Has the Volkswagen Golf GTI finally met its match?
Hyundai's sedate SUVs, sedans and hatchbacks haven't set our pulses racing in the past. Imagine our surprise, then, when it was revealed that the Korean carmaker was working on a hot hatch to rival the established titan of the segment, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, as part of Hyundai's new N performance division. After months of teasing, Hyundai has now revealed the much-anticipated i30 N, and while the humble styling doesn't set our pulses racing compared to the Honda Civic Type R, the driver-focused features and potent performance certainly does.
Korea's answer to the Golf GTI comes in two flavors. Both are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged unit mated to a six-speed manual gearbox – the only transmission available to satisfy enthusiasts. It even has a rev matching function for smoother shifting. The entry-level model packs 247-horsepower and hits 0-62 mph in 6.4 seconds. Opt for the Performance Pack, and the power output is bumped up to 271-hp while the 0-62 mph time is reduced to 6.2 seconds. Both have a top speed of 155 mph and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Performance Pack also adds an electronic limited-slip differential, beefier brakes, 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tires, a lower ride height and a variable exhaust valve system.
The Hyundai i30 N has been designed to be driver-focused for the track, yet practical and fun to drive for everyday commuting. Dedicated buttons on the wheel allow the driver to select five different driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, N, and N Custom, which adjusts the dampers, steering weight, and throttle response. Hyundai says the i30 N went through over 10,000 km (6,213 miles) of testing at the Nurburgring and the Electronic Controlled Suspension reduces roll and enhances cornering speed, so you can be confident about its cornering capabilities. Hyundai's first hot hatch sounds suitably aggressive, too. At the push of a button, the exhaust pops and crackles like the i30 rally car.
The "Performance Blue" paint shown in the reveal photos was also inspired by the WRC car, though you can also have it finished in red, white, grey, or black. Along with Hyundai's signature cascading grille, the exterior is enhanced with aggressive-looking front and rear bumpers and a rear spoiler. Inside, the driver-focused features continue with a model-specific wheel, sports seats, and a digital instrument cluster with a shift timing indicator. "The Hyundai i30 N has been developed for no other purpose than to deliver maximum driving fun to our customers in an accessible high-performance package," said Albert Biermann, Executive Vice President Performance Development and High Performance Vehicle Division.
"With the high-performance N models we will enhance our brand's appeal with emotional products that cater to the needs of people who love to have a smile on their face when they drive their car on a winding road and listen to the sound of the engine. That's why we measure high-performance in BPM, heart beats per minute instead of only RPM." Pricing for the i30 N has yet to be announced, but expect it to undercut its hot hatch rivals. Sadly, it won't be coming Stateside, but will launch in Europe later this year. Has Hyundai done enough to sway you away from the Golf GTI and Civic Type R?