Review: Hyundai i30N Performance
A once dreary hatchback on Viagra, whey protein and LSD. AT THE SAME TIME.
As I write this, it's almost been half a year since I've driven this car, yet it feels as if I drove this car yesterday. Because it's simply brilliant.
Some people think this car looks uninspiring and too sedated. I think otherwise, especially in that Performance Blue paint. One of the best shades of blue, next to Audi's Nogaro blue, BMW's Monte Carlo Blue and Tanzanite Blue. Though the side skirts may seem cheap, adding the OEM Hyundai N badge does liven things up.
On the inside, things are usual Hyundai. Everything feels a bit flimsy and gloomy, but it will definitely last for a long time. Controls are sensibly laid out as well, such as the Drive Mode controls, which I will get onto later. This is amazing, considering how much kit you get. With the performance package, which would be stupid of you to not option, includes many goodies such as electrically adjusted seats with memory, lumbar support and heating, an electronic limited slip differential, Pirelli P-Zeros, a power bump up to 275ps and a shouty exhaust system.
As you get on the road, the first thing you notice is the clutch. The i30N comes standard with a track ready twin-plate clutch, so it has a more sensitive biting point, so expect to stall for a few times when you first get in. It's heavy, but not leg-press heavy. With a bit more practice, you can feather it like a normal manual car. The next thing you notice is how comfortable the seats are. Even though these are Hyundai's in-house seats, they hug you tightly and don't dig into your back, which is an issue I faced in Recaro buckets. Even with the firm suspension, I can easily drive this car for huge distances without being exhausted.
Since this is a hot hatch, my drive must involve a bit of exuberant driving, so I reached for the driving mode switch, without doubt one of the best placed mode switches in the car industry. As you turn onto some back roads and put the car in Sport mode, this car stops being a Hyundai, and starts acting like a Golf GTI. It pulls and bounces about like a GTI, but this is where the similarities end. Beginning with the noise, it bangs and pops like an attack dog. Rev this outside a retirement home and you will give everyone in there a heart attack and permanent hearing loss. It also pops a few times as the shift lights come on and you change gears, since it has a pseudo anti-lag system. When you do this you realise this is one of the best gearboxes out there. The shifts may be slightly heavy, but every time you row through and pop in a gear, it feels as if you're chambering a round on a rifle. The gears are so well defined that you know clearly what gear you're in by just feeling the gear knob.
Then we get to the handling. Yes, it is not as quick as a Civic Type R through the bends, but it feels way more exciting than the former, even though the Type R's 5K more expensive. It goes through most corners absolutely flat and will remain unfazed by bumps, even in the nutter N mode. Tap the brakes gently mid corner and you will feel playfulness you never did in the GTI or Type R. Give it the throttle and everything is solved. Steering also weights up as you progress up the modes. Slightly on the numb side, but weighting feels thoroughly sporty and it is as precise as a neurosurgeon in the operating theatre. The differential keeps everything in check, so you'll still live even if you floor it mid-corner. You can definitely feel the strength of the chassis as the turn in is immediate.
Normally, people would forgive bad qualities of a Korean car such as shoddy handling or mundane experience for things like "price" or "reliability". However, it'd be unfair if I treated the i30N the same way. You don't need to apologise for this car, because it's a properly good car. In fact, it is so memorable that I have been looking on Carwow and Autotrader for New and Used i30Ns for the past 3 months. More importantly, this is just the start for Hyundai's marriage with Mr. Albert Biermann, and they have got their first performance car spot-on. Imagine what they will come out next. Now will you excuse me, I shall continue to browse the interweb for my Hyundai i30N.
Would you buy a car from a non-premium brand if they made something as good as or better than major brands? If yes what would you have? Let me know in the comments!