i30 Fastback
There will be just two engines available at launch: 1.4-litre and 1.0-litre turbocharged petrols. A 1.6-litre diesel will be offered in the near future. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed automatic.
Offering many of the same features as the regular i30, the i30 Fastback is intended to give style-conscious buyers an alternative to the five-door hatchback.
We've already been behind the wheel of a prototype version of the i30N, and over the next few pages you can read about what it's like to drive.
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