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Hyundai i30 N2.0 DCT is a class-leading hatchback in a competitive segment

Hyundai i30 N2.0 DCT is a class-leading hatchback in a competitive segment
PHOTO: sgCarMart

Facelift (What's new)

  • It now has 274bhp and 392Nm of torque
  • Tweaked head and taillights
  • More stylish daytime running lights
  • More pronounced twin tailpipes and bodykit
  • Comes with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission

Despite well-established competition in its segment, the Hyundai i30 N is a serious and sizzling hatchback that's close to being class-leading.

It's impossible to dislike the Hyundai i30 N.

See, while the regular Hyundai i30 is a competent car in its class, its nondescript disposition makes it easy to overlook. The i30 N, on the other hand, is feisty, fast and fun enough to leave you feeling like a kid who just experienced his first French kiss.

Make no mistake, just like how proper hot hatches are supposed to be, the Hyundai is a matured, memorable and mannerly hot hatchback that's hard to disregard.

In a sea of esteemed competition

That's also because the car now looks a lot more aggressive than before. Even though changes are minimal, they are thoroughly considered to ensure you don't need a keen eye to spot the differences. For instance, there are now arrowhead daytime running lights up front while the blacked out grille appears wider and more sinister-looking. Even the body kit and twin tailpipes appear more pronounced on first glance.

These small but effective changes put the i30 N ahead of peers such as the Honda Civic Type R, MINI JCW, Renault Megane RS and Volkswagen Golf GTI in terms of eye-catching looks.

And to further put the Korean car on par with the rest of the competition, it now comes with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission for the sake of convenience and ease of driving. Yes, many will lament how the i30 N should remain as a six-speed manual only, which helps to highlight its boy racer aspirations and soothe the pride of many bona fide enthusiasts, but driving the car with just two pedals on the track has proven that a dual-clutch automatic transmission is equally fun and capable.

Thankfully, you still get a proper handbrake - something you won't be able to find amongst the sea of esteemed competition in this segment — which means you can do silly turns around empty roads for the sake of fun and laughter to bring out your inner rally driver wannabe persona.

One turn to another, apex to apex

But such an old school feature shouldn't bother you at all simply because the i30 N is more than capable of bringing fun and laughter in other ways, especially when you're at the track with one.

Around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, the Korean hot hatch displays excellent driving mannerisms around all 14 turns. You could throw it around with reckless abandon and have leeway for errors and the car still manages to exhibit confidence, calmness and conviction.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with the fact that the i30 N has razor sharp steering, sound driving dynamics, responsive engine as well as strong braking power. The car sheds speed rapidly and steadily as you brake hard and approach a corner and you could do so very late and still manage to power out with ease to the next bend.

And because the chassis is so tight and taut, lateral movements are well-controlled, even at very high speeds and rash handling. Needless to say, this is accompanied with all the riotous soundtrack that will make your hair stand and your heart drop.

On the straights, the full force of 274bhp and 392Nm of twisting force from the 2.0-litre four-pot turbocharged powerplant can be felt here. On paper it hits the 100km/h from nought in 5.5 seconds, but it feels quicker in real-world driving, thanks to instantaneous cog changes from the dual-clutch gearbox. As such, with all the stability and machismo the i30 N is capable of, it's genuinely easy to be impressed and addicted.

One-sided affair

In fact, it's so addictive and fun that I drove 20 laps round the track non-stop with the car. The only reason why the fun had to end was because the car ran out of fuel, which is why it's safe to say that the Hyundai i30 N is up there with the top-tier hot hatches on the track, as I've experienced.

However, this could be a slightly one-sided affair, considering I only drove the car hard on a race track. As to how it performs daily on public roads, I guess only an in-depth test drive would give us some answers. But if one were to guess based on the entire time I was with the car, the i30 N may be less polished compared to the Golf GTI as a daily driver.

While the Korean may be undoubtedly more dynamic and engaging, it does come across as a tad less sophisticated compared to the German's cult car. It has more hard plastics here compared to the GTI, lacks the brand recognition and feels less premium in general.

But where it lacks, the i30 N more than makes up for them with the 380-litre boot space, partial suede bucket seats and nice light blue stitching all around the cabin.

If you know, you know...

Of course, many will think that the Hyundai i30 N lacks desirability and resale value compared to its competition, but we shouldn't forget that the main objective of a hot hatch is being able to provide serious thrills and enjoyable performance easily. And for that, the Korean hasn't failed.

Truth be told, the hot hatch exceeded my expectations in more ways than one. For the very specific actuality that Hyundai can transform a regular family hatchback into something as entertaining and enjoyable like the i30 N says a lot about how far the carmaker has come. Plus, just knowing how understated the car is makes it that much more desirable. It's that sort of car if people know, they know. You need not show, explain or talk about it. And to me, that's what it's all about.

Which is why it's impossible to dislike the Hyundai i30 N.

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This article was first published in sgCarMart.

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