14 May: Hyundai i30N

… Hyundai i30N …

A huge part of the appeal of this Hyundai i30N is it’s understated looks. This five door saloon doesn’t hurt your eyeballs with overstated styling or blow your ears off on the over-run. Nope, this is aN eNtirely seNsible motor. Which prompts the first question. What does the ‘N’ stand for?

Unfortunately, Hyundai doesn’t have a definitive answer for the question although the fact that the ‘N’ Division is based at the Namyang R&D Centre in Korea might have something to do with it. The car also has an optional ‘Normal’ mode in its performance armoury, but it could also be argued that the N really stands for Nuclear, or Nuts, or maybe even Nakkers – as in, goes like the …

The only clue as to what lies under the skin of this i30N is the deeper front spoiler, a wee wing at the rearmost edge of the roof and twin exhaust pipes, plus a set of four well filled wheel arches. Given how modest these modifications are, it may come as a surprise to find out that under the bonnet is a 2 litre, four cylinder engine boosted by a twin scroll turbocharger which pumps out some 271 bhp.

That sounds a lot for a ‘standard’ looking saloon, but at no time does the power overwhelm the chassis – unless you’re an eedjit. In ‘Normal’ mode the car is as docile as a ballerina with a pair of Caterpillar boots i.e. delicate but slow, however, behind the centre dash panel is a whole list of options which control engine response, LSD, Launch Control, suspension settings and steering. And one more thing, an ‘active’ exhaust option – think ballerina with tacketty boots!

There’s also a track mode setting for those who seek to explore the limits of this car in much safer surroundings. This is actually complemented by a central dash display option which includes a lap timer, G-Force indicator with smaller gauges for Turbo boost, Torque and Power. The trouble with all these ‘toys’ is that there is little likelihood of making use of them if at the limit of the car’s abilities.

The test route for the car was a run up the A9 to Aviemore and then onto Elgin for the Speyside Stages Rally. It was therefore a matter of selecting the ‘Normal’ mode and switching on Cruise Control for the run up the camera infested central highlands highway.

Just beyond Aviemore there was a wee lay-by where ‘Normal’ was switched off and all the Sport+ settings selected. What a difference. Just like a bowl of Rice Krispies – before you add the milk.

For instance, there’s an uphill hairpin from Bridge of Avon at Dalnashaugh on the A95 between Grantown on Spey and Aberlour. Unless you know the road, you can go barrelling into that Hairpin at hospital inducing speeds and come a cropper. On the other hand, you can use it to try and find out what g-forces are being generated. Nae chance. I was too busy aiming for the apex, turning in and powering out to see what the gauge was indicating. It was bluidy quick and accomplished without any real sense of danger or drama.

Neither was there any torque steer. Of course it could be induced if attempted, but that only made things more dramatic and slower. Better to pick a line and use that composed chassis and sensitive steering to extract the most efficient response. The amount of ‘stick’ generated by the chassis and the 19 inch 235/35 Pirelli P Zeros was worthy of a Euro NCAP test for seat and seatbelt mountings!

And that was only one wee part of the vehicle’s appeal. On the run back home from Elgin on much quieter roads, the brakes were impressive, the steering a delight and the power was more than sufficient to squirt past traffic with plenty of road to spare.

By the time the driver in front had looked in his mirror and thought, “It’s only a Hyundai”, the i30N was out and past and gone.

Back on to the A9 and sensible mode took over with all the various ‘Sports’ settings turned off, Cruise Control back on with a wee stop at McDonalds at Broxden for a coffee and time to take stock of the Hyundai.

In essence this car is more than a match for any European hot hatch. It’s not quite as frenetic as a Civic Type R or Megane RS and it’s not as fast as a Focus RS or Golf GTI and yet it is every bit as satisfying to drive and enjoy, perhaps even more so. That’s because it is so comfortable to sit and ride in with sufficient power to stimulate the little grey cells and tickle the adrenalin pump. The whole package is well balanced and well thought out.

This is not a car designed to set lap records round the Nurburgring, what Hyundai was after was a quick car that was enjoyable to drive. As Hyundai’s President and Head of Performance Development and High Performance Vehicle Division, Albert Biermann, said: “Driving enjoyment is the whole point of an N car. We developed it for driving fun. We don’t care about lap times. In engine development, the only thing I focused on was dynamic response. A few horsepower more or less, I didn’t care. The dynamic response was the key target, so you could easily play with the car. When you’re mid-corner, it’s all about dynamic response. Peak power doesn’t matter as much.”

Amen to that. In a previous life, Bierman was head of BMW’s M division for over 30 years. Maybe that’s why the i30N is so good straight out of the box.

It’s an absolute beezer of a motor. And what really appeals is it’s understated and anonymous exterior. No big wings, garish stickers and ‘performance’ badges. This is a serious street sleeper. I didn’t just like it, I love it. And it’s got to be worth a look at 29 grand.

  • Review Date: May 14, 2018
  • Price
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