Occasionally in this job you can drive a car without driving it at all.
No, I’m not referring to some prototype autonomous system, rather circumstances dictate that you can get behind the wheel of a new model, yet be little wiser about what it’s actually like to drive.
Personally, the Hyundai i30 N is the perfect example. I’ve actually driven it twice: once on a go-kart track during WRC Rally Australia last year and then again at Winton during this year’s Bang For Your Bucks testing. So if you asked me what an i30 N is like to drive I could give you an answer in a very specific set of circumstances, but if you wanted to know what it’s like to drive on the road, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be much help.
In six months’ time, however, hopefully I’ll be able to tell you all that and more, as Hyundai’s new hottie has joined the MOTOR garage for an extended stay. For now, let’s cover the basics.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which produces 202kW at 6000rpm and 353Nm from 1750-4200rpm, with 378Nm available from 1750-4200rpm on overboost for 18 seconds at a time. It’s perfectly square (86.0mm by 86.0mm), runs a 9.5:1 compression ratio and requires 95RON fuel.
A six-speed manual is the only gearbox for now, though Hyundai is working on a dual-clutch, and power is fed to the front wheels through an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip diff – no brake-activated faux-LSD nonsense here!
Suspension is MacPherson Strut front and multi-link rear with adaptive dampers all ’round and the wheels are 19 by 8.0-inch wearing 235/35 Pirelli P Zeros developed specifically for the i30 N (hence the ‘HN’ code on the sidewalls).
The steering is electrically assisted and stopping power comes courtesy of ventilated discs (345mm front, 314mm rear) with single-piston calipers at both ends, which Hyundai claims are sufficient to repeatedly haul the 1429kg i30 N up on track.
Overseas, a ‘base’ i30 N exists sans diff (along with smaller wheels, brakes, less power and no overboost) but after much deliberation Hyundai Oz decided to just offer the one mechanical specification with varying levels of interior kit.
‘My’ i30 N is as base as they come, its vivid Engine Red paint job (the best colour to my eyes) one of three solid colours, the others being Polar White and the Performance Blue hero colour. Opt for grey, slate or black and you’ll need an extra $495.
The $3000 Luxury Pack brings plenty of extra goodies, including heated 12-way power adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel, park assist, keyless entry and go, wireless phone charging, auto-fold mirrors, rear privacy glass and more. Add another $2000 and you’ll score a panoramic glass sunroof. Will we miss this stuff? Time will tell.
Happily, all the juicy mechanical bits are present and correct and it’s these bits we’re most interested in putting to the test over the next six months on road and track. There’s a lot to unpack, as the i30 N’s tremendous configurability – there are multiple settings for its engine response, rev matching, LSD, exhaust, suspension, steering and ESC – means there is a total of 1944 different combinations that can be saved to its ‘N Mode’ button.
To spend one minute in each you’d need to drive for more than 32 hours, which is one way to pass the time on a trip from Melbourne to Cairns. That’s not on the agenda, but plenty of other things are.
Love it or hate it? Only time will tell on MOTOR long-term reviews
2018 Hyundai i30 N Pros & Cons
Three things we're excited for:
1 - Track time
2 - Pops ’n’ bangs
3 - Heel ’n’ toe
Three things we're nervous for:
1 - Lack of smart key
2 - Ride quality
3 - Liking it too much