Hyundai’s hot hatch!

i30 N breaks cover: First pics of Hyundai’s Golf GTI fighter

WE’VE READ about it, written about it, heard it and even driven the prototype, but here it is, the final production version of the Hyundai i30 N, the first serious hot hatch challenger from Korea.

As the debut product from Hyundai’s standalone N performance division (N stands for Hyundai’s Namyang home base), it’s responsible for changing perceptions of a brand traditionally known for value and reliability rather than white-knuckle, hair-raising performance.

Developed under the watch of Hyundai (and Kia’s) performance car boss Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW, the i30 N will be available in two flavours. Both feature a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the base car producing 184kW at 6000rpm and 353Nm from 1450- 4000rpm, the Performance Package adding an extra 16kW and developing its maximum torque over a wider 1450-4700rpm range.

A six-speed manual is initially the only available transmission with an eight-speed wet-clutch auto not expected until 2020. Both variants manage a limited top speed of 250km/h and launch control allows the base car to clock 0-100km/h in 6.4sec with the Performance Package shaving 0.2sec from that time thanks to its extra power and shorter gearing.

However, hot hatches are rarely about straight-line performance and Hyundai claims the i30 N has been developed with three ‘Fun to Drive’ cornerstones in mind: Corner Rascal, Everyday Sports Car and Race Track Capability. Altering the car’s personality is possible via buttons on the left of the steering wheel or through the centre touchscreen, with drivers able to adjust the engine response, steering weight, suspension stiffness, ESC leniency and revmatching system.

An ‘N Mode’ immediately switches everything to its most aggressive setting while an ‘N Custom’ mode allows a favourite combination of settings to be saved and recalled at the press of a button. The Performance Package offers even greater configurability thanks to its electronically-controlled limited-slip differential and variable exhaust valves, which offers plenty of pops and crackles on the overrun.

Final kerb weight hovers around the 1450kg mark but is not yet confirmed and varies depending on the variant selected. The standard i30 N wears 18 x 7.5-inch wheels and 225/40 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres while the Performance Package upgrades to 19 x 8.0-inch wheels wearing 235/35 Pirelli P Zeros, allowing it to run a bigger brake package identified by red brake calipers.

Helping the i30 N stand out from its more sensible siblings is a full bodykit, including new front and rear bumpers, side skirts and rear spoiler as well as black mirrors. Six exterior colours are available, the hero Performance Blue, shared with Hyundai’s i20 WRC cars, as well as Clean Slate, Polar White, Micron Grey, Phantom Black and Engine Red.

Inside there’s a new steering wheel, high performance seats in a choice of suede or leather and an electronic instrument cluster with shift lights.

We’ll get our first taste of the finished product later this year with first deliveries expected in early 2018. Pricing is yet to be confirmed but Hyundai is looking for the two variants to straddle the $40,000 mark; based on our promising first impressions of the prototype, the i30 N could give the establishment a strong shake. Look out Golf GTI. – SN