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Hyundai i30 N: Performance Car of the Year 2019 - 5th place

By David Morley, 08 Mar 2019 Performance COTY

Performance Car of the Year 2019 5th place Hyundai i30 N feature

Grunt-packed hatch fails to overpower the podium

So, we all know that this is PCOTY where value for money and everyday practicality count for less than they do at Bang For Your Bucks or even a MOTOR comparison. Which means the Hyundai i30 N can’t hope to trade on its hatchback smarts and its everyman price tag.

Well, not entirely anyway. But we say those factors still come into this which is how the humble hot hatch managed to jag a spot in PCOTY in the first place. And this was no wildcard entry; nope, the Hyundai got here by also being a damn fine performance car.

If you can remember a time when a local 5.0-litre V8 muscle car made 200kW (on a good day) then the Hyundai’s 202kW from 2.0 litres will leave you making underwater fish faces. Modern turbocharging and electronic management of everything from the injection to the valve timing has also meant that a 2.0-litre making 202kW is no longer a cammy, cranky hand-held flare that needs to be revved stupid.

In fact, if anything, the Hyundai’s engine is almost tuned a bit too far to the conservative side of things. As in, it’s all done and dusted by about 5800rpm and it genuinely lacks the top-end surge of, say, the Renault Megane RS.

But that’s on the track; on the road where it’s all about mid-range and flexibility, the Hyundai is a revelation. Punch the throttle to the floor – doesn’t matter what gear you’re in – and the N simply bolts. Not only does it have more peak poke than those old-school muscle cars, it also has more of everything else, everywhere else.

The lack of a two-pedal option will hurt the i30 N’s sales (there’s a double-clutch job heading for the market in the latter part of this year), but it surely doesn’t hurt the car itself. Nope, the six-speed manual has great ratios, a slick shift and an easy-to-manage clutch action that reminds us all why manual boxes were once the performance go-to.

In any case, the combo is good enough to hustle the slightly porky little i30 (1429kg) to 100km/h in 6.25 seconds and across 400m in 14.3sec at 164.3km/h. It pulls up hard, too, needing just 33.8m from 100km/h despite the fact that it isn’t sporting the Brembos suggested by the red paint. The lap time of 1:37.3 is shaped by a degree of chattery understeer that sets in as you get braver. But the price people, the price.

Again, this is PCOTY, not Aldi, so the dollars are less important. Which is why the Hyundai finished fifth and not higher. Things is, though, even if this was a $60K car, it’d still make you think about your definition of performance.

Finding 2019's best in Performance Car of the Year 2019

The Numbers

2019 HYUNDAI I30 N SPECS:
Engine: 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 202kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 353Nm @ 1450-4700rpm
Weight: 1429kg
0-100km/h: 6.25sec
0-400m: 14.29sec @ 164.26km/h
The Bend lap time: 1min 37.3sec
Price: $43,485

Judge's Rank

Dylan Campbell - 6th 
"Great fun. If a Golf GTI and Focus RS had a baby..."

Louis Cordony - 7th
"Nails its brief brilliantly. Could lap it all day."

David Morley - =3rd
"Puts the rest of Planet Hot Hatch firmly on notice."

Scott Newman - 5th
"The Goldilocks hot hatch. Just right. Places here on merit."

Rick Kelly - 3rd 
"A really enjoyable little performance car. I’m impressed."

PCOTY 2019 Scoring

Judges DC LC RK DM SN Total
Performance 14 10 16 16 15 71
Dynamics 17.5 12.5 16 15 18 79
Accessibility 8 8.5 9 8 9.5 43
Liveability 8 7 9 9 8 41
Value 8.5 7 10 9 8 42.5
X Factor 8.5 7.5 2 7 6 31
Total 64.5 52.5 62 64 64.5 307.5