Hyundai unveiled the first sports car produced under its new “N” performance brand mid-July – a hot-hatch dubbed the i30 N – and after spending 10,000 development kilometers on the Nurburgring Nordschleife, it looks poised to take on Volkswagen’s Golf GTI and Ford’s Focus ST.
Why the letter N? Hyundai says ‘N’ stands for Namyang, home to Hyundai’s global R&D Centre in Korea, and also for the Nürburgring, where Hyundai has a permanent European test centre.
The i30 N will apply Hyundai’s proven modus operandi of offering more features for less money to edge out the competition. It starts under the hood with 246 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque on tap, capable of sending the car to 100 km/h in a respectable – and Golf GTI-matching – 6.4 seconds.
An optional Performance Package increases engine output to 271 horsepower, allowing the i30 N to sprint to 100 in only 6.1 seconds, shaving three tenths off the benchmark GTI’s acceleration time.
All this power is generated by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, which achieves its maximum torque output from only 1,450 rpm, meaning the i30 N will feel very responsive during urban driving. A variable-exhaust-valve system and an on-board sound generator are tuned to enhance the car’s engine note, particularly when pressing on.
Fully uncorked, Hyundai says its new hot-hatch can hit 250 km/h.
The i30 N sends its power to the front wheels through a manual six-speed transmission—the only gearbox on offer. An advanced electronic limited-slip differential (E-LSD) limits inside-wheel slippage on acceleration out of corners, meaning the car can grip-and-go, even on wet or snow-covered roads.
While it’s clear the i30 N has all the basics nailed down, it doesn’t end there. The new sports hatch comes equipped with launch control, rev-matching, and solenoid valve-based variable suspension tuning, which allows drivers to firm or soften the vehicle’s suspension at the touch of a button.
Further adjustability comes compliments of the car’s five driving modes, Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom, which alter the engine, dampers, electronic stability control, E-LSD, engine sound, steering and rev-matching to modify the vehicle’s character and performance.
On the i30 N’s exterior, aerodynamic elements such as the front splitter and the rear wing spoiler reduce lift and help the car achieve a good aero-balance.
The i30 N comes with sticky Michelin sport tires wrapped on 18-inch wheels, while the Performance Package adds Pirelli tires wrapped on 19-inch rims.
The interior of the vehicle has not been overlooked, and features a thicker-rimmed steering wheel, leather and cloth sport seats, and plenty of aesthetic touches to remind the occupants they’re sitting in a rather special hatchback.
Hyundai says in the development of this car, engineers and test drivers focused on driver enjoyment rather than outright speed.
“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,” says Albert Biermann, head of Hyundai’s N division, and former head of BMW M.
“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, heartbeats per minute, instead of only RPM.”
If the i30 N’s proportions look familiar to you, they should—the i30 is badged as the Elantra GT this side of the Pacific.
Unfortunately, Hyundai has not announced any plans to bring its new sports car to Canadian shores, though if enough enthusiasm is shown amongst Canadian owners and fans of the brand, we suspect this hot-hatch could eventually find its way into local dealerships, badged as the Elantra N.