HOT hatchbacks and compact SUVs - two market segments that strike fear into the hearts of car designers and engineers. Why? Because they are packed with great cars and any manufacturer looking to enter either segment faces a truly formidable task.

Hyundai has already ticked the box marked ‘compact SUV’. The Kona is a good-looking soft-roader that’s fun to drive with the added reassurance of a class-leading warranty package.

Now it’s time for the hot hatch.

The i30N is the beginning of a new chapter in Hyundai’s corporate history - the first high performance car to be sold under the company’s new sporty N sub-brand. N is to Hyundai what M is to BMW.

But Hyundai has taken an interesting road with the i30N. Instead of chasing meaningless Nurburgring lap times it says the group’s first hot hatchback has been created to deliver exhilarating driving pleasure for everyone.

That’s pretty much the same brief VW’s engineers worked to when they created the original Golf GTi.

If the i30N can approach that’s car’s blend of pace and practicality then it will be very special indeed.

ON THE ROAD: Hyundai says the i30N will have accomplished its mission if its driver ends every journey with a contented grin. It describes the car as a ‘corner rascal’ and an ‘everyday sports car’ - a bit corny perhaps but I can see what they mean.

There’s nothing at all intimidating about the i30N. Some hot hatchbacks (step forward Honda Civic Type-R) are so freakish that they unnerve drivers unused to their performance before the starter button is pressed. If the Type-R were a person it would be a Samurai warrior in full battle regalia. The Hyundai, on the other hand, would talk quietly but carry a big stick.

It certainly has the performance: whether you choose the standard 247bhp version or the 276bhp Performance model they both have the same blown 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. On the road I suspect it will be hard to distinguish between the two, although the Performance model has a bit more torque and a wider spread which gives it a slight edge when accelerating. There’s also an overboost function for even more punch when you really need it.

Some rivals are quicker but does that really matter in a country with a 70 mph maximum speed limit? I think not. This car is all about the drive.

The N logo is said to symbolise a chicane. That’s why the i30N has been designed for poise, precision and feel above bar room braggadocio.

Naturally the steering and suspension have come in for some serious attention. The rack-mounted motor-drive power steering is very direct and the electronically-controlled suspenders can be tweaked from commuter comfortable to track day stiff. In comfort mode the i30N is a surprisingly good cruiser - wafting down the motorway without rattling your fillings - only the fruity exhaust note and the slightly elevated tyre roar remind you that this is a hot hatchback.

Switch to N-mode, however, and mild-mannered Dr Jeykll gives way to the ballistic Mr Hyde. Hyundai calls the Performance model’s front diff the ‘N Corner Carving Differential’ to aid traction on damp roads and through your favourite piece of sinuous B-road. You most likely won’t notice it in everyday driving but if you fancy a bit of trackday fun the diff will come into its own taming wheelspin and keeping a lid on torque steer, On the road the i30N feels like a Golf GTi - in a good way. It has the same pliancy over poor surfaces but not at the expense of back roads composure. You can drive it hard confident nothing will trip it up (not even ham-fisted driving thanks to the rev matching technology which blips the throttle on down changes with the panache of Stirling Moss at his best).

Hyundai says the brakes and clutch are designed for the rigors of the Nurburgring which bodes well for their longevity.

ON THE INSIDE: The deja vu continues inside. The cabin is nicely trimmed from quality materials and peerlessly assembled..

The perforated leather steering wheel feels great in the hands and has buttons for the various driving modes as well as the audio system. The digital instrument cluster has two analogue clocks and a multi-function colour display in-between.

I liked the stainless steel pedals and the large clutch foot rest is useful on long drives.

The ball-head gear lever is a none too subtle nod to the Golf.

The Intelligent Speed Limit Warning displays the speed limit in real time and recognise speed limit signs - handy if you're keen to avoid a fine and penalty points The navigation system display and the TFT cluster both show the speed limit information.

The bolstered sports seats are well-padded and have a very wide range of adjustment. The steering is reach and rake adjustable so finding a good driving position is easy.

WHAT DO YOU GET: The i30 N has a colour 5.0-inch or 8.0-inch touch screen which displays the N’s driving information such as iPS, torque and turbo boost as well as a lap and acceleration timer. It’s probably overkill when you’re on the road but a fun little feature.

More seriously, the N mode screen menu also offers customisable settings for the engine, suspension, steering, differential (in the Performance Package), transmission Rev matching, exhaust sound and stability control.

The i30 N includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Both systems enable users to connect their devices to deliver and control music, telephone or navigation functions on-screen.

There’s also a wireless inductive charging pad for mobile phones and seven-year free subscription to LIVE Services which serve up information in real time on the weather, traffic, speed cameras and online searches for points of interest. The speed cams and traffic warnings proved very useful. For the weather I tend to look out of the windscreen...


Despite the brace that runs between the rear suspension towers the i30N remains an eminently practical car. There’s a big boot (395 litres or 381 with the brace in place) and the rear seats fold for added space should you need to transport a dishwasher or a fridge. With everything folded the luggage capacity increases to 1,301 litres - a bit less if you don’t bother to remove the brace (which needs tools so you probably won’t).

RUNNING COSTS: Hyundai claims the 2.0-litre engine will return just under 40 mpg. Drive carefully and you should be able to achieve at least 45 mpg. That puts the i30N in the same ballpark as the Golf - and makes it considerably cheaper to run than the thirsty Civic.

VERDICT: Hyundai has nailed it first time out. The i30N is a genuine alternative to a Golf GTi. It feels great to drive but can just as easily slip into the role of family transport or motorway cruiser when you don’t feel the need for speed. A consummate all-rounder, then, and a real bargain at the price.

Hyundai i30N Price: £28,010

Spec: Engine: 2.0-litre, four cyl turbo Power: 276 bhp Torque: 378 NM Top speed: 155 mph 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds Fuel cons: 39.8 mpg(Official combined)