Acceleration wise, the 2L 4cyl twin scroll turbo has enough to entertain, not a lot to impress, and doesn’t frustrate. Though at times, its thrust feels constricted, almost resembling a 1.6L turbo instead, but a very good one. Engine revs start off rather weak from idle and quickly picks up from 3,000rpm onwards, offers good throttle response from mid to top end.
The i30N really isn’t the most powerful hot hatch in its class, yet it still is as, if not more intoxicating to drive than the rest. It has a unique NA-like rev range, where the very linear power delivery tempts you to chase for climax at the top end at every gear, almost like a K20A from the FD2 Civic Type R.
Modest boost levels also means it is less affected by rising intake air temps as power seem to remain consistent throughout the hill drive, right up to redline. Unlike its high hp competitors which seem to see the curve taper off as the car climbs harder. Of course, the i30N has less to begin with, so nothing much to lose. In the end, it remains the least thunderous of them all but is just as motivated and feels like a sweet engine with a lot of untapped potential.
2020 Hyundai i30N Performance
6.1 secs / 1429kg / 275ps / 353nm / 2L 4cyl turbo / FWD / 6 speed manual / auto rev match / E-LSD / adaptive suspension / RM298,888
Effortless to operate, zero learning curve, gear shifts are easy to get right, intuitive to drive, telepathic, direct and quite possibly the most cheerful manual hot hatch right now. It feels like a very developed, refined performance car for a first time effort. Ride from the adaptive suspension is spot on, always leveled, very livable with and commendably well tuned for most terrains.
Normal mode has just enough firm, while sport and sport + gets increasingly harder, almost concrete Type R Plus R like. General drive ambiance resonates with typical Korean car character but this one feels heavily reinforced, insulated and has strong European influence
Not the fastest manual hot hatch nor the grippiest either. With less drama, the stickier old Megane 3 RS Cup can claw the road better and bite this loud kimchi in an all out hill duel. But as a daily hot hatch, none of these modern manual competitors, not the perpetually in expert mode RenaultSport Megane, not even the brilliant Honda CTR come close to the i30N’s simplicity and submissiveness. It is smooth, completely dummy-proof and bursting with unadulterated hot hatch driving goodness.
It is as sedate as a FK8 Type R, not anywhere as plush but almost as comfortable. However when pushed, the i30N feels amplified, more accessible and very switched on with virgin like excitement, where the currently known kings of hot hatches seem predictable and jaded in comparison.
The i30N’s brilliant electric damping and chassis trickery keeps itself well planted at the limit but at the same time, loose and edgy. It can be super playful but communicative in an easy to understand body language, which when coupled with the firm and vocal P-Zero HN (Pirelli X Hyundai N) tyres, becomes self governing and can easily be contained even and especially for noobs.
The wheel is rake and reach adjustable, with just enough angle and range for most hands. Electric steering is noticeably light and easy to operate although feels somewhat disconnected from true road feedback but remains sharp and is very precise, certainly nothing like Han’s version of a Hyundai.
Multifunction steering has general toggle buttons, the cool Smurf pads for switching driving modes and activating N Mode. There’s even a dedicated button to permanently on or off Auto Rev Match, which may sound insignificant to most people but for those who care, it adds on to the depth Hyundai N went to create their version of the ultimate hot hatch, among other easter eggs layed by Albert Bier///Mann and team.
One of best things about the i30N is its slick manual gearbox. It’s obvious Hyundai N has put in special effort to heighten the shift quality here. The regular Hyundai foot pedals may not look like much, but feels strategically positioned and are matched with good pedal travel and feedback, be it the clutch, brake or throttle pedals.
It easily destroys all hot hatch competition in shift quality, accuracy, enjoyment and ease of use, FK8 CTR included, Megane 4 RS for sure. Much thanks to Albert Biermann who came from BMW M, knows what makes a good manual car.
The ratios are noticeably long and matches well with its power band as it encourages one to wring it right till the red line.
Auto rev match feature is fool proof as usual, but in the i30N, there are 3 levels to choose how ferocious your blips are and can be easily and permanently turn on or off via dedicated rev match button.
Superb access, has electric seats which are a nice touch. Seating position is good, although would’ve been great if it could sit lower, passenger side is a touch higher for some reason.
A nice place to be in nevertheless, black interior, rooflining, sleek steering and crown jewel manual 6 speed knob improves the view further. Overall an airy experience but in terms of presentation or build, it is far from manual hot hatch cockpit leaders M4RS or FK8CTR
That may be so, the i30N easily beat them all in the basics, tools of the trade stuff. Such as the shift mechanism and foot pedals, it just feels more well tuned in the N car. Even shift quality is better in the first time effort i30N, all while being more effortless and less intimidating to drive than the rest.
If it weren’t for the touch screen display and USB port indicating present day amenities, the i30N could have come straight out of the late 90s. It’s not a bad thing, in fact, just like the very mechanical driving experience, the overall presentation feels like a remake of a past 16-bit Sega megahit.
Subjective like Kimchi, the i30N really isn’t for everyone, especially in this Smurf-ish N Performance Blue-only option for Malaysian consumers. Looks wise, it probably won’t win many awards but as a hot hatch, it ticks the right boxes with its underdog appearance and unusual Korean X European touring car stance.
It would seem quite obvious by now the Hyundai N people have put more effort into the i30N’s function rather than form. This is true when you think about the all inclusive tech bits like adaptive suspension, electric LSD, not just rev match but even has a dedicated toggle button. Not forgetting collision avoidance braking for a hot hatch.
It may not get fancy, full digital instrument cluster but it makes up with a center console screen that works as it should, like no other hot hatch could. It resembles Real Racing 3 where every driving aspect is categorized and can be customized or saved, to be activated via N Mode.
The i30N is a jack of all trades. It is especially desirable because it gets the basics right. It’s one of those rare specials that genuinely prioritize driving sensation over sensational numbers, lap counts rather than lap records.
Its 2L turbo 4 cyl engine feels capped but by no means timid. It feels like a bulletproof base with plenty of still untapped potential waiting to be unlocked. One that can only get better, with potential in tuning and even as a future cult car.
These rather hard HN P-Zero tyres on the i30N were developed specially by Pirelli for Hyundai N, which were intended to last longer for extended track day driving, as mentioned by Albert Biermann, the man behind the N word.
The i30N doesn’t just look and feel pre 2000 retro, it drives like one too. Albeit a lot more evolved and well put together. More than that, it oozes the very essence of manual transmission driving, very few car manufacturers get right even till this day.
- Power 7/10
- Drive 7.5/10
- Handling 7.5/10
- Steering 7.5/10
- Transmission 8.5/10
- Cockpit 7.5/10
- Interior 6/10
- Exterior 6.5/10
- Tech 7/10
- Desirability 8/10