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Say hello to Top Gear's new Hyundai i30N

More fun than a Golf GTI, but can it be as satisfying to live with? Let's find out

If you’ve not noticed, we’re living through a golden age of hot hatchbacks. From bargain VW Up GTIs to supercar-slaying Audi RS3s, every carmaker with both a hatchback in its range and a modicum of petrol coursing through its engineers’ veins has something to offer. Even Hyundai.

Previous tests have already established the i30N is a belter, but we’re running one for the next few months just to check it’s not a novelty that wears off. It feels more fun than a Golf GTI on first, second and third acquaintance, but the VW’s a tougher benchmark as a long-term ownership proposition.

What’s so good about the i30N? It has enough horsepower to be exciting – our Performance model has 271bhp and hits 62mph in 6.1secs – and tons of usability. There’s every bit of equipment you could reasonably hope for, a big boot and five seats. Honda Civic Type Rs only have four seatbelts, something I’ve been scuppered by in the past.

Good behaviour is only one half of a great hot hatch, of course, but luckily the i30N is also a proper tinker. Its front wheels do manage to put that power down, but only just. It’s a wild ride on the right sort of road, and I mean that as a compliment.

It’s also dripping with the sort of details normally found in only the most serious performance cars. My favourites? The illuminated red line moves around the rev counter as the engine warms up, while the manual gearbox’s rev-matching function turns on and off with just one simple button press. There’s no auto option, either, and the handbrake is old-school mechanical. I could go on…

Entry-level i30Ns cost £24,995, but you really should spend an extra three grand (or £20 a month) on the Performance pack, which takes the 247bhp base car and adds a limited-slip differential, 24bhp, bigger brakes, 19in wheels in Pirelli P Zero tyres, a riotous sports exhaust and some properly hugging seats.

It’s a no brainer, then. To that, we’ve added the N’s signature Performance Blue paint, taking us up to £28,580. A lot for a Hyundai, but still very competitive in the hot hatch market, with only the new Renault Megane RS really challenging it in value terms.

I adore hot hatches and this might be my current favourite, but I’ve got loads planned with the i30N in the coming months, y’know, just to be absolutely sure. If there’s anything you’re dying to find out about the i30N, or something you want to see ours do, feel free to say so in the comments box below.

So far: 2013 miles, 30.9mpg average (39.8mpg claimed)

Spec: 1998cc 4cyl turbo, FWD, 271bhp, 279lb ft, 0-62mph in 6.1secs, 155mph (ltd), 1429kg

Images: Rowan Horncastle

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