Hyundai i30 Fastback N Track Review
We take a Hyundai i30 Fastback N to two very different racetracks…
The Hyundai i30 Fastback N is a proper motorsport car, so it was only appropriate to test it on proper racetracks, as well as the usual roadtest. We started with some laps at Phillip Island using the car as a demonstrator at a Come and Try Day, then some more focused speedwork at Wakefield Park Raceway as part of the Hyundai Festival of N.
The Island is a high-speed track with several 4th and 5th gear corners, a smooth surface and no significant kerbs, whereas Wakefield is much slower and tighter with two second-gear corners and the rest thirds, with a rougher surface and greater use of kerbs. The two tracks are a really good contrast.
It didn’t take long to discover that the N is quick, predictable, vice-free, fun and safe on track. There’s enough power to keep up with or beat other cars in its class, with the speed still building nicely when over 200km/h at the Island. I’d prefer a little more build to the maximum power as reaching the rev limit is a bit of an anti-climax – that’s the overboost function coming in which works only in the lower rev ranges. On the other hand, the broad power band gives gear flexibility in corners.
Brakes are simply superb – more on how they work in a Tech Explainer coming soon – not only is the feel good, they don’t fade. Downchanges are easy and pleasurable, and you can either heel’n’toe shift or use the revmatch feature which is easily switched on and off by a steering wheel button, or configured for defaults in the settings. Because the brake feel is precise you can modulate trail braking nicely to help rotate the car into the corner, and it will lift an inside rear wheel a little too on entry. Steering is accurate, not the best ever for feedback, but it’s very direct so tiny changes of pressure on the wheel make a difference. The steering wheel itself is nicely sized and easy to hold, with all the buttons well out of the way, and the seating position has plenty of range for adjustment.
Past the apex and the front diff maximises the post-apex corner exit grip as far as the laws of physics allows. If anyone complains the N understeers, then they need to learn how to drive because for a front-drive roadcar, it’s very neutral for its class.
There’s no torque steer either, compensated for by the rack-mounted electric power steering, but you can’t put that much turning force through the front wheels and expect rear-drive purity. The main instrument you want to look at, the revcounter, is nice and clear and there’s rev-shift-change indicator lights. The seat holds you in as well as any roadcar, both laterally and longitudinally with plenty of adjustment.
At the Island I drove some laps in Normal mode and in N mode with everything turned up to the max. The main difference in driving was the front diff, which really helps in second and even third gear corners, reducing understeer and more effectively getting power to the ground. I didn’t have the chance to time it, but based on other experience driving open and locked diff front-drive cars, I expect it’d be worth 1 second or so for every minute of track laptime over a pure open diff. The changed throttle response made no difference as you’re feeding on power smoothly anyway, unlike around town when you might want or need a sudden burst of power for fun or to quickly accelerate. The stability control in Normal mode didn’t really interfere, and previous experience with other cars at that track indicates a good stability control calibration isn’t a hindrance because it’s smooth, and so fast that any significant slip means you’re losing time through scrubbing off speed – and for those reasons, I preferred the stiffest suspension.
I didn’t go fast enough into Turn 1 to experiment with high-speed oversteer, but at the speeds taken I felt the car was nicely stable and there was enough torque in 5th gear post-apex for a decent squirt on the way down to Turn 2, Southern Loop. That’s always a good test in fourth gear as it’s a downhill acceleration past the second apex, and again the N tracked true, happy to put its power down and hurtle through Turn 3 which felt nice and stable. It was very easily possible to go flat out from the exit of Turn 5 (Siberia) to Lukey Heights, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the front diff and suspension tune.
Turn 10 and 11 are power-on turns, and again the car just tracked nice and neutral despite the application of power. Turn 11 requires use of the kerb, which while smooth can sap speed through excessive left-wheel slip, but the N just powered through.
Wakefield Park is an entirely different track. First I tried it in Sport mode, but the bumpier surface and greater use of kerbs meant the stability control was fidgety busy at speed, and I found myself making tiny corrections same time as it did, so the car ended up a little destabilised and confused.
With ESC switched off entirely in N mode the car felt a lot better. Particular points of note were the left-double-right sequence of Turns 3 to 5, with the N showing good body control through the change of direction, and on the second right-hander it is pleasantly possible to get the tail out a little under brakes. After that, there’s Turn 6, where you have to ride the kerb and that was also easy and reassuring, no back-end flick out. The first time I tried it I discovered a new lip that hadn’t been there before and wondered if I’d damaged a wheel, but it was all good…strong car, the N.
Then there is the demanding fishhook (Turns 8 and 9) – hard downhill braking into second, then turning left, power on and keep the power on whilst changing to third and turning through almost 180 degrees. Again the N handled the demands with aplomb, not running wide and delivering power where it needed to go.
Turn 10 is always exciting as if you ride a bit of kerb in and out that’s a faster line, provided you don’t get bounced off the track. I liked the way the N handled a bit of hopping, just requiring a little correction not a momentum-killing slide. At this rougher circuit I preferred the medium setting suspension setting for a slightly softer ride.
Overall, the N is everything a track car should be, and nothing it shouldn’t be – the latter point is really important as many cars are ruined that way. The handling is safe but rewarding of precision, you can play with brakes and throttle, the electronics will help you, or you can have them entirely out of your way, the driving position and controls can’t be faulted, and there’s enough configuration in the car to be useful and interesting, with no real pointless fripperies. There are harder-edged sports cars out there, but I wouldn’t want to drive them from Wakefield to Canberra straight after a track day which is what I did with the N, and I couldn’t have fitted a week’s worth of working gear and picked up two wheels for one of my other cars on the way back.
For me, that’s what the i30 Fastback N is – a usefully practical, daily-driveable car and at the weekends you can go hunting on the track and enjoy the reactions when people see a Korean car has just blasted by. I like my cars to be practical and fun, so I guess I’m particularly pleased with the way the Fastback manages both. Definitely recommended as a hot hatch and track car, and I think many people’s life would be better if there was an N in it.
Potential Track Mods for an i30N
If I owned an i30N here’s what I’d do for a lot of track work:
- Tyres – why kill your road tyres, and it’s easy to take four to the track in an i30N and change them. My current favourite is the Yokohama AD08R. You’ll need another four wheels, and I think slightly lighter 18s would work well. Talking to aftermarket specialist Import Monster, I’m told that there’s way more tyre choice in 18s than 19s, and the 18s are cheaper too. They suggest WedsSport TC105X, either 18×8 or 18×9 – I’d go 18×8 because I love lightness and I don’t think the car needs any more tyre width. The PCD is 5×114.3 which is excellent as that’s the same as many other similar cars so a broad range of wheels.
- Brake fluid – while Hyundai have done a great job on the brakes, you will need to change the fluid and I’d go for a high temp DOT 4 or 5.1 (not DOT 5, it’s not compatible). Not sure I’d bother with braided lines.
- Harness bar – there’s a lovely strut brace in the back ideal for making a harness bar. Makes a big difference on track, even the best seats cannot compare to a good harness, and HANS devices are definitely worth having. Talk to your local motorsport fabricator. My 86 one was made by TrackArt.
- Reversible headrest – the headrest can be reversed for a more comfy seat with the helmet on, but the rest won’t lock in. That needs to be fixed.
- Camera mount – I use one of these from Racing Lines. Never failed scrutineering yet!
- Wheel alignment – maybe add half a degree of front camber and a fraction more toe-in on the rear.
- Nuts– possibly change the wheel nuts, stock nuts typically don’t stand up to repeated removals although to be fair I don’t know if that’s a problem for i30s.
- Back window sticker saying – “You’ve been passed by a Hyundai, how’s your reality now?”
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