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Hyundai i30N Performance — long-term review
It’s surely impossible to name a performance-car hero that doesn’t have roots in motorsport. Whether you like its occasionally complex politics or not, it’s pivotal to the development – and marketing – of performance cars. The Hyundai i30N is no different. Long before we knew what ‘N’ meant, i20 rally cars were being flung around forests with Ns emblazoned on their bodywork, while the i30N effectively had its final sign-off at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. A perfect excuse to jump in ours and go and see some racing, then.
First up, this year’s N24. Until I visited the Isle of Man TT, it was my candidate for the world’s most exciting motorsport event. On four wheels, it still is. There’s a breadth of competitors – from a group of mates in an old 3-Series to professionals in GT3 racecars – that’s unrivalled, all hosted by an unyielding rollercoaster of a track with a notoriously indecisive climate. It was no different for 2018, an intense storm pausing the race to tee up an 80-minute sprint finish that embarrassed anything in recent F1 history for tension.
Our i30N was represented by a couple of i30N TCRs with cartoonish arches, outrageous wings and delightful white wheels, which finished second and fourth in their class. Naturally I’d like all of their addenda on our car, but in truth there’s little I’d really change about the i30N.
A big roadtrip only proved how good it is at the dull ‘hatch’ bits of hot hatchery. The boot swallows even the daftest over-packing, the aircon is absurdly powerful and it’s as refined as you could hope for from a car that’s only a button press away from being hard as nails. There’s even self-steering lane-keep assist if you want it (I don’t). Circa 30mpg does become boring when the fuel tank’s so small, though.
It aced its second trip, too, going four-up to the Ypres Rally in Belgium to see Thierry Neuville take victory in his i20 R5. If you’ve always quite liked the idea of watching rallying but worried about being part of the bobble hat brigade, this could be the event for you. Based out of the picturesque – and historically important – town of Ypres, it’s just one hour from Calais, so it might even prove easier to get to than deepest Wales. You can fill your days watching rally cars in the sun, then spend your evenings guzzling beer and chips in the old square. Perfect.
The i30N felt even more at home here, especially when we headed back to town after some evening spectating, inadvertently timing our journey with the stage being reopened to the public. Attacking the same tight, tricky (and crucially, empty) course Neuville had just won, the i30N’s exhaust snarling and snorting away like the anti-lag system of rally cars of old, motorsport influence was flowing through our hot hatch good and proper. Fellow rally nerds loved it, too. One lad found me on the ferry home, saying, “It sounded great as you drove past us. I think I’m going to lease one now…”