A fast car can earn a brand respect, but it can also earn it a lot of money. Take these examples.
Mercedes-Benz has its AMG-Line. Volkswagen its R-Line. And Ford its ST-Line. They’re strategies that transpose the style of its faster cars on slower ones to boost their appeal. In the same vein, and perhaps after fewer hero cars, Hyundai has forged the i30 N-Line from its full-blooded N.
As a crucial step between its regular and performance car range, its new warm hatch replaces the old SR model and capitalises on its relation to the N by mimicking its style and, as Hyundai’s marketers would like you think, its performance.
How so? It still retains the SR’s turbocharged 1.6-litre inline four and multi-link suspension arrangement but upgrades its rubber from Hankook to Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 S. The suspension’s been retuned as well.
At first glance, the N-Line visually apes its full blooded brother with amazing similarity. Its front bumper is almost a one-for-one replica, with vented channels on its sides and a spec front lip. Just ignore the blocked off grilles.
The rear apron is the same deal, with N-style dual exhaust tips in place of the single-side arrangement in Europe. The only visible difference is it swaps out the functional diffuser for a fake one.
Elsewhere the GTI-esque red accents and badges (the only things that identify an N from N-Line quickly) have been rinsed off and it rides on new, interesting looking 18-inch wheels.
Meanwhile, inside, it borrows the N’s steering wheel (minus the mode buttons) and restyles its seat trim. The extensive red stitching and colours are also a constant reminder it’s trying to fool you it’s an N turned down by a few notches.
Now that might be closer to the truth when you tick the box for a six-speed manual transmission. Ours packs a seven-speed dual clutch that adds another 44kg to the manual’s 1315kg kerb weight figure.
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Still, the DCT’s rated to handle the engine’s full 150kW/265Nm and in reality the N-Line charges forward with meaningful pace, shifting swiftly (and automatically) when revs reach 6000rpm or just beyond it.
The sound that follows is largely uninspiring, only transforming from a muffled buzz to a throatier thrum when you engage Sport mode.
Luckily, its cornering abilities are more entertaining. The steering is fluid, nicely weighted and precise, while that rear multi-link suspension arrangement combines with good tyre grip to poise the chassis from turn-in and up until its cornering limits.
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Mark downs? The brakes are fairly weak, but offer good feel, and things only get scrappy under power when the open-diff lets the inside wheel spin. The steering’s prone to kick back even on the unloaded wheel as well.
But as far as warm hatches go the i30 N-Line is as involving and unflappable as they come. It blends performance and comfort together well, and bolsters these strengths with a welcome cabin flair and handsome looks.
Of course, we’d always recommend the $39,990 full blown N if you have the money, but the $13K discount on the manual N-Line, or $10K for the automatic, is attractive for the budget conscious.
Hyundai might have hastily watered down its hero car's brand for cash, but it a welcome addition.
2019 HYUNDAI i30 N-LINE SPECS
Engine: 1591cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 7.2sec (claimed)