If you ever find yourself wondering how you might best waste your life, I have the answer. Cook something.
Now, I’m not just saying this because I can’t cook. I can’t, although John insists that anyone who knows how to read knows how to cook. Which isn’t strictly true, because I was once required to “fry the bacon until crisp”. It wasn’t crisp until it was badly burnt.
Anyway, enough about that, my point is that cooking something involves trawling through thousands of recipes on the internet for hours and then spending many more hours making a big mess and getting your hands covered in sticky stuff. And all you have at the end is something your guests will coo over for a moment and then promptly obliterate. Nothing is more futile.
Well actually, there is something more futile – watching someone else cook something. And it’s very easy to do. Simply switch on the television, and it doesn’t matter what channel you’re in, there’ll be a hipster in a spotless white apron cutting up coriander and sprinkling it over what appears to be garden mulch.
For obvious reasons, this sort of thing causes a normal person’s jaw to droop and eyes to glaze over very quickly, so many of the producers have hit upon the idea of making a contest out of it. It’s still not nearly enough to make me watch them though, so I can’t tell you what happens. All I know is that there seems to be a lot of dramatic soundtrack to teary-eyed women being taken out and shot because their efforts didn’t happen to make a serious-faced judge look a bit less serious. And that somehow, they’re also aired before most children have gone to bed.
Now, that’s cooking, which as we’ve seen, is a weak and horrible foundation to build anything remotely interesting on. But apparently cars are too, because a lot of this same over-the-top, drummed-up fluff seems to be working its way into motoring journalism.
It’s no longer just a case of ‘this is a new car and this is what it’s like’, or ‘this is a new car and it’s better than this other new car because of this or that’. No, it has to be turned into this life and death struggle between the forces of good and evil, survival of the fittest, every man for himself, no mercy shown… you get the gist.
The latest victim is Hyundai’s new hot hatch, the i30 N.But first, a bit of background is in order. Just over forty years ago, this Korean backwater company became sick of selling rebadged Ford Cortinas and decided they wanted to rise in the world of car manufacturing. They felt the only logical thing to do then was hire George Turnbull from British Leyland and set about throwing together something about as awful as his Morris Marina.
Obviously, it didn’t take them long to realise that this wasn’t quite what they had in mind, so Turnbull was sent on his way. To Iran actually, where he helped the local Paykan company throw together something about as awful as the Hillman Hunter. Rumour has it he then went on to complete his CV by crossing the border, changing his name to Suddam Hussain, and murdering people, but that’s another story.
Onwards and upwards Hyundai continued to slowly but surely plod; past China, past everything from America, past a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, past Ford, past Nissan and Mitsubishi even. They didn’t stop until they were level-pegging with Toyota itself. And then they launched Genesis, their luxury sub-brand, to go up against Lexus. And now, there’s this.
From what I’ve read, the i30 N is coming on the clouds of heaven with the blast of many trumpets to vanquish all its foes. Most notably, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which will be thrown into a lake of fire for all eternity. Or at least until some other hot hatch arrives on the scene.
I’ll admit that perhaps this could be a slight exaggeration, but really only because modern journalists haven’t discovered the Bible yet.
They all seem utterly flabbergasted that Hyundai have managed to pull off such a thing in a mere four years. The Golf GTI has taken four decades. Of course, you and I know that actually, the Golf GTI has been a Very Good car from the start, and that since then, VW has just been filling the time by making it bigger and taking tartan seat covers in and out of it. But, be that as it may, the magazine simply won’t sell if it doesn’t include someone or something getting beaten up in it.
There’s another thing. Hyundai haven’t really done it. Albert Biermann has – the man who gave us many of the all-time greats from BMW’s performance division, M. It seems that Hyundai absolutely did not want another Turnbull, although I imagine that to Biermann’s German mind, the fact that ‘N’ alphabetically follows ‘M’ had a lot to do with his taking on the job as well.
Speaking of which, the N apparently stands for “Namyang to Nurburgring”, in honour of this new Asian-German marriage. Although Hyundai also says it’s been a part of their Word Rally Championship livery for several years. On an i20 specifically, which is probably why not many people had noticed.
Whatever, it was obvious to Biermann then that the first one to be admitted to his office should be the i30. At first glance though, it’s hard to see whether anything actually happened in there.
As far as I can gather, there’s a dual exhaust system and bigger wheels and some black paint and a strange little triangular brake light and… that’s about it. There’s no denying it is very handsome; it’s just not much more handsome than a normal i30. It’s the same story inside, where the only thing that really sets it apart from the inside of your neighbour’s car is a button with ‘N’ on it, which presumably turns the car into an inter-continental ballistic missile. Except it can’t possibly, because the engine is exactly the same 2-litre turbo petrol you’ll find in a Sonata saloon, apart from the fact the turbo is slightly bigger and there’s three more kilowatts. And there’s an ‘N’ on the cover.
It’s all strangely ordinary and uneventful, and – I have to say it – very Golf-GTI-ish.
And that’s as it should be. A hot hatch is all about having the performance there, but wrapped in a brown paper bag. Unnecessary wings and vents and stickers all just scream “My owner is a teenage yobbo”. Which is fine if he is, but if he is not, and is in fact a balding man of about 40 years, I’m not sure that’s a message he’ll want to advertise.
Biermann, as a balding man of almost 60 years, completely understood this, which is why the i30 N has adjustable suspension, adjustable exhaust noise, adjustable electronic stability control, adjustable steering, adjustable torque settings, and I’ve probably missed adjustable something. On the other side of the technological scale, it’s also why there is an old-school six-speed manual gearbox and a chassis made of high-strength steel.
All of this was tuned to Biermann’s stringent standards on the Nurburgring, and naturally, made quite fast as well – 0-100 km/h takes 6.4 seconds, which is a lot less than any Sonata, and roughly on par with, say – just randomly – the Golf GTI.
When the German chief finally felt almost sure that the i30 N was ready, motoring journalists from across the world were invited to add their two cents worth. But they didn’t, because they couldn’t. This car is so good – so perfect – that people who are actually paid to find faults with things simply couldn’t. Although there might have been a few suggestions to put metal spikes on the wheels.
I’d love to tell what a perfect car such as this feels like to drive. But I can’t I’m afraid, because I haven’t actually driven it. What I can do though, is quote someone who has. Here it is, Anthony Crawford from CarAdvice.com.au: “It must be said that this does not feel like a first-time effort – on the contrary, it feels like an expertly honed bit of kit more than ready for a class-A battle with any one of the Euro contenders.”
Take that to mean, “It’s very good."
Clever numberplates reveal if the driver is driving while under the influence of drugs or not. At the moment, he is "not on a high". Sorry.
PRICE: n/a | ENGINE: 1,998 cc straight four-cylinder turbocharged petrol | POWER: 184 kW (247 hp) | TORQUE: 378 Nm (279 lb·ft) | TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual; FWD | PERFORMANCE: 0-100 km/h in 6.4 seconds (0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds); 250 km/h (155 mph) | ECONOMY: 7 L / 100 km (40.4 mpg) | WEIGHT: 1,429 kg
PHOTO CREDIT: NetCarShow.com