The 2019 Isle of Man TT Senior winner loves big engines and old vans. Good lad
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A tuned Hyundai i30N? Correct. If evidence were needed that Hyundai has successfully taken on the VW Golf GTI, then this is it. RaceChip is a tuner based near Stuttgart, whose show cars are nigh on always German. The fact it’s applied its knowhow to a Hyundai surely proves how credible the i30N is. So what’s new? There’s more power, with a mixture of an engine chip and new exhaust downpipe freeing another 45bhp. Which means the i30N now makes 316bhp, exactly the same as a Honda Civic Type R. We’d like to think that’s not accidental. RaceChip’s car has way more torque than the Honda, though, with a quite staggering 387lb ft enough to put it in the ballpark of previous-generation supercars. While no performance figures are quoted, it’s safe to assume the standard Hyundai’s claimed 6.1sec sprint to 62mph has dropped into the low fives.
It looks meaner, too… Its stance is different, with new, lightweight OZ wheels (saving 3kg per corner) and 15mm-lower Eibach suspension. There’s been a tyre swap, with the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S replacing a standard i30N Performance’s Pirelli P Zero. The costs are all very reasonable, too; the car you see here is around £6,000 more than standard (so about £34,000 in total if you apply its changes to a fresh i30N), but you can get the headline items – those power and suspension upgrades – for about £3,000. How is it? Surprisingly subtle. At least initially. When we first read about RaceChip’s tweaks we wondered how mad a louder, faster i30N would feel, but first impressions are of a car no crazier than standard. While that exhaust is bassier and angrier, it’s no louder, and the extra 108lb ft of torque is smoothly integrated. It doesn’t arrive as a sledgehammer that instantly spins the front wheels. Actually, that’s the most impressive thing about RaceChip’s car. On cold tyres, a standard i30N will spin its wheels in third gear if you’re clumsy with the throttle. Despite frosty, autumnal temperatures and all that extra performance, this tuned car didn’t spin its wheels once. It’s fair to assume the tyres played a big part in that, and the extra confidence they provide at both ends of the car make it an easy one to build your speed and exuberance in. Everything’s so precise; I’d not realised the standard i30N had slack in its steering until I discovered how this tuner car snaps into corner. Every control just has a little more sharpness and communication. And that means you can have even more fun. A stock i30N happily picks a rear wheel up in tight corners, or oversteers properly if you provoke it. While the RaceChip version has higher grip limits, it’ll still act impishly if you want it to. And you will. And the speed? The combination of extra grip and all that torque feel like they elevate the i30N to Civic Type R levels of performance. Which is a big deal. Hyundai’s standard car already nips at the Honda’s ankles, and this version has downed enough protein shakes to shape up into something that could properly take it down. It’s so much more urgent than a standard i30N, with instant response in the first five gears and a proper surge right the way to its redline. RaceChip’s offices aren’t far from derestricted autobahn, a fact that’s reflected in how senior this car’s performance has become. Has anything been left anything alone? The brakes, and you can tell. It’s not the end of the world given how good the standard i30N’s brakes are, but they tangibly lag behind when every other dynamic area of the car has received attention. The interior is the same, too, save for the addition of a dial in the centre console that tweaks the throttle mapping between half a dozen levels, from Eco to Race+. It’s an overtly muscular tuned hot hatch: we immediately turned it up to Race+ and forgot about it. It sounds like they’ve done a good job… RaceChip has taken the already rather excellent i30N and simply amplified its traits, without any alteration to its rambunctious character. There’s a bit more control and precision to it, but it remains a boisterous hot hatch. One that now feels even further removed from the sane and sensible world of the Golf GTI. Given what a subtly integrated upgrade this is, though, it also makes our brains spin thinking about how crazed a properly let loose i30N could be. There’s certainly reserves of grip to take more power. But if the German tuning scene has jumped on Hyundai’s hatch already, it’s safe to assume there’s much more to come. 9/10
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