2021 Hyundai i30 N PREMIUM owner review

Michael D
Author
Published
PROS
  • Performance and handling
  • Space for family
  • The noise!
CONS
  • Cost cutting appears rampant
  • Lost a little playfulness of the hatch
  • The looks for some

About the Hyundai i30

Michael D purchased this Hyundai i30 new for $52,000 (including all on-road costs). Michael D would buy this car again because: “The driving experience is, in a word, fun. A three-box design, manual gearbox with a performance bent is very hard to come by these days with the WRX the only real competitor before looking at the hot hatch market. The overall N ownership experience is excellent too.”

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

The car has been 99 per cent reliable. The only issues have been a couple of screen freezes with the infotainment. A couple of rattles from the dash make themselves known intermittently but that’s it really.

Having said that, the car is only 5000kms old so it hasn’t really had much of a chance to break yet.

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

Outside of owning an exotic, it would be hard to find a better performance car ownership experience in Australia today.

Hyundai’s N Performance division continues to put on events for very low cost for any owners of an N car. From drive days (with a recent one culminating in a parade lap behind the safety car at the Shannon’s Nationals event at Sydney Motorsport Park), to dedicated track days with rides in N track cars and tech talks from their chief engineer.

It really is stunning support and engagement, and something other manufacturers could learn from.

I will quickly address the looks here. They are challenging and I wouldn’t have entertained owning one until I saw it in person. I think the N is the only variant of the sedan where the looks work. Not sure how the appearance will age but I probably won’t own the car five years from now so that doesn’t bother me.

The stance is great. I do wish it came with the forged wheels that the new hatch does.

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

This is my second N Performance car, having previously owned a hatch for three years, so I guess it’s saying something that I came back. The local dealer was very good on both occasions and I didn’t have to wait long for the car (less than four weeks) which, in the current environment, is pretty good.

Nothing spectacular to report on the aftercare front. No outstanding issues with the car, but nor was there any real follow-up from the dealer to see how it was going.

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

On paper I believe the price is very competitive, if not quite the performance bargain the original i30 N hatch was when it launched. Due to the current market, my change-over price was minimal when stepping out of the three-year old hatch into the new sedan.

On the performance front the price is very good, certainly when taking into account the sophistication of the chassis and drivetrain customisation options.

When it comes to comfort and convenience features I’d say the value equation doesn’t stack up as well.

The first thing that struck me when stepping out of the i30 hatch in the sedan was the step in cabin appearance with a great driver-focused cockpit, clear LCD displays and comfy seats. But after a minute or so you begin to notice the big step backwards in quality of finishes.

Almost everything is hard, scratchy plastics. The i30 hatch is no Golf but it at least had soft touch materials in all the usual places you’d touch, front and back. In the sedan the back is like sitting in a taxi (nice seats aside). There’s great legroom back there but there is no centre armrest and not even padded door armrests – it’s all hard plastics.

The sedan only gets one-touch operation for the driver’s window, manual passenger seat adjustment, limited driver’s lumbar adjustment, no auto-dipping reverse mirrors, no puddle lights, rubbish front door bin storage, and no overhead sunglasses storage. All these things the hatch I had just stepped out of had.

I think for a $50k+ car these things should be rectified. Especially when you only have to look at other cars in Hyundai’s own line-up (and older ones at that!) to see how they could do better.

On the plus side, the seats are very comfortable and, living in Canberra, both the heating and ventilation features get a workout! The heated steering wheel is nice in the hands too.

The auto high-beam works pretty well with a good coverage in both dipped and high modes. The cruise control is adjustable in single kilometre increments although there is no adaptive cruise (same as all manual Hyundais).

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

Outstanding. I’ll address economy first.

Given this car’s purpose, I didn’t even consider economy when purchasing. Nor did I with its hatchback predecessor. However, the economy for the sedan has been rather surprising. After about 5500km of mostly around-town driving (admittedly in Canberra) the car has so far returned an 8.2L/100km average.

This compares with the hatch I previously owned with an identical drivetrain that had a 9.9L/100km return over its three-year life with me under the same driving conditions. So, either the trip computer in one or both cars is telling porkies (I never really checked the bowser to do the maths myself) or the new car is significantly more slippery.

Either way, the net result is I’m getting a little more range from a slightly smaller fuel tank in the sedan vs the hatch.

Much has been written about the performance of these cars already so not much to say. It’s a very linear engine with gobs of torque down low as is the case for most of this generation’s turbo motors. Despite all the talk about various turbo geometries eliminating lag it certainly still exists.

I owned an older Renault Sport Clio before stepping into N cars and I do still miss the instant throttle response (especially up on the cam!) of a good naturally aspirated engine but for day to day drivability and great roll on acceleration, the motor in these cars is great.

Being front-wheel drive there are still traction issues with first gear in particular giving axle tramp galore but once you’re rolling it’s all good.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

The driver and infotainment tech is right up there with expectations these days. However, I’ll address the negatives. No wireless CarPlay or Android Auto. Android Auto doesn’t take up the full widescreen (although hopefully a fix later this year should fix that).

It means that, for now, my effective AA screen is smaller than in the old hatch. AA is also incredibly laggy which I can’t understand given how smooth it was in my hatch.

The ability to customise the favourite button on the wheel and dash is great but the options are limited. For example, the button on the wheel can only be used for taking a voice memo or hanging up a phone call rather than being used to quickly switch screen modes.

Aside from those foibles it’s all good. The driver’s display is not as customisable as Volkswagen displays (no map option) but I love how driver-centric the information presented is. Having tyre pressures and oil and water temps on screen all at once with the centre rev counter is great.

I’d like to be able to get fuel economy on one of the N mode screens (you have to switch the entire car to one of the “normal” modes to see this info on the dash) but otherwise it’s great.

One thing that drew me to the hatch and that continues with the sedan are the customisation options. And the current Hyundai interface has only made it easier to save and recall custom settings with the ability to program the N buttons on the wheel to select one of the now two preset N Custom modes.

I love the central display can show all sorts of telemetry information including throttle and brake percentages, speed, revs, gear and G forces. Also the built-in lap timing for some Aussie tracks is excellent.

A shame you can’t download traces which would just be the icing on the cake.

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

Ride comfort is where the sedan has taken a big step forward over my old hatch. My hatch was one of the first batch that didn’t receive the local suspension tune and that, in conjunction with the next-generation chassis that the sedan possesses, has made a huge difference.

There are three suspension stiffness settings in N Performance cars. In the hatch I would always use the softest unless on track or really just wanting a bone-jarring experience. The middle setting the hatch also wasn’t differentiated enough to make it worth going to.

The sedan’s softest setting (Normal) however, is very comfortable. It’s actually gone too soft for me for daily driving (remembering I’m in Canberra and the roads aren’t universally terrible). So I’ve defaulted to the middle setting (Sport), and even the stiffest mode (Sport+) isn’t back-breaking so it’s nice to switch when having a bit of smooth-road fun.

Handling is very settled, it’s a bit more grown up than the hatch (not better or worse, just depends on your preference). I guess the longer wheelbase helps here as do the standard Michelin PS4 S tyres (rubbish P Zeros on the hatch). Turn in is very sharp but not as feelsome as the hatch was.

Overall a lovely car to drive that plays the Jekyll and Hyde part even better than the hatch did with it being more extreme on the Hyde side and perhaps not Dr Jekyll enough for some.

Do you have any additional comments about your car?

I managed to get this far without mentioning the noise. These things sound great.

In line with other aspects of the car I’d say the sound has matured a bit compared with the first-generation hatch but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a little less eager to pop and bang but it’s also less boomy, with a nicer gurgle on the overrun and I prefer the overall timbre.

It’s quieter inside the car but seems to be the same from outside and when it does bang it feels more natural than the hatch’s programmed sequence. At the end of the day you can turn the volume down, or in the intermediate setting, keep the volume but turn off the theatrics. It’s pretty excellent.

Overall a comfortable, quick car that’s engaging to drive with enough tech to keep the gadget nerds (like me) happy.

I give massive kudos to Hyundai Australia for fighting to bring the three-pedal variant to our shores. It’s quite possible it’ll be the last time we’ll be able to get an affordable, manual performance sedan in this country.

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Ratings
Overall8.5
Show Breakdown
Technology 8
Reliability 9.5
Ride & Handling 8.8
Price & Features 7.8
Purchase & Aftercare 8
Performance & Economy 9
Ownership Experience 8.5
Top Line Specs
8.2L
206kW
192g
Not tested
View all specifications