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Used test: Honda Civic Type R vs Hyundai i30N

These two hot hatches are desirable, thrilling to drive and temptingly affordable when used, but which one is best?...

New Hyundai i30N vs Honda Civic Type R

The Contenders

Honda Civic Type R 2.0 VTEC Turbo 

List price when new £30,995
Price today £26,000*
Available from 2017-present

The Civic Type R is effortlessly quick and a class act in the corners – it's one of our favourite hot hatches. 

Hyundai i30N 2.0 T-GDi Performance

List price when new £27,995
Price today £21,000*
Available from 2017-present

Hyundai’s raucous hot hatch may have less power than its rival, but is the i30N the more entertaining car to drive?

*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

When this latest Honda Civic Type R was launched in 2017, we weren't the first to sing its praises – and we definitely won't be the last. It's amassed vast critical acclaim for being fast, engaging and razor-sharp to drive, to the point where it's almost unlike any other front-wheel-drive hot hatchback. That said, it wasn't the only car in this segment to arrive on the scene that year...

Honda Civic Type R rear

Enter the Hyundai i30N. It was the South Korean manufacturer's first attempt at a hot hatchback and quite the home run. It impressed us with its vivid performance and lively personality, not to mention its reasonable price. 

In Performance form, the i30N gets 271bhp – the standard car has 241bhp – upgraded brakes, an active exhaust, stickier tyres and an electronic limited-slip differential to aid grip in corners. The Performance version quickly became the must-have, to the point where the regular car went off sale, and it’s the one we’re pitting against the Type R. 

Both cars are now compelling second-hand buys, but only one can claim victory in this used twin test. Above all, fun is the name of the hot-hatch game, so the one that gives us the biggest smile wins. Will it be the precise and powerful Civic Type R or the playful and raucous i30N? Read on to find out.

New Hyundai i30N vs Honda Civic Type R


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Pure pace may not be the be-all and end-all here, but performance is still a big factor. It comes as no surprise to find that the lighter and punchier 316bhp Civic Type R has the upper hand. The i30N, with 271bhp, doesn’t leave you feeling short-changed. It has pin-sharp accelerator response and enough guts to dip under six seconds in the 0-60mph sprint. That’s not bad at all, especially when you factor in the standard sports exhaust’s peal of fruity pops and warbles.

The Type R is even quicker, though. True, the initial accelerator response is lazier and it struggles to put its power down off the line without a flurry of wheelspin, but it pulls energetically from around 2000rpm and absolutely flies beyond 4000rpm. Flat out or accelerating in the gears, the Civic is more often than not the trailblazer – albeit without much aural fanfare. Lacking the i30N’s engineered tailpipe theatrics, the Type R simply sounds purposeful.

Mind you, the Civic Type R’s clutch and gearbox have been engineered to perfection. The stubby gearlever operates with joyous precision and it’s easy to judge the clutch’s defined biting point. By normal standards, the i30N’s controls feel good, but they lack that same exactness. On a circuit, the Civic’s brakes retain their confident feel, while the i30N’s are harder to modulate. Both are solid and progressive on the road, though.

Used Honda Civic Type R (2017-present)

The i30N is an easy and enjoyable car to thread quickly along an undulating B-road, displaying fine composure and stability – as long as its standard adaptive dampers are in Comfort mode. Its ride is reasonably compliant in that mode, too, but the sportier settings are too firm for bumpy UK roads, making the car feel jiggly and uncomfortable.

The Civic Type R’s adaptive setup offers more options. Not only is it more compliant and comfortable generally, but its poise is on another level when you switch to Sport or +R mode. Our only quibble is that the steering is too heavy beyond the Comfort setting, but that doesn’t detract from its fluency or your confidence as you fling the car into corners.

The i30N’s steering is perhaps its weakest link. It’s gratifying that you can alter the weighting independently of other settings such as accelerator response and suspension stiffness (you can’t in the Civic), but the way it builds weight, combined with the speed of the steering just off the straight-ahead, creates enough inconsistency that you trust it less.

Hyundai i30N

Both cars’ front wheels are driven through limited-slip differentials, helping them to claw out of corners with less scrabble. Each does an impressive job, although the i30N still tugs the steering wheel more habitually as alternate front wheels struggle to muster grip. The Type R is more stable when accelerating hard out of corners and has phenomenal grip, as demonstrated by the fact that it lapped our test track 1.1sec quicker than the i30N and recorded a higher lateral g figure.

Motorway cruising isn’t a hardship in either car, although refinement is better in the i30N; the Civic generates noticeably more wind and road noise.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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