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

First drive: Hyundai i30 Fastback N
A different posterior, but all the same chassis excellence for the blinding Hyundai i30 Fastback N.


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Hyundai i30 Fastback N

5 5 5 5 5

Hyundai's expansion of the N performance brand will soon incorporate other models and it also encompasses exciting new plans for the mid-term future, but right now there's an easy way for the company to follow up on the sensational i30 N hot hatch - and so the Korean manufacturer turns its attention to the rakish i30 Fastback, giving it the same 2.0-litre turbocharged drivetrain as its more upright sibling. The results are, as you might expect, phenomenal.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai i30 Fastback N
Pricing: i30 Fastback N from 29,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive with limited-slip differential, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 178g/km (VED Band 171-190: 830 first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Power: 275hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 353Nm at 1,450-4,700rpm (378Nm on overboost)
Boot space: 436-1,337 litres

What's this?

The Hyundai i30 Fastback N, and two things to note if you're looking at the car's entire name carefully: one, it's not the i30 N Fastback; and two, there's no 'Performance' epithet tagged onto the end of it. Fear not, though, for the i30 Fastback N will only come in the same diff-equipped, 275hp guise as the i30 N Performance - a hot hatch which, if you care to click this link, you'll see we think is the joint-best in the business, duking it out for the overall crown with Honda's sublime Civic Type R. Honestly, that's how extraordinary the i30 N is.

Thus, what we have here is a model which Hyundai is terming a 'five-door hot coupe' but if you're already fatigued by the automotive industry's continuing bastardisation of the word 'coupe', then you'll instead just refer to the i30 Fastback N as a hot hatch, mainly because it has four doors and a boot through which you can access the passenger cabin. You might therefore be tempted to think that there's little different about the i30 Fastback N when compared to the i30 N, but - as Neil found out during our prototype drive of this second Hyundai N product - there have been some minor technical changes.

They are chiefly aimed at making the i30 understeer less as it approaches the limits of grip, although we must say we didn't think the hatchback N was particularly 'nose-heavy'. Nevertheless, the front anti-roll bar has been reduced by 0.8mm to stand at 22.2mm on the i30 Fastback N, while its rate of stiffness has been slackened by five per cent. The bump stops on the suspension are also softer, by ten per cent, and they're 6mm physically longer, too, while there's a rear camber control arm added into the mix. Strangely enough, these changes will filter on the 2019MY i30 N hatchbacks, but before you cry 'so what really IS the point of the Fastback N?!', bear in mind it has slightly better aerodynamics (at 0.297Cd) and a marginally improved front-to-rear weight distribution (60:40 plays 61:39) compared to the hatch. These are all little details which might make the difference in N selection, beyond purely aesthetic considerations.

Speaking of which, we can now see the finished look of the i30 Fastback N, given that when Neil drove it as a prototype it was covered in eye-twisting camouflage. And while its finished appearance is perhaps entirely predictable if you extrapolate from the looks of the i30 N, that's no reason to dislike the 275hp Fastback. The neat ducktail spoiler at the back, the broad red reflector stripe above the diffuser and the relocation of the triangular high-level brake light of the hatch to the bumper (where it functions as a fog light) of the Fastback do enough to give the i30 N 'coupe' (sorry...) an identity of its own. There's a new body colour, too, a chalky matte-effect shade called Shadow Grey, which looks suspiciously like Audi Nardo Grey; despite this, we'd say it's the colour of choice for the Fastback. Of course, passengers in the rear seats get less headroom in the Fastback N but the boot is bigger by 55 litres. Apparently. The cost for all this is 29,995, which at first looks like an extra grand on the i30 N Performance hatch - however, the latter's on-the-road price has crept up to 29,495, so there's only 500 notes in it.

Ultimately, the decision on which N you want will, when all's said and done, boil down to which one you think looks best. We think the Fastback is very handsome and it stands out in a hot hatch marketplace full of things with vertical back ends, but if it were our money, we'd probably still (just) plump for the i30 N hatch. Although we wouldn't complain if someone gave us the Fastback. Not in the slightest. Finally, and incidentally, there will be 250hp, non-diff-equipped Fastback Ns in other markets, but in the UK, it is said that less than two per cent of take up of the i30 N so far has been for the 250hp model - confounding even Hyundai's pre-match predictions that the Performance would command a whopping 90:10 share of UK sales. So Hyundai UK has wisely decided that a 250hp Fastback is simply unnecessary here.

How does it drive?

Whatever the arguments over the chassis updates and the comparable visuals of the two i30 N models, there can be no debate about the way the i30 Fastback N drives. Because it's sensational - every bit as sensational as the i30 N Performance hatch. Subjectively, having last driven an i30 N around nine months previous to getting into the Fastback, it'd be hard to say definitively that one or the other of these two Hyundais drives in a quantifiably better manner than its relation.

But we're going to do that anyway, because - if we struggle to strain our critical senses - there's just the merest suggestion that the i30 Fastback N rides a little more smoothly on its adaptive dampers in Normal mode, maybe the scintilla of belief that it does resist understeer a touch more tenaciously than the hatchback, perhaps the tiniest insinuation that the rear axle has become a more mobile part of proceedings when it comes to handling. That final assertion is possibly down to the fact we got to drive the i30 Fastback N on a seafront circuit that was covered in a fine layer of sand, although the Hyundai also felt significantly mobile during lifts of the throttle when out on public roads earlier in the day.

Anyway. No matter the intricacies of dynamic details, the i30 Fastback N is stunning. Even now, barely 12 months after Hyundai burst through into the realm of the truly desirable with its first N product on sale in the UK, the sheer brilliance of its dynamic talents is no less remarkable nor shocking than it was in early 2018. There is no way a first-time effort at a hot hatchback has any right to be as downright fantastic as this. So good is the i30 Fastback N, in fact, that there is very little about it we'd change - maybe one or two of the flimsier cabin plastics, or the spacing of the pedals, but we really are clutching at the tiniest of straws here.

And there's so much to revel in. The steering, for a start, which boasts feel, consistency and decent weighting, that is (admittedly) perhaps slightly too hefty in N mode but which can be fiddled about with by using the Custom setting if you so desire. Or we could eulogise about the brakes, which are mighty and seemingly fade-free on track. Maybe we could draw attention to the positive, chunky throw of the six-speed manual gearbox, or the lovely instrument cluster with its white, yellow and red shift lights. Perhaps we ought to wax lyrical about springs and dampers that keep the i30 Fastback's body in perfect check, yet which also have enough give in them to make the Hyundai feel supple across all sorts of craggy road surfaces. The controllability of the chassis, on the throttle, is delicious. There's no torque-steer nor traction unruliness to talk of. The speed of the i30 Fastback N feels appreciably greater than its 275hp, 6.1-second 0-62mph claims.

And the 2.0-litre four-pot engine deserves the highest of praise - while its induction note is nothing to write home about, Hyundai has got the enhancement of the exhaust noises absolutely spot on, so there is no modern-day forced-induction four-banger that sounds better than this. And, beyond its symphonic delights, the motor should be commended to the heavens for the fact it has both muscle and reach. You can work the i30 Fastback N on its chunky midrange, utilising the time-limited 378Nm overboost and enjoying perfect gearing of the transmission, or you can rev it right out and marvel at the way it eagerly spins for the redline, making all the right crackles, pops and bangs if you decide to do so.

It's just a brilliant, brilliant car, the i30 Fastback N. Not 'a brilliant, brilliant car, considering it's a Hyundai and the company's first effort at this sort of thing', but just a brilliant, brilliant car, full stop. We reckon it's one of the best hot hatches of all time, never mind on sale right now.


Bestowing 'N' treatment on the i30 Fastback was an understandable and entirely predictable move by Hyundai, but don't let that dissuade you from giving this second hot hatch from the Koreans a fair crack of the whip, because it's thoroughly tremendous. And it's a perfect springboard from which to launch N into even more market segments - we know a halo product is coming, a bespoke machine created for N which might, it just might, use the rear-drive, V6-powered core of the Kia Stinger as its basis. That's a tantalising thought, now isn't it?

But imagine some of the other products that already exist in the Hyundai portfolio gaining N superpowers. The obvious choice, seeing as it's the company's WRC contender, would be a fast supermini based on the i20, with around 210hp to take on the metaphorically goliath figure of the Ford Fiesta ST. How does a 150-160hp i10 N grab you, a car to put the heebie-jeebies up the Suzuki Swift Sport and perhaps even wipe the smug grin off the face of the Volkswagen up! GTI? Or what about a Kona N, to cash in on the crossover craze and allow we slightly more deranged journalists the opportunity to do endless, oblique references to Conan (Konan?) The Barbarian?

Bold ideas, aren't they? Things that would have been unthinkable two years ago. That a marque like Hyundai could take on such a wealth of exceptional dynamic rivals. But that's how incredibly skilled the i30 N twins are, and it would seem - on the basis of their magnificence - that the sky is the limit for Albert Biermann's performance-car mob. We simply cannot wait to see more from N.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 17 Jan 2019    - Hyundai road tests
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- i30 images

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

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


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