Two years ago Hyundai started talking about the N brand, promising it would make it’s way to the South African market. It’s 20plenty and an N division Hyundai is available in South Africa. At launch the motoring media got to sample its abilities on track and a road route. After driving the Hyundai i30 N we’ve got 8 simple reasons why it’s so good.
1. N is for performaNce
The N in i30 N is not a spec line, it’s not the option that yields a few extra convenience features. N represents a whole separate philosophy; sure, the body and naming may be the same though that is where it ends. The engines are unique, as is the transmission set up and technology involved. The N division is to Hyundai what M Performance is to BMW, and that is not a lofty reference. In 2018 Hyundai poached Thomas Schemera from BMW’s M section to head up Hyundai’s High Performance Vehicle & Motorsport Division. And he wasn’t the first from the M line to move to Hyundai, he was the third.
2 . N is for Nürburgring, Namyang and raciNg
The i30N was born in Namyang, South Korea, where it all comes together for Hyundai. It’s honouring the performance division’s headquarters for the R&D unit and their test track – the Nürburgring, and tipping its hat towards what it’s meant for – racing. There’s plenty of heritage and history behind the N name. Recently that heritage includes the 2019 Manufacturer’s Champion in WRC, 2019 Driver’s Champion in WTCR and second in the 2019 Nurburgring 24 Hour race.
3. N is for maNual
The i30N is a beacon of manual hope in an automatic world, there’s no double-clutch gearbox to make life easy behind the wheel, it’s built for the driving enthusiast, not those who claim to love driving but prefer an auto so their left leg doesn’t have to work. This is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best manual gearboxes ever experienced. Short, sharp throws bring delusions of being a driving god, Hyundai have outdone themselves here, there is simply nothing better than a great-shifting manual.
4. N is for excelleNt
Powered by a 2.0-litre T-GDi turbocharged engine that is completely new to us in South Africa, there’s a healthy 202 kW on offer (for comparison, and perspective, the Golf 7 GTi will return 169 kW), all of this is sent to the front wheels exclusively with 345mm brakes to counter the speed. While it has plenty of power, it also has a turbo over-boost function giving a responsive performance from early in the rev-range, this feature will give a temporary 8% increase in torque between 1 750 – 4 500 rpm for 18 seconds. During these blessed seconds, standard torque of 353 Nm increases to 378 Nm. This gives a smooth surge of power in the lower gears at lower revs, there’s no need to drop down a gear to access the peak point in the torque curve, excellent on mountain passes.
5. N is for dyNamic
The combination of engine, manual gearbox, 202 kW all to the front wheels is perfection, at launch on a racetrack suited to dynamic handling the i30 N outdid itself. Turn-in is precise, we dare to use the words telepathic in response, there’s a lack of obvious torque steer that is normally synonymous with front-wheel-drive hot hatches. Driving modes include Eco, Normal, and Sport are accessed from a blue button in the steering wheel. The other blue button decorated with a chequered flag is where the good stuff is found, Sport+ or N mode and the Ncustom mode, which allows the driver to tailor engine response, exhaust sound, chassis settings, steering and rev-matching. Rev matching does automatically what driver’s do when ‘heel & toeing’ delivering smooth downshifts and no loss of boost pressure on the upshifts.
6. N is for souNd
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In full track mode it gives the full popcorn or snap, crackle and pop on downshifts or when lifting off the throttle. It’s a joy to hear and something that you’re not going to find in this price range from the competition. In Eco or Normal mode it’s more an everyday driver, no audio displays to attract attention.
7. N is for conveNience
It may have a fair bit of power on offer and run on custom-built 19-inch Pirelli tyres though that doesn’t mean it’s missing the finer things in life. Standard features for the i30 N include an inductive charging tray, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, cruise control, park-distance sensors and reverse camera, moonroof, heated leather and suede seats that are electrically adjustable, keyless entry and start, and ISOfix anchorage points. All optional extras on the competition.
8. N is for opiNion
Many are quick to compare the i30 N to other hot hatches on the market, the words that were flouted about with reckless abandon before the launch were ‘Golf killer’. However it’s in a different market, it’s manual with plenty more power and interior space. It may not be the fastest in a straight line though we’d wager you’d battle to find a car that handles like this or makes you feel as connected to the road. For those obsessed with ‘vrrr-pah’ culture it’ll be an unending battle to change their opinion on the i30 N, and that’s why it’s about picking your battle. For the rest it’s about understanding the heritage of the N brand, changing perspective that this is not the affordable Hyundai, this is the value-for-money Hyundai and the performance Hyundai. This is the Hyundai that ran for two straight days on a track in heat exceeding 40-degrees, performing handling exercises and hot laps with professional drivers and didn’t go near limp mode once. It’s impressive and the hope is that others see the value in what the i30 N offers.
Hyundai i30 N is R679 900 with a 5-year/75 000 km service plan and 7-year/200 000 km warranty.