UNUSUALLY for a Hyundai this test car caused a bit of a stir in the petrolhead community when it arrived on our shores as the i30 N Performance is a mid-size hatchback with almost 275bhp.
In fact petrolheads was the theme for their recent eye-catching launch TV ad campaign – featuring motorists with engines for heads!
So I was particularly looking forward to spending a week with the sporty Korean motor, especially as there was a waiting list of journalists wanting to get behind the wheel.
But is it as fast as I anticipated? Well yes and no. With 0 to 62 coming up in around six seconds and a top speed of 155 it is certainly quick, providing you can get all that power down without wheel hop as only the front pair are powered.
But it depends on what you are comparing the 130N against. I was expecting more Focus RS-style snarling and popping and warp speed like acceleration, but everything was fairly civilised – even in Sport mode (there are also normal, eco and track settings).
To be fair the RS has 345 bhp and four-wheel-drive but it is a similar price to our Performance version and can hit 62 in 4.7 seconds on the way to 165mph.
It’s the first car from Hyundai’s N performance brand, the letter standing for both the brand’s home in Namyang, South Korea, and its spiritual home at the infamous Nürburgring. And to a large degree Hyundai has hit the mark on its first attempt, because the i30 N is a fun to drive motor with plenty of power and pace.
That power is put down through an electronically controlled limited-slip differential which still struggles to keep things under control if you really boot it. A substantial bracing strut behind the rear seats also shows the car is squarely aimed at sporty driving.
Fitted with 19in wheels, the Performance version is slightly lower that the standard car and has a subdued body kit plus adaptive suspension with four modes. Along with the suspension the car’s throttle response, differential, exhaust, steering (electrically assisted) and stability control are all changeable with owners able to opt for a custom mode. The stability control can also be switched off if you are feeling particularly brave.
Without the Performance Package the i30N has a standard diff, 18in wheels a little less power and no active exhaust – but is £3,000 cheaper.
Inside there is a sat nav/DAB/smartphone mirroring touchscreen plus wireless charging for the latest smartphones on a kit list more generous than all their rivals. The six speed manual box is great and the brakes powerful with just the right amount of feel.
In Normal mode, there is plenty of grip and little body control, combined with a ride that still feels fairly supple plus good cornering. In Sport, the steering and ride firm up and grip improves as does the exhaust note. N mode means a more track-focused harsher ride and a 0 to 62 time of under six seconds. Eco is not worth talking about as no one who buys one of these is looking to save the planet.
So have Hyundai nailed a truly hot hatch at the first attempt? Pretty nearly with high performance, mechanical and equipment spec and a rewarding driving experience all for a reasonable price. The base car is £25,010 while the ever-so-slightly quicker Performance version is £28,010 on the road.
More information at www.hyundai.co.uk
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth