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2018 Hyundai i30 N: The Korean Contender

The sport compact segment is a crowded but fiercely contested space for thrill seeking drivers with a light wallet. Cars like the Ford Focus ST, Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Golf GTI, and Subaru WRX all take claim to the title of fun - but usable everyday - means of conveyance. On the other side of the pond where our friends drive on the wrong side of the road, there's even more cars in that same segment from the likes of Renault and Peugeot.

And the reason why these cars are so well received is because they come from companies that have long established motorsport roots. Subaru, Volkswagen, and Peugeot all participate in rallying. Renault has their famous F1 team. And Ford, of course, competes in NASCAR, endurance races, drag races, drifting events, and off roading including rallies giving credence to why their performance cars are so desirable right now.

Hyundai doesn't have roots as deep as its foreign rivals, having only started their WRC team in 2014, but they are trying their hardest to grow the brand as quickly as Amazon attempting to do the same. For a long time, Hyundai's label of anything sport has always been met with a dissatisfied "anything but". That, however, was before Hyundai hired Albert Biermann, ex-VP of BMW's M performance division. And Mr. Biermann had previously spent 32 years taking cars like the M3 to the next level, so now it's time for Hyundai to receive their due treatment.

Enter the Hyundai i30 N - a hot version of the i30 which is a hatchback version of the Elantra as it's known in the States. According to Hyundai the letter N represents a chicane, and will act as their chosen symbol for cars with a sporty aspiration. For the i30 N, its corner-hungry desires is visible with its distinct 'give-me-more-air' front bumper, tastefully inconspicuous rear spoiler, and reshaped back end featuring a faux air diffuser.

The i30 N is sold with two distinct levels of trim. At the base level its THETA 2.0-liter turbo inline-4 appropriates 246 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque to its front wheels. With the Performance Package trim, the i30 N uses the same engine with a boosted tune to produce 271 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. As a result, the i30 N reaches 100 kmh in 6.4 or 6.1 seconds respectively.

Both trims are only available with a 6-speed manual transmission, but the Performance Package also receives larger 235/35 R19 Pirelli P-Zero tires, red brake calipers, larger brake discs, electronic limited slip differential, and variable exhaust as standard. The torque-vectoring E-LSD, and exhaust system are exclusive to the Package so it'd be a good idea to spring for the extra features. Base trims make do with 225/40 R18 Michelin brand tires and a small sense of regret.

If you like mechanical drivetrain components, you may have to skip the i30 N entirely. This car has rack-mounted electric power steering, electrically adjustable dampers, electric stability control, automatic rev-matching on downshifts, and an often loathed electric sound generator creating engine noises at the base of the windshield.

Each of the aforementioned features can be adjusted with four different driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, N Mode), and one user-customizable setting. Like all i30 models, its suspension is strut style in the front and multi-link in the rear - cautiously adjusted at the Nürburgring where Hyundai keeps one of their development facilities.

Distinguishing the i30 N on the inside is its generously buttoned steering wheel featuring two large blue switches. The left switch labeled Drive Mode toggles between Eco, Normal, and Sport while the right switch with a checkered flag engages N Mode for the most aggressive setup. A Rev button on the right side of the wheel toggles the car's rev-matching feature.

Past the wheel, a gauge cluster containing a multi-information display can show diagnostic and performance data at will. Also included is a series of red LEDs making up the redline for the tachometer. Depending on oil temperature, the i30 N will show a lower red line so drivers can't potentially damage the engine before it's warm enough to handle higher rpms.

All of the electronic powered parts mentioned earlier come into play when talking about its safety package where features like automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and driver attention alert can stop or steer the car if the need arises. Minor luxuries like high beam assist, shift lights, and speed limit sign recognition are included.

Connected technologies such as a 5.0-inch center touch screen (8.0-inch optional), Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Qi wireless phone charger, and seven years of Hyundai LIVE online service are standard with the i30 N. LIVE service meaning real time traffic, weather, and speed camera updates.

i30 N models come in six basic colors - Clean Slate, Engine Red, Micron Grey, Phantom Black, and Polar White. If you like the WRC inspired Performance Blue you see in these pictures, you'll have to pay extra. Inside, you can choose between cloth or suede and leather seats, along with the decision to install a rear strut bar to increase rigidity at the cost of luggage capacity.

Price and availability will be announced soon, but it is confirmed the i30 N will be in European markets first. There are loose rumors Hyundai will sell the i30 N under a different name in the States though there's no solid evidence yet. For now, judging by its looks and equipment, the i30 N appears to be much more promising than the Elantra Sport, Veloster, and Genesis Coupe. It's time to see if the Korean rookie can finally start throwing some real punches.


  • Curb weight for base models: 3086 - 3262 lbs (1400 - 1480 kg)
  • Curb weight for Performance Package models: 3150 - 3326 lbs (1429 - 1509 kg)