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First drive: Hyundai i30 Fastback N. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai i30 Fastback N
Hyundai adds Fastback style to its high-powered i30 N recipe.

 



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Hyundai i30 Fastback N

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Hyundai has decided that one N is not enough, and is adding a sleek Fastback body option to the 275hp i30 N hot hatch. We'll see the new car in full at the Paris Motor Show, but we've had a short drive in an engineering prototype.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai i30 Fastback N
Pricing: i30 N starts at 25,010
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door fastback
CO2 emissions: 163g/km (VED band 151-170, 515 first year)
Combined economy: 39.8mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Power: 275hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 353Nm at 1,450-4,500rpm (378Nm on time-limited overboost)
Boot space: 450 litres (seats up)

What's this?

This is the Hyundai i30 Fastback N, the second string to Hyundai's hot hatch bow (well, the third if you count the US-only Veloster N) and possibly one of the best-looking fast hatchbacks around. We say 'possibly' because so far, all we've seen is this well-used and abused engineering prototype, covered in disguise tape, with an interior hidden behind big swatches of heavy, black fabric. That said, enough of the design shines through the camouflage - the regular i30 Fastback is already a looker of a car, so adding the extra athletic bulk of the N should make it look even better, and even the black-and-white camo couldn't disguise the big rear spoiler, which is a natural continuation of the Fastback's hatch, rather than a stick-on wing on pylons.

We're not sure why Hyundai bothered to disguise the cabin, being as what we could see looked identical to that of the existing i30 N hatchback. That means you get a nicely laid-out dash, with a decent central touchscreen, and some excellent bucket seats. It does also mean that you get cabin plastics that fall a little short of the touchy-feely quality that we've become used to from the benchmark Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Mechanically, it's basically the same as the i30 N hatch - same 275hp four-cylinder turbo, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearshift, and a clever electronically controlled differential.

How does it drive?

Somewhat surprisingly, the i30 N Fastback has slightly different suspension to that of the hatchback model. Partially that's to account for kerb weight that is a fraction lower, and distributed a little differently, but it's also because Hyundai decided to use the opportunity of creating the Fastback to have another go at the i30 N's handling. Some of the engineering feedback from the five-door hatch had pointed to a tendency to understeer a little too strongly on the limit of grip, and Hyundai's engineers wanted to dial that back.

So, they've actually made the front end a little softer, with gentler spring and damper rates, and softened off the anti-roll bar a touch (while also tweaking the dampers a little to make sure that too much front-end roll wasn't also induced). The result is a slightly better balance, with more progressive responses at the front, and more opportunity for both the front e-diff and the stability control to work with you, rather than stepping in to pull you back from the brink of disaster.

Now, it must be noted that our test drive was a short one, conducted in the controlled environment of the Millbrook Proving Ground test track in Bedfordshire. Furthermore, it was absolutely chucking it down, the skies letting loose a tumbling torrent of rain as if in revenge for our long, hot summer. Even so, the i30 N Fastback's talents shone through the gloom and the damp.

That engine is a belter, for a start. It revs keenly, and when you have switched it over to 'N' mode (using the gorgeous aluminium button attached to the front of the steering wheel) there's delicious growl and a tornado of pops and bangs as unburned fuel is fired down the exhaust pipe on the overrun. A six-speed manual gearshift is standard, and indeed is the only transmission available for the moment; it changes ratios with meaty enthusiasm, even if the shift on our prototype car felt a little baggy and 'used.'

What the i30 N Fastback does really well, though, is inspire confidence. Even in these torrential conditions, you have to work hard to provoke it into misbehaviour, and when you do breach the limit of the tyres, there's both adjustability and a hint of that stabilising understeer. The steering feel and weight could be better, though. In N mode, the steering is distinctly hefty and stiff, but it feels much better and more fluid in its Comfort setting, and there's little noticeable fall-off in feel or feedback. Comfort is the best setting for the suspension, too, as even on a test track, Sport and N modes feel a touch too stiff and bumpy. Thankfully you can use the Custom setting to set things up as you'd best like them.

Thanks to strong brakes, the i30 N Fastback piles happily into a tight corner, the nose tucks in neatly (with good off-throttle adjustability) and the diff helps you find all the traction and grip on the exit that you could possibly need. It's fast, it's agile, it's fun, even if arguably it's not quite as much fun as the Megane RS, nor as fluent as the (less powerful) Golf GTI. Mind you, the Hyundai will probably be more reliable than either of those in the long run, backed up by that famous five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

Verdict

Just as with the i30 N five-door, this Fastback model is a hugely welcome addition to the Hyundai range. If this brief drive is anything to go by, then it'll be just as good to drive as its five-door brother and probably (as with the standard Fastback model) slightly better looking, too. Yet more proof that Hyundai has found its enthusiast's heart, and it's well and truly located in the right place.


Neil Briscoe - 13 Aug 2018









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2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.

2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.2019 Hyundai i30 N Fastback prototype. Image by Hyundai.








 

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