In the past decade or so, few motoring newcomers have made quite an impact on enthusiasts circles quite as large as i30 N, Hyundai’s first foray into properly go-fast territory. In establishing the Korean carmaker’s N (for Namyang, the marque’s main proving ground) Performance brand, its debut hot hatch promised a big bang for modest bucks, quickly asserting itself as a bona-fide cracker to a skeptical reception.
With dynamic and performance capabilities beyond the much-loved Volkswagen Golf GTI and a price well undercutting the king-hitting Honda Civic Type R it was, around its March 2018 debut, the hottest topic amongst petrolheads. And an instant cult car.
Before it spawned a range offering sedan and coupe/Fastback guises and a choice of transmissions around this year’s face-lift, the i30 N first lobbed as a simple, six-speed-manual, hatchback-only proposition. At a tenner under $40k for the basic variant, it looked cheap to those in the know who’d discovered the Korean five-door benefitted from (just quietly) German-led design and engineering, with key development at the old Nurburgring. Its Euro genes also extend to its Czech Republic build.
Where it really stacks up was in credentials. For the performance and features offered, the i30N looked exceptionally good value, with or without the three-grand-extra Luxury pack, that includes select upgrades and faux-suede and leather bucket seats.
Its 2.0-litre turbo four plies 202kW and an “overboosted” 378Nm (advertised as 353Nm), outpunching rivals Subaru WRX and Ford Focus ST by a bit and, against the 169kW Golf GTI, a whole lot.
But it’s the long-list of go-faster features that brought go-fast credibility beyond much of the competition. In standard trim, the i30 N fits continuously adaptive suspension, an electro-mechanical LSD, launch control, rev-matching smarts, in-dash shift lights, specific rack-mounted electric steering, bespoke tyres, underbody reinforcement, a rear removable stiffness bar, and an active exhaust (with electronic sound generation) the sounds like firecrackers on the overrun. It’s a serious piece of kit.
Nor is it pauper when it comes to equipment and niceties. Full LED exterior lighting, electric seats, rear camera and sensors, cruise control, 8.0-inch sat-nav-equipped infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, plus Hyundai’s full-featured SmartSense safety suite.
Most importantly, it talked the performance talk, a feisty, fast and fun machine that fit enough for track work and responds impressively to sticky R-spec rubber. Australia also got a localised suspension tune and active damper calibration a little softer and more everyday friendly than the ‘global’ set-up, though it didn’t, and doesn’t, rob the i30 N of what proved to be thoroughbred dynamics.
The big-booted Fastback, that arrived in late 2018 for a $2k premium, hasn’t drummed up quite the same interest as the hatch with the fanboys and fangirls. And the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic option touted from i30 N’s debut was on such continual delay that it seemed it might never appear, eventually arriving in tandem with 2021’s face-lift that saw the turbo engine’s output rise to 206kW and 392Nm…in what’s now become a $44,500 entry proposition. There’s now a new wild-styled four-door sedan in the N Performance fold, too.
Of course, the red flag buying a used (pre-face-lifted) i30 N is potential hard use for a vehicle clearly intended for such a role. Needless to say, this comes with the territory. That said, examples that haven’t flaunted warranty terms and conditions still come with Hyundai’s five-year factory backing given the breed is, at the time of writing, just four years young.
How does i30 N fare as a second-hand proposition? Read on to find out…