Korea’s Volkswagen Golf GTI rival has been given a facelift and all-new dual-clutch transmission to level the playing field.

We haven’t had much time to properly digest the swathe of running changes Hyundai has introduced over the past few years let alone what’s yet to come. It delivered a stonking good family SUV with the latest Santa Fe, a genre-bending new rival in the new Tucson that’s coming, and a genuine VW Golf GTI alternative that looks to be notching up loyal cult-following fans. 

Yet the South Korean giant doesn’t sleep, revealing an evolutionary but important facelift refresh for its hot i30 N hatch and fastback. It looks better, packs in even better tech and brings a more potent drivetrain with all-new eight-speed dual-clutch auto transmission, painstakingly tuned by the Namyang N Division. It will finally level the playing field with its arch-nemesis the Golf GTI.

And the reason it took so long to bring an auto is simple: Hyundai wants it to be the best.

While pricing has edged up correspondingly over the last years for the hot hatch, this remains one of the segments most notable and recommended players. It still has a sharp price and a warranty that extends to track use, so the appeal for many auto-only buyers will be telling when the new model lands in Australia by mid-2020. We think it’ll be May 2021 at earliest.

It is an important step despite sales volume for the i30 N being competitive as a manual-only affair. In contrast, VW’s Golf GTI dropped a manual transmission choice to be auto-only; Honda’s Civic Type R is a stick shift only and Ford’s Focus ST plays on both side of the auto/manual game, along with Renaults Megane R.S.

So Hyundai will be looking to build a monopoly with its already strong image, the new i30 N bringing restyled LED headlights and a new ‘V-shaped’ signature in them. Upfront, the lower section of the bumper also features new side fins that go beyond just looks by improving aero efficiency. Around at the rear, a new roof-mounted spoiler looks the business, as does the triangular brake light and new LED lamps feature over the top of larger twin exhausts. 

Inside the changes are more substantial with a new 10.25-inch infotainment system, which continues to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On this, the i30 N’s adjustable driving modes have new settings to tweak the engine, exhaust and steering. There are also new trims, sports seats and other additions.

We see the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine underneath the bonnet, but with an increase in power from 204kW to 207kW, while torque is up by 39Nm to a total of 392Nm. Almost 400Nm from a Korean-made 2.0L, who would have thought this was possible 10 years ago?

The six-speed manual continues as the standard ‘box, and the new DCT looks to be an enticing option. It is equipped with ‘N Power Shift’ that has quicker upshifts and ‘N Grin Shift’ that puts all of the i30 N’s parameters into their most aggressive setting for 20 seconds for an instant hit of performance.

Elsewhere there will further tweaks to the chassis and handling, with increased rigidity.

While it’s a way off, eight or so months will fly past, and we’re looking forward to seeing how this relatively new hot hatch fares with a clutchless auto next to the helm.

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Alex Rae

Alex Rae brings almost two decades’ experience, previously working at publications including Wheels, WhichCar, Drive/Fairfax, Carsales.com.au, AMC, Just Cars, and more.

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