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Driven: Hyundai i30 Fastback N. Image by Hyundai UK.

Driven: Hyundai i30 Fastback N
We’re utterly convinced: this Korean machine is one of the best, most exciting driver’s cars you can buy.


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Hyundai i30 Fastback N

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: largely everything

Not so good: erm, the cabin's a bit black?

Key Facts

Model tested: Hyundai i30 Fastback N
Price: i30 Fastback range from £20,665; i30 Fastback N from £29,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
Body style: five-door fastback hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 178g/km (VED Band 171-190: £855 in year one, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Power: 275hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 353Nm at 1,500-4,700rpm
Boot space: 436-1,337 litres

Our view:

We won't even mess around here. This is the fourth time we've driven a Hyundai i30 N. We've sampled it in its original 250- and 275hp Performance forms at its international launch, an event which involved track time at Vallelunga, then we spent a week road-testing the five-door regular hot hatch version in 2018. Next, we tried out this variant, the i30 Fastback N, at the start of 2019, in the sunny climes of the Canary Islands (more laps on track were thrown in, this time on the unusual Circuit Maspalomas). And now we're here to tell you that, having spent a week and 344 magical miles on UK roads with N6 HYU, repeated exposure to the i30 N family doesn't make us grow any the less infatuated nor impressed with this vehicle; if anything, we're more and more besotted with it, every single time we drive it. That, we would contest, is what makes this a true hot hatch great - its genius does not diminish as the lustre of novelty slowly wears away.

We love the way it drives when you're not testing its chassis limits. The ride with the dampers in their softer setting is firm-edged but not uncomfortable, the ergonomics are good and the acoustic/mechanical refinement is second-to-none, while it can return 35mpg if you're on the motorway cruising (across our week, we got a highly commendable 29.1mpg out of the Hyundai). We love the way it looks - more and more time staring at its sweeping lines in the unusual but thoroughly lovely choice of Engine Red (we've all seen Performance Blue and Shadow Grey enough by now) has us convinced the i30 N should be ordered as a Fastback. This is because it's still a fiver the right side of £30,000 in this format, which is only £500 more than a Performance-packing Hatch, and you know you're getting the Performance limited-slip diff and 275hp engine with the Fastback because it doesn't come as the non-diff, 250hp regular i30 N (which is still available at a quite outrageously competitive £25,995 for the Hatch).

We love the interior, which does the trick that so many rivals fail to do by convincing you, long before you've set off on your first journey in the N, that you're in the special model; the fast top-dog, the one which isn't a regular Premium SE 1.4 T-GDi. It might be a bit unremittingly black in here but the instrument cluster dials and their extinguishing temperature lights, the N logos, the seats, the steering wheel... they're all excellent and enough to subliminally reinforce the performance message, through both visuals and tactility, to the driver. We love the practicality of the i30 Fastback N, which can take four adults and plenty of luggage with little difficulty, and we love the adaptability of its drive-mode settings, giving you full control of how you want to set the car up for a given situation.

And then, the crowning glory of the i30 Fastback N, we just adore the way it drives when you decide to unleash that 2.0-litre engine. The tremendous noises it makes, the feedback it filters to its driver, the superb balance of its chassis, the uncorrupted sweetness of its steering, the click-clack mechanical joy of scything its six-speed manual across the gate, the perfectly modulated bite of its brakes, the ridiculous ease of switch-ability of its rev-matching function (and the ridiculous ease with which you can enact heel-and-toe downshifts), the exceptionally judged pliancy of its damping through Sport and N modes (yes, it's mighty firm in N, but not unusable on the right roads, even if it's a track-biased setting), the ludicrous traction it can summon up thanks to its trick front diff; this is everything, absolutely everything, an affordable, road-biased hot hatchback should be. It is magnificent. Exceptional. Euphoric. It is quite, quite remarkable that a company with no track record in this particular department can now set such a dizzyingly high dynamic bar for everyone else to clear. It's like Eddie the Eagle Edwards suddenly knocking in a world-record 260-metre-plus ski jump. Utterly startling and entirely delightful, in equal measure.

Well, everyone else has to try and beat (or at least match) the i30 N, bar possibly Honda and its demented Civic Type R. Yet, right now, all other challengers fall by the wayside pretty quickly. Anyone who tells you a Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7 is better than the Hyundai is clearly deranged, or a blinkered VW fanboy, or possibly both. Don't bother trying out Renault Sport's latest offering (see below), because the i30 N, Fastback or otherwise, has it comprehensively licked. Ford and Peugeot? Off the pace. Beyond this lot, you've got no hope of matching the Hyundai i30 Fastback N, unless you throw a curveball into the mix and consider the smaller, cheaper but almost every bit as invigorating Fiesta ST Performance Pack into the mix. Which is cheating, isn't it? Surely?

The Hyundai i30 Fastback N: it deserves to go down in history as a truly game-changing moment in the pantheon of hot hatchbacks. It's one of the best, most rewarding driver's cars, of any shape, size or price, on sale today. And it's the joint-greatest C-segment performance five-door you can buy right now. As simple as that.


Ford Focus ST: this is precisely the sort of car the i30 N has notably bloodied the nose of. We bet when Ford was developing the Mk4 ST and the Hyundai wasn't launched, the Blue Oval would have dismissed the impending Korean as nothing to be worried about. Truth is, dynamically speaking, the i30 N walks all over the Focus ST.

Honda Civic Type R: it's a straight duke-out, in our opinion, for the C-segment hot hatch crown between these two Asian heavyweights. The Honda is definitely faster and wilder and has the superior damping, and the CTR is utterly magnificent overall too, but the cheaper Hyundai has the better cabin, the better infotainment, the better soundtrack and - some would say - the better looks too.

Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy: we sooooooo want to love this thing, because it looks the nuts and definitely has another belting RS-developed chassis. But its preposterously firm low-speed ride is getting on for unbearable, while even the 300hp, highly specialised Trophy Megane doesn't manage to put the i30 N in the shade. And that, we don't mind telling you, is something that, three years ago, we NEVER thought we'd ever write.

Matt Robinson - 30 Aug 2019    - Hyundai road tests
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2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N UK test. Image by Hyundai UK.2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N UK test. Image by Hyundai UK.2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N UK test. Image by Hyundai UK.2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N UK test. Image by Hyundai UK.2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N UK test. Image by Hyundai UK.

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


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