Car Reviews

2020 Hyundai i30N Fastback Road Test

What is the Hyundai i30 Fastback N?

The Hyundai i30 is a medium-sized hatchback which is front drive and has five doors. Hyundai’s “N” brand is their high-performance arm, so it’s their equivalent of BMW M, Mercedes AMG and the like. The Fastback is Hyundai’s term for a car with a more sloping back than a hatch, so the i30 Fastback N is a faster, performance-oriented i30 in a sloping-rear style.
 
The Fastback has 12% more boot space than the hatch, and the drag coefficient is improved from 0.32 to 0.29, so presumably, it has a fractionally higher top speed. However, the Fastback is around 12kg heavier, and 120mm longer on the same platform, including wheelbase.
 
Here’s a comparison:
 
Hyundai is very serious about their performance arm. They have N-Line cars which are basically standard cars with a few cosmetic fripperies, plus better tyres, sports modes, upgraded front brakes and retuned suspension – which to be fair is more effort than some others put into alleged sports cars.
 
But the i30 N cars are seriously different from the base i30s. For example, the engine. The best you get out of the other i30s is 150kW, the N runs 202kW. There’s entirely different suspension, brakes, geometry, seats, front differential, exhaust, even a strut brace at the back and more…basically, the N is a proper re-engineering job, not a bolt-on-and-badge effort. I’d also like to congratulate Hyundai on not putting a silly tab at the top of the steering wheel, or making it flat bottomed. We’ll publish a detailed N tech explanation later.
 
We had our Fastback N on test for nine days, and in that time we did daily driving and office commutes, an untimed track session at Phillip Island, a cruise from Melbourne to Canberra and back, and an untimed track session at Wakefield Park as part of the first annual Hyundai Festival of N.
 
 

What does the Hyundai i30 Fastback N cost and what do you get?

The N range starts with the i30 N, to which you can add a Luxury Pack. Then there’s the Fastback, which also can be optioned with a Luxury Pack. Here are the prices, exclusive of on-road costs:
  • i30N – $44,588
  • i30N Luxury Pack $47,686
  • i30 Fastback N $46,133
  • i30 Fastback N Luxury $49,261
What you get for that money is all the usual features you’d expect from a modern hatchback, with notable ones being tyre pressure monitoring, LED lights, a reversing camera with both front and rear sensors, an 8.0-inch screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and some safety features we’ll cover later.  But a big part of the price is all the true hot-hatch and performance engineering described above. 
 
There’s a track timer, but like most of them, it’s useless because you have to manually press a button when you complete a lap. When you’re chasing tenths that’s far too inaccurate, so I wait for the day there’s a car lap timer based on a GPS-located point in time that updates automatically. Or just use a phone app.
 
Here’s an overview of what you get if you spend up for the Luxury pack:
  • Pushbutton start (standard cars have keys, remember those?)
  • Suede/leather seats
  • Heated seats/wheel
  • Driver’s seat memory, 12-way
  • LED courtesy & puddle lights
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Auto dip lights
  • Wireless chargepad for your phone
The warranty is 7 years unlimited km which is industry best, and the N cars also have a five-year track warranty. That’s frankly amazing and a huge reason to buy the car, as well as a massive vote of confidence by Hyundai in their own product.
 
Our test car did not have the Luxury Pack, so we’ll speculate a bit. Is that list worth $2098 and a bit more weight? It’s really your call, but it’s not a bad feature list for not too much extra cash.

What’s the Hyundai i30 Fastback N interior like?

It’s much like any other i30 or modern Hyundai, which means it’s very well laid out, practical, and looks cohesively stylish if not as chic and cool as some of the high-end Euro competitors. 
 
 
Hyundai gets a lot right with their interiors that others get wrong. For example, the door pockets are deep, usable and easy to access for drinks holders. The centre control drinks holders are positioned to minimise interference with the gear shift. There’s a proper left foot rest. All the controls are easy to discover, see, and operate – amazing how often that’s not the case. There’s no overuse of touchscreens, so you don’t need to be fiddling through menus to find things that should be one-touch buttons or dials, notably the heat/cool controls. The steering wheel has quite a few controls, but they’re all well laid out. The rear is spacious, the boot is huge and there’s a space-saver spare, much better than a goo kit.  Basically, the i30N is a super practical hatchback so it’s a really easy vehicle to live with.
 
 

What is the Hyundai i30 Fastback N like to drive around town?

You’ve got two choices. Leave the N in Normal mode and it’s pretty similar to any other i30, except slightly sharper handling, more power and a larger turning circle. But if you configure it for its sporting settings, then you’ve got a punchy hot hatch that just makes life better every time you go near it. In particular, the throttle response and front diff make a difference to the sharpness of the drive. The good news is you can set the throttle to sharp, the exhaust to quiet and suspension to soft, unlike some cars where your sport modes come with everything you want and some things you don’t.
 
While the N is lowered 8mm from standard, that’s not too low to be a problem on average driveways and drains. The turning circle is large at 11.6, and it takes only 2.14 turns of the wheel to go from lock to lock. A normal i30 turns in 10.6m, and uses 2.57 turns. However, the reduced manoeuvrability isn’t much of a problem in reality. There is a reversing camera with parking lines that move when you turn – it’s okay, but in 2019 a higher resolution screen wouldn’t go amiss.
 
Some owners may be put off by the manual-only transmission, but let me offer some thoughts on why you shouldn’t reject the car out of hand on that basis. First, it’s an easy drive, good clutch feel with a positive and precise gear action. Second, there’s a powerful engine and six speeds to choose from. So there’s no need to go 1-2-3-4-5-6 and down again, you can skip shift for example 1-3, 1-2-4, 1-2-3-6 or pretty much any other combination. It’ll also lug nicely in 3rd. Finally, there’s the rev-matching on downshift which you can select on and off. For lovers of heel’n’toe shifting that makes your skill redundant, but it does mean an easier drive for others, and even for suburban drives it’s nice to have for many people.
 
 
I really enjoyed the N around town. The power, slick gearshift, N-mode friskiness when you want it, taking advantage of the occasional fast entry into a roundabout, lots of practical space for daily chores…loved it, can definitely see one in my life. As I’ve said before, if you’ve got to do boring around-town errands you may as well have fun doing it, and for me, the N is a great mix of driving enjoyment and practicality. Even like the way extra cornering lights come on around sharper corners. It is easily possible to overwhelm the traction of the front tyres even in the dry, but that’s good…you want a car with more power than traction as the other way around is boring. And the electronics don’t jump in and bodyslam you to the ground which is good to not feel.
 
It should be noted that the N runs on 95RON, not 98, unlike many of its competitors. A small but handy running cost-saving, but I think at 50L the tank is a fraction small, I’d prefer 60. Or I could drive slower I suppose, in an alternate reality.

What is the Hyundai i30 Fastback N like to drive on rural roads?

On the freeway the N is a very easy drive. Comfy, powerful, pretty quiet and lots of convenience features. One of the more comfortable cars I’ve driven interstate, and that’s certainly not something you say of many sports cars. I switched the lane departure warning/lane keep assist on along the Hume, and it’s good enough to self-steer the car for most of the time – not that it should be used for that purpose.
 
Into the fast and twisty stuff and the N is great car – the suspension is compliant, power is aplenty, the gearshift is precise, and out of corners the diff does a good job of putting power to the ground. I’m not particularly enthused about the 19″ wheels, I think I’d prefer lighter, higher-profile 18s or even 17s which would look just as good and handle as well, and maybe just not have the suspension work quite as hard as it needs to.
 

What is the Hyundai i30 Fastback N like to drive on track?

How safe is the Hyundai i30 Fastback N?

The entire i30 range has a 5-star ANCAP rating. 
 
The spare tyre is a space-saver, not ideal but the boot is spacious so you could always take a full-sized spare and still have plenty of room left. For active safety you have Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), otherwise known as AEB, lane keep assist, a reversing camera, front/rear parking sensors, and a tyre pressure monitoring system which actually tells you the pressure of each tyre. 
 
This is a decent array of safety features, so consider the safety box ticked!
 
 

What are the alternatives to the Hyundai i30 Fastback N?

Assuming potential buyers want a budget sportscar, then you’ve got three basic classes to choose from. There’s the dedicated sports coupe such as the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, Mazda MX-5 and Ford Mustang which have the advantage of rear-drive fun. 
 
Then there’s the full-size hot hatches and sedans which is the i30N’s class, for example, the Golf GTi, Honda Civic Type R, Renault Megane and Subaru WRX/WRX STi, with a sub-class of small hatches such as the Fiesta ST and Swift Sport. And then, above the budget of the N but still a hatch are the hyperhatches, such as the Mercedes-Benz AMG A45 and Audi RS3.
 
The sports coupe cars certainly look more sporty, and being rear-drive offer a different experience to the front-drive i30N which cannot match the sharp dynamics of the 86/BRZ or MX-5, although I prefer the Hyundai over the Mustang for any quick driving. However, the N beats all three for practicality with five doors and seats, huge boot and general liveability – the N could be your family car, the others not so much, although the Mustang is big but compromised by a three-star safety rating.
 
If you do need the practicality of a hatch then you have to decide what size you want. The Swift and the ST are fantastic cars, cheaper than the bigger hatches, and as they’re lighter they’re more fun to drive with a chuckability the heavier cars cannot match. The only downside is the size, and as they lack power you’ll find that while 0-100km/h acceleration is quick, adding speed past 150km/h is a struggle.
 
Compared to its direct hot hatch competitors the N doesn’t appear as hardcore as say the hotter Meganes or the Type R, but in reality, I think that’s a case of Korean wolf in a disguise of blue. Chasing other, faster cars at Phillip Island wasn’t a problem, and for me, the true hot-hatch speed differentiator is acceleration out of low-speed corners and I think the front diff couldn’t possibly do anymore unless the laws of physics are changed. So for performance and handling, I’d put the N high up against any direct competitor, and it’d also do very well on the interior and practicality, before landing a clear win on pricing and warranty.

However, if you want the ultimate mix of performance, style, practicality, and luxury then the hyperhatches are the go, but you’ll need to pay a lot for the privilege. They are also all-wheel-drive, as they need to be for the power and that’s different to, and in my view more fun than front-drive.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N Pricing and Specs

PRICE $46,133 + orc WARRANTY 7 years/unlimited km including non-competitive track driving ENGINE 2.0l twin-scroll turbo 4cyl petrol POWER 202kW at 6000rpm TORQUE 353Nm at 1500-4700rpm; 378Nm with overboost from 1750 rpm to 4200  TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual DRIVE front-wheel drive with electronic LSD DIMENSIONS 4455mm (l); 1795mm (w exc mirrors); n/a (w inc mirrors); 1447mm (h) TURNING CIRCLE 11.6m  KERB WEIGHT 1441kg SEATS FUEL TANK 50 litres SPARE Space saver THIRST 8.0 l/100km combined cycle FUEL Petrol 95 RON
 

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
The Hyundai i30 Fastback N builds on the solid practicality of the popular i30 and adds a lot of very well designed and engineered performance features to score high on all four hot hatch criteria - it's quick, fun, built for motorsport and the pricing is as sharp as the handling. Anyone in the market for a performance car at this price bracket needs to have the N cars high up on their list.
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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper