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Why our Hyundai i30N's 'Ring development was vital

Or, why the old adage about the Nürburgring ruining road cars is rubbish

“Cars developed for the Nürburgring don’t work on the road.” Words probably all too familiar, but they’re nonsense. This month I’ve been driving our Hyundai i30N, whose N stands for Nürburgring, back-to-back with the Toyota Yaris GRMN, whose N stands for… you get the idea.

Getting them together was a stark reminder that these are the two most boisterous and exciting hot hatches currently on sale. And yes, they ride a bit firmly, but they still soak up the worst of our roads more than well enough.

Their best facet, though, is that they’re huge fun to drive. While both were honed on the circuit they’re named after, neither was developed to set a lap record there. Thus their limits are genuinely approachable, and they’re able to thrill whether you’re negotiating Mini Karussell or a mini roundabout. Myth well and truly busted.

The i30N’s seemingly infinite Drive Mode customisation means it can adapt nicely to changing road surfaces anyway. I’ll admit the 1,944 combinations of engine and chassis settings that lie within the custom menu might seem dizzying on first acquaintance, mind; I’d have to change set-up 11 times a day to try them all during the i30N’s time here.

It’s hogwash, of course, as you’re never going to combine the soft differential setting with the hard suspension, and so on. And once you’ve got a favourite setup (mine’s Normal steering, Sport+ engine, Sport for everything else, including the mid-way ESP mode), the car sends it all to the steering wheel’s chequered flag button, much like the M button you get on fast BMWs, making the i30N’s modes much simpler to get your head around than their headline stat suggests.

That’s surely an influence of N boss Albert Biermann, who was at M Division when the function debuted on its cars. And, incidentally, a man who’s a great advocate of using the Nürburgring to develop cars, but without lap times as the sole aim…

So far: 4377 miles, 30.1mpg average (39.8mpg claimed)

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

Images: Rowan Horncastle/Mark Riccioni

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