2018 Hyundai i30 N PERFORMANCE owner review

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Review written by:
David F
PROS
  • Fun, raw and honest
  • Exhaust theatre
  • Practicality of fastback
CONS
  • Sometimes too raw
  • Axle tramp in the wet
  • Build quality issues

About the Hyundai i30

David F purchased this Hyundai i30 new for $40,640 (including all on-road costs). David F would buy this car again because: “Performs as expected. Happy with purchase.”

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

There was one error message to do with the master brake cylinder but there was no perceived change in driving performance. It was also fixed under warranty.

Overall build quality may be a little suspect. In our car there is a piece of plastic trim above the rear vision mirror that has been refitted half a dozen times by the workshop mechanics but still always falls down again a few days later. And the passenger side door is not quite fitted properly and takes little more effort than the driver’s side to close.

As well as the build quality, the i30 N definitely feels less sophisticated than my series 7.5 Golf R. This shows up in the i30 N with things like the lane keeping assist which does not work very well at all and the cornering headlights. Where as the Golf R has active cornering headlights that swivel beautifully with the steering, the i30 N makes do with a bulb on the corner of the headlight that turns on when you turn the steering wheel.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

It has been a very enjoyable car. I’ve been treaded well during services and there haven’t been any surprises.

How has the purchase and aftercare experience been with your car?

It was bought as a demonstrator. There was a prolonged negotiation period, but it was a fair one. I have since serviced it at a different dealer and I’m very happy with service and response to warranty claims.

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

Yes.

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

Brilliant performance. Economy is good for this level of performance and not a priority for me.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

It has everything I need.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

It rides well. I’m very happy with its performance and handling.

Do you have any additional comments about your car?

In a world of overly precious sports cars, where the word “sport” has some how become synonymous with “luxury”, and everything with a sports badge takes itself far too seriously, the i30 N stands out as a welcome antidote.

There is nothing pretentious about a Hyundai i30 N Fastback. You don’t buy this car for the badge, you buy it because it is a good car and because you like driving. No badge snobbery here, just an enormous sense of fun.

The overwhelming sense of fun reminds me of driving my old MX-5. Other hot hatches may be faster or more luxurious but this thing just puts a smile on your face. A car for the young and young at heart. A car that feels raw and honest and yet still manages more drama than a reality TV show!

When talking about the car I’m going to use the word “we” because both my son and I drive and enjoy this car a lot. When my youngest son graduated from his P plates to an unrestricted licence he had a hankering for something more exciting his series Volkwagen Golf 92TSI.

I had taught him how to drive with an MX-5 and a Toyota 86 so he was keen to explore the fun of driving. I do not know where it came from but he became obsessed with the i30 N. He drove our family crazy with relentless nagging about the i30 N but I thought it was worth looking at some of the options.

The Honda Civic Type R was out of our price range even as a second hand car. There was no way my son who is 198cm tall could be shoe horned into a Renault Megane RS.

And we took a Golf GTI for a test drive but walked away with a shoulder shrug and feeling “meh.” Don’t get me wrong, the GTI is a brilliant car overall but just felt a bit dull after the i30 N. Driving the GTI was like going to a party and having a pleasant chat with a pretty girl, while the i30 N was dancing on a table with a crazy redhead.

After the test drive the decision was made and eventuality we bought a demo i30 N Fastback with around 600km on the clock. After nearly two years and 16000km the car has been an absolute joy. Interestingly with the used car market as crazy as it is we could probably sell the car tomorrow for more than we paid for it.

It may not be everyone’s favourite but I reckon the fastback is the one to have with its unique and practical styling. There is a huge boot and decent leg room in the back seat.

The only other car on the road with similar fastback styling is a Mercedes-Benz CLA which is not a bad association. Interestingly Hyundai have decided not to offer the fastback with the new i30 N update so this car looks like it will remain unique.

My first driving experience with the i30 N was also unique. I quickly discovered that if you put your foot down there is bags and bags of axle tramp, especially in the wet.

This is not due to torque steer as there is a real, mechanical limited slip differential and quite a sophisticated front end set up. The problem is getting the power down. This seems to be due to a combination of so much instant torque and the OEM Pirelli tyres.

The Pirellis aren’t bad, just not the softest, stickiest tyre out there. The Continental Sport Contact 6S my Golf R came with are much softer with more grip and I am sure would go a long way to reduce the axle tramp.

I read somewhere that Hyundai deliberately did not spec the softest rubber available with the view that the Pirellis would last more than one track day session. Given that I have had two sets of Contis last barely 20,000kms on the Golf R this is probably not a bad philosophy.

For 19-inch tyres the OEM Pirellis seem to be wearing remarkably well after 16000km and look like they will last much longer than the Continentals on my Golf.

After realising you need to be a little more judicious with application of the loud pedal, you can start to appreciate the merits of the i30 N. The engine has a bag of power with over 200kW, lots of low down torque and yet loves to rev.

There is an easy to use six-speed manual gearbox with a precise mechanical feel and a good driving position with comfortable supportive seats. The brakes are strong, if just a little over sensitive for my liking, and the chassis loves to carve through twisty mountain roads. Overall an amazing effort from Hyundai for their first effort at a true hot hatch.

As you get more familiar the fun really starts. The exhaust is this car’s real party trick. If you have not heard this car in person you will not believe how ridiculous it sounds. I still do not know how this is legal. It sounds like Chinese New Year, Guy Fawkes night and a war zone all rolled into one every time you rev it out.

I kid you not, in sports mode there are actual explosions out the exhaust on every overrun. I have literally had kids crying and death stares from pedestrians as I drove down to the shops for a litre of milk. It is all very childish, totally artificial and incredibly antisocial and I absolutely love it.

My son and I have a game were we see how many bangs in a sequence we can generate. It’s not a good drive unless we achieve four detonations in a row. Luckily this feature can be turned off and is best left for country roads. When I go driving with mates through the Yarra Valley and we swap cars I always know where the i30 N is as the exhaust bangs echo off the nearby hills. That’s my kind of street theatre.

Living with the car day to day the interior is functional but nothing inspiring. Lots of hard plastics which on a positive note are also hard wearing. This is not a car that shines in the showroom but once you get it on the road you can feel the money was spent on the important bits like the drive train and chassis.

In terms of infotainment, cabin storage etc., suffice to say the i30 N is modern and practical, has Apple CarPlay and really for me the rest is minutiae. Our i30 N did not come with the luxury pack but nothing essential is missing. The heated seats would have been nice.

One feature I really like are the N mode paddles on the steering wheel. These allow you to select the driving mode instantly and not have to fiddle around with menus on a touch screen.

It can be a little unsettling to a pedestrian standing on a street corner when you turn the wheel a light suddenly starts shining on them. The i30 N also has brilliant LED main beams but sadly dim halogen high beams. Of course the i30 N is more than $20,000 cheaper than the Golf R so comparing the two is not entirely fair.

The i30 N rides well, firm but with well controlled rebound. Reminds me a lot of sporting BMWs which given that Hyundai poached the head of BMW’s M division to develop this car is not surprising. The gradually fading amber lights on the tacho as the engine warms up is a great homage to the older BMW M cars.

Flawed but fun the i30 N is a beast but retains the feel good factor often lacking in other sports cars. It is an incredibly good effort from Hyundai for their first attempt at a hot hatch and I am truly excited to see how the Hyundai N division develops. I implore everyone reading this to get out there and enjoy cars like the i30 N before we are all driving electric SUVs.

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Ratings
Overall8.7
Show Breakdown
Technology 8
Reliability 9
Ride & Handling 9
Price & Features 9
Purchase & Aftercare 8
Performance & Economy 9
Ownership Experience 9
Top Line Specs
8L
202kW
186g
Not tested
View all specifications