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Australia’s highly competitive, and lucrative, hot hatch market will get a shake-up during the first half of 2021, with the arrival of a brand-new Volkswagen Golf GTI and upgraded Hyundai i30 N.

In the lead up we thought an on-paper comparison between the VW and Hyundai was due, in case you’re looking to hold off on your next pocket rocket until this pair touch down.

Both will fight against other popular offerings such as the Ford Focus ST (which launched earlier this year), Renault Megane RS, and Honda Civic Type R. And of course, the smaller but still-mighty Toyota Yaris GR and the BMW 128ti that are both imminent.


2021 Hyundai i30 N

So, what’s changed with the i30 N? The most obvious design change is the wider, more angular grille, new LED headlights, V-shaped DRLs, and a different lower bumper design with air curtains to cut out turbulence.

At the rear there’s a new-look rear spoiler with familiar triangular brake light mounted up high, new LED combination-light shape, and revised rear diffuser.

The Performance Package, which will be standard in Australia, adds new-look 19-inch forged alloy wheels that cut a claimed 14.4kg over the outgoing 19s. They’re wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber and are offset by bright red brake calipers.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI ‘Mk8’

“Evolving an icon like this is an enormous challenge but also the most exciting thing that can happen to you as a designer,” said Volkswagen design boss Klaus Zyciora.

While the i30 N is an update, the Golf GTI is a new model. Compared to the Mk7 predecessor it has better aero (0.275 Cd), narrower LED headlights with Matrix LED options, a slimmer grille with a light signature, and a larger single-piece lower air intake.

The more obvious shoulder line leads to a familiar chunky C-pillar. Note the way the ‘GTI’ badge has been moved centrally to sit below the redesigned VW badge. The roof spoiler extends further outwards than before, though the twin-pipes are very evolutionary over the Mk7.

New colours include the pictured Kings Red Metallic which apparently harks back to the Mars Red Golf GTI paint option from the 1976 original. Wheel sizes vary between 17- and 19 inches.


2021 Hyundai i30 N

The 2021 i30 N’s 2.0-litre turbo engine has been tuned to deliver an extra 4kW, taking peak power to 206kW at 5200rpm. Peak torque for the Australian-standard Performance package models has been increased by a significant 39Nm, to 392Nm between 1950 and 4600rpm.

The top speed is 250km/h, while the zero to 100km/h sprint time has been improved by two tenths (3 per cent) to 5.9 seconds using launch control.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI ‘Mk8’

The Mk8 Golf GTI rocks an evolved EA888 ‘evo4’ 2.0-litre turbo engine putting out 180kW of power (between 5000rpm and 6000rpm) and 370Nm of torque (between 1600 and 4300rpm). So it’s down 26kW and 22Nm on the Korean contender.

While this engine looks on paper like that used in the Mk7.5 GTI Performance, this engine has been given new injectors and – in Europe at least – has a particulate filter and sound actuator. It meets Euro6d emissions standards. Oh, and the engine Start/Stop button pulses red before the engine fires up.

Top speed is also 250km/h, while the claimed 0-100km/h time is 6.3 seconds – so, 0.4 sec behind the i30N. We can’t wait to take these two to the drag strip.


2021 Hyundai i30 N

The i30 N’s once-standard six-speed manual gearbox will be joined by a brand new, wet-clutch eight-speed DCT auto with manual mode controlled by wheel paddles or the shifter (pull back to upshift, too) for the first time. This should drive a major demand uptick.

This ‘box enables a few performance-focused driving modes for when you want to do more than merely commute. Grin Shift mode is activated by a wheel button and channels maximum power for 20 seconds, and Track Sense Shift mode primes it for more aggressive race-style shift points.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8

Europe will get a manual ‘box, but Australia is expected to only get the automatic option: a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch unit with paddles. Note the way the shift-by-wire setup allows the fitment of a tiny gear stick.

As before, the gearbox characteristics (shift patterns) change depending on which driving mode is selected – it can hold lower gears longer, upshift quickly to save fuel, or fit somewhere between.


2021 Hyundai i30 N

The 2021 i30 N retains five driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N, N Custom – that more broadly change the throttle mapping, exhaust pops, steering resistance, transmission shift points, damping, stability control, and the electronically activated limited-slip front diff.

Hyundai says it has recalibrated the adjustable dampers (Electronic Controlled Suspension system). Performance Package versions shipped to Australia also have bigger front brake discs (up 15mm to 360mm diameter), and the new wheels and seats trim weight.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8

Volkswagen calls its mode selector the Vehicle Dynamics Manager, and it coordinates settings for the stability control module, electronically activated adjustable shocks/dampers, the front-axle locking diff (from the Mk7.5 GTI Performance), steering weight, and driveline response. These metrics can all change depending on the driving mode selected.

The front axle is lighter thanks to a new aluminium subframe, and the wishbone bearing, springs, and bump stops are new. The spring rate at the rear is up 15 per cent. The EPAS system’s ‘progressive steering’ dials up the steering response at higher speeds, and numbs it at urban speeds.


2021 Hyundai i30 N

The most obvious interior change is the new 10.25-inch central touchscreen display running more advanced software, and showing crisper graphics. It can show you important data such as the power and torque currently being used, a turbo boost gauge, and lap and acceleration timers.

There’s also the option of new one-piece ‘N Light’ seats trimmed in leather an Alcantara, which save 2.2kg each.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8

The tartan seat options and red stitching remain, but the rest is very contemporary. The three-spoke wheel with perforated leather grips has slick new touch controls, and behind it sits a large fully digitised instrument panel.

Centre screen options are either 8.25-inch or 10-inch – the latter called Discover Pro – and this bigger setup blends in with those instruments to form what VW calls an Innovision Cockpit. Background lighting embeds the displays and all other illuminated interior areas (dash panel, door trim, storage compartments, footwell) in a spectrum of 30 colour choices.


2021 Hyundai i30 N

The autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system now recognises pedestrians, and the Lane Following Assist is billed as capable of steering the car within its lane.

i30 N models fitted with the DCT get an expanded blind-spot monitoring system with collision avoidance assist, and AEB that both works in reverse and sense rear cross-traffic interference.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8

The AEB system recognises pedestrians and cyclists, the lane-keeping assist system is active, there’s blind-spot monitoring and also Car2X (local communication with other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure) available – depending on region.

Volkswagen bundles various systems (lane-steering, active cruise control, collision warning and braking) into a Travel Assist function that is capable of single lane/level 2 autonomy at up to 210km/h.


We don’t know, yet.

The outgoing i30 N cost $41,400 before on-road costs with the standard manual, whereas the Mk7.5 Golf GTI with standard DSG cost $47,190. The final run GTI TCR cost $51,490.

If we were taking a punt, we’d guess the i30 N with the DCT auto will be priced at around $45,000 before delivery charges, and the Golf GTI just under $50,000. You’d expect the i30 N to have a slight premium.

2021 Hyundai i30 N2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Aus launchLikely Q2, 2021Likely Q2, 2021
Engine 2.0 turbo four2.0 turbo four
Power 206kW180kW
Torque 392Nm370Nm
0-100km/h claim5.9 sec6.3 sec
Front diffLSDLSD
Active dampers YesYes
Mike Costello
Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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