Avatar photo

By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

N-ergised Hyundai i30 N hits hard but also misses

What we have here is Hyundai's first attempt at a proper, mass produced, performance hot hatch. And they got it spot on, but will it sell in South Africa?

There are days where I get a car to test that is fast, and then I say fast things about the car. Easy. Then I get a car to test that is slow and then I say slow things about the car. Easy. And then I get a horrible, cheap car to test and I say horrible things about it. I think you get where I am going with this.

When a car is sold and presented as something straightforward, be it good or bad, my job is that much easier. But when the car is Hyundai’s i30 N, and it is way more than just fast or slow, nothing about writing this road test is then going to be easy. Let me tell you what I mean.

Starting at the top, the styling is spot on, and not completely over the top. Aggressive bumpers front and rear, a roof spoiler, dual exhaust system, all riding on cool looking 19-inch alloys wrapped in high performance 235/35R19 Pirelli P-Zero rubber gets the job done.

Jumping inside, the important stuff to take note of is the drive mode button and N Performance button that is found on the steering wheel. These two buttons not only offer you five drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom), they are the key to exploring and unleashing the car’s rich motorsport DNA and over 10 000 km of track work at the Nürburgring  Nordschleife.

This motorsport input is immediately evident; the i30 N is a blast to drive fast on a track or on a nice twisty piece of road. The electronically controlled suspension (ECS) firms up considerably at a push of a button, and the Electronically Controlled Limited Slip Differential does a great job of keeping you between the lines. There is a downside though, and that is the car does not like bumpy or rutted tar, even in Comfort Mode.

From what I have seen on YouTube, the i30 N is quicker than Volkswagen’s Golf TCR around a track, and from what I experienced, I can agree with this. But it is the straight-line performance of the Hyundai that left me questioning several things. Now this is where it gets difficult.

The i30 N runs a potent 202kW/353Nm, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Although at R679 900 it is priced directly against Golf’s 213 kW limited edition R669 000 TCR, it didn’t have the legs to beat Wolfsburg’s bread and butter 169 kW Golf GTI in a drag race. This is going to hurt the Hyundai’s street cred in a huge way.

The 0 to 100 km/h sprint time of 6.52 sec is only six-hundredths of a second quicker than that of the GTI. But before you celebrate this and claim it as a victory, this was the best I could get after a number of runs, and from this moment, the GTI simply drives out of the i30 N’s life and is running quicker at the quarter mile, half mile and the 1 km mark.

This is somewhat different to what has been seen on the internet but bear in mind they have manual GTIs overseas and we only get the quicker shifting DSG version here, and this does make a difference. Just as perhaps our horrible 93 octane fuel and high altitude would affect the highly-tuned Hyundai more than the Golf.

This said, my job is to test what is in front of me, and the numbers you see in the performance box, are the numbers I got, and the bottom line is that what we have here is Hyundai’s first attempt at a proper, mass produced, performance hot hatch. And they got it spot on, but will it sell in South Africa? Not a chance. Why not? The price is wrong and there is a thing called a GTI.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Read more on these topics

hyundai Road Tests