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The Korean firm's first foray into the hot hatch market leaves a lasting impression
230 & 275hp 2.0
Hyundai would be the first to admit that it doesn't exactly have a strong heritage in performance cars. In fact, the number of genuine high-performance vehicles created by the firm stood at zero - until now.
The i30 N is the first car to be created by designer Albert Biermann for the Korean carmaker's new N division, and becomes the new 'halo' car for the brand. Hours were spent at Germany's legendary Nürburgring race track honing the agility of this new hot hatch so it can compete with the likes of the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf GTI. We travelled to Lincolnshire to put the new car through its paces and find out if all the hard work has paid off.
Versatility is key
Making sure the i30 N held true to the brand's more 'sensible' values has been an important focus for Hyundai and alongside offering a practical cabin and generous boot space, the i30 N's styling is also understated, with N models acquiring tweaks like black surrounds instead of chrome on the lights, and unique badging, while the inside features a unique steering wheel and gearstick.
Like the exterior design, the cabin is understated but feels built to a high standard. It would benefit from a dash of colour here or there, or a little more personality, and the infotainment system is a little dated and clunky at times, but overall it's a pleasant, albeit bland, place to be.
You've got two choices of I30 N: the standard car and the N Performance.
Both models feature an 8in touchscreen system with sat-nav and Apple CarPlay (which is used elsewhere in the i30 range) with the addition of N-specific functions such as a drive mode display, lap timer and car set-up functions.
Other standard equipment highlights include sports seats, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and adaptive cruise control, all for a P11D of £24,940, which is excellent value for money.
Move up to the Performance models and you'll get leather seats with a memory function, 19in alloys and a sports exhaust that not only helps the car go faster but also sounds great too.
Now to the important bit.
Under the bonnet of the 130 N is a 2.0-litre petrol engine in either 250hp or 275hp guises. Paired to the engine is a six-speed manual, no automatic is offered, and it's wonderfully matched and timely in its gear changes.
It's not the quickest in a straight line, however. The faster Performance model completes the 0-62mph benchmark sprint in 6.1 seconds compared with 6.4 seconds for the lower-powered standard car. However, don't let that put you off; what the 130 N lacks in outright pace, it makes up for tenfold in the handling department.
This car is an absolute joy to drive. The electronically controlled suspension provides excellent balance between comfort and sportiness, and adjusts depending on which of the seven modes you select, while the steering, which has been completely overhauled for N cars, is precise and sharp.
The 275hp engine is available only on i30N Performance models, which include grippier 19in alloy wheels with Pirelli P-Zero tyres, an electronic slip differential, larger brake discs and the aforementioned active variable exhaust system, which adds some fantastic exhaust burps and gurgles when in N or Custom drive mode.
Cars like the i30 N are not really brought for their impressive running costs; however, the 159g/km CO2 or 163g/km CO2 for the Performance model are competitive for the sector, while a real-world 30mpg fuel economy should be achievable if you can tame your right foot.
The i30N may not be as polished as the Volkswagen Golf GTI or as fun as the Focus RS, but it is wonderfully accomplished in a number of areas and amounts to an impressive first stab at a hot hatch for Hyundai, one that will leave many enthusiastic drivers satisfied. Add to that the low P11D price and generous standard kit and you have a great-value performance car.