DRIVEN: Hyundai i30 N is an impressive hot hatch all-round

On face value, the i30 N is a well-put-together hot hatch that offers a very engaging drive.

When Hyundai built its first-ever hot hatch, the i30 N, the segment was already booming with the likes of the mainstay Volkswagen Golf GTI, slightly left-field Renault Megane RS and the hardcore Honda Civic Type-R. 

Hyundai i30 N

All those cars I mentioned are FWD and all excel in their respective corrals but how does the Hyundai i30 N size up in this company?  Firstly, the ‘N’ represents Namyang R&D Center in South Korea, where Hyundai tests many of their new vehicles.

On face value, the i30 N is a well-put-together hot hatch that is said to offer a very engaging drive, and it is fairly rapid off the mark with a manufacturer claimed sprint of 6.1 seconds to 100 km/h.

This all thanks to Albert Biermann who was holding a top position at BMW’s M Division and was headhunted by Hyundai to establish its N performance division in 2015. 

However, from a driver’s point of view, it feels quicker than what the manufacturer claims. Hyundai credited the i30 N with quick steering that responds precisely to inputs. 

Body roll is very minimal thanks to the stiff suspension, I was able to throw the i30 N into tight corners of Modjadjiskloof in Limpopo, and it remained tight and composed.


The limited-slip differential allows for great road handling as you hurtle out of corners. 

Under the i30 N’s bonnet lies a 2.0-litre T-GDi engine that churns out a healthy 202 kW of power and 353 Nm of torque – the overboost function momentarily raises that torque figure to 378 Nm, which comes in handy under overtaking manoeuvres.

Top speed, meanwhile, is pegged at 250 km/h. It comes with buttons on the steering wheel to alternate its five driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom. 

I took the i30 N on a longish road trip to Limpopo, and throughout the trip, my driving was mostly done in Normal mode and it is here that the model surprised somewhat.

All-new Hyundai i30 N

You see, thanks to the adaptive dampers, the i30 N can be driven for long distances in relative comfort. It cruises well on the open road and is relatively hushed, thanks to the exhaust setting that puts the cracks and pops to sleep. 

However, when the opportunity arose, Sport and N were exploited on some beautiful winding roads, where the i30 N’s sporty prowess truly came to the fore.  

The six-speed manual transmission reminded me of the old vehicles I learned how to drive with, and the engineers who worked on the box got it right.

My favourite remains the rev-matching setting that blips the throttle for you when you downshift. The system can be switched off should you not need it. 

Jumping into the cabin, this is where things start to get a bit boring. It lacks that premium feel befitting a car playing at this price level and this is where the Golf GTI wins in this department.

All-new Hyundai i30 N

There is a fair bit of plastic material on the door panels and dashboard – something that I was not expecting to find in a car at this pricing point. 

In its defence, however, it is well put together with very little in the way of rattles over road imperfections.

In the front quarters, there are sexy, electric bucket seats that offer optimum support without being overly firm, thanks to the wide scope of seat adjustments as well as the memory function, so finding the perfect driving position was never a mission. 

Although easy to fiddle with, the 8-inch free-floating new infotainment screen also does not look premium; it incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, though.

Space is generous and comes courtesy of plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin for your wallet and water bottles.

All-new Hyundai i30 N

The boot space – measuring 381-litres – was able to gulp our luggage with ease, ranging from a cooler, foldable camping chair to bags.

The Hyundai i30 N was not built to impress buyers when it comes to fuel economy; also, it’s one of those vehicles that can be challenging to drive economically.

Hyundai claims 8.5l/100km, and I never came close to that even on the N1 highway. The numbers would hover around the 10.1l/100km mark, and would rarely drop below that.

I also found the 50l petrol tank to be slightly small as the i30 N would require constant refuelling during our trip to Giyani, which sits some 444km away from my house. 

All-new Hyundai i30 N

Although the beauty of the i30 N lies underneath its bonnet, it is an impressive vehicle all-round.

It got me grinning throughout the seven days I spent with it but one thing though, I am not sure about the R679 900 price tag that Hyundai asks for.   

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