Hyundai i30N Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Sunday 24th September


What is it like to drive?

Sure, its outright performance figures (0-62mph in 5.9 seconds for the manual, 5.4s for the auto, 155mph top speed) lag behind a Honda Civic Type R or VW Golf R, but that’s not the point. The N may partially stand for Nürburgring, but Hyundai didn’t go chasing lap records there. The i30N prioritises fun over outright grip and ability.

Here’s a car that’ll give you a bit more torque steer than its rivals, a more fidgety ride over rough surfaces and a scrabble for grip when the conditions are sub-par. It’s rougher round the edges, but that’s its making: it’s a vastly more involving car at moral speeds than competitors whose limits sit uncomfortably high nowadays.

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It’s fun, then…

It eggs you on, lifts your mood, and livens up any stretch of road. Importantly, it lets you impose your own driving style upon it; some hot hatches demand you make allowances for their overpowered and slightly frenetic front axle, others have a chassis that shines in specific circumstances but are a bit plain if you’re not at maximum attack.

The i30N responds faithfully to whatever you throw at it. If you want really impressive stability in high-speed corners, it’s got it. If you’d like to lift off into a damp second-gear corner to feel the rear pivot around, it’ll do that too. In all circumstances, the exhaust crackles away on a trailing throttle to widen your grin further.

Which gearbox should I have?

The standard six-speed manual gearbox – still the enthusiast’s choice – comes with rev-matching. It’s one of the very sharpest examples of the tech out there, but you can also turn it on and off with one simple button. While other manufacturers only let you use their rev-matching when the stability control is on – then only let you heel-and-toe yourself with the nannies off – Hyundai lets you use the system on your own terms. Simple, but you can tell it’s been considered carefully.

The eight-speed automatic isn’t one to immediately shun, though. Much like the car as a whole, Hyundai’s knocked it out the park right from the off. The fact you get a nice, big physical gear selection knob that physically clicks between P, R, N and D is a strong start, when too many of the i30N’s rivals have tried something gimmickier. The paddles are small and fixed to the wheel – as opposed to being fixed on the column – but their reactions are quick and there’s a bunch of little extras that come attached to ticking the options box.

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Like what?

‘N Track Sense Shift’ ensures the car’s extremely smart at doing its own shifts when you’re driving quickly but not pulling the paddles, while ‘N Grin Shift’ gives you 20 seconds of the i30N’s gnarliest acceleration at the touch of a button, just like Porsche’s ‘Sport Response’ setup. While it's clear N division's naming department is working on commission, the actual functions give the twin-clutch automatic something to shout about over the manual.

Whichever transmission you go for, though, this is not an especially thrifty car to run. Hyundai may claim over 30mpg, but you’ll be light footed or regularly on long journeys to regularly see that. Really mischievous behaviour will see your average fuel economy plunge into the low 20s. In a twist of fate, uncommonly efficient performance cars are something BMW’s suddenly become rather good at…

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