Track-loving Hyundai i30 takes aim at performance market
Does the world need another hot hatch? Will the market even stand one?
Well, Hyundai thinks it does, and will. Enter into a rather crowded segment, the Koreans, all guns blazing.
The aim: to transform a good but ordinary hatchback into a red-hot, boy racer-admired, not-too-expensively-priced scorcher.
This is in effect Hyundai's first performance model, although more are believed to be on the way.
So, what, if anything, have they achieved? Well, it looks the part I think, nestling more at the SEAT Leon FR or Golf GTI end of the market, than the Ford Focus RS or even brasher Honda Civic Type R.
That's a good thing in my book, by the way (although that's not to denigrate the Type R which is quite brilliant).
The car is available in two specifications, i30 N and i30 N Performance.
The manufacturer says the N moniker stands for both Namyang - Hyundai Motor's global R&D Centre in Korea where i30 N was born - and for the Nurburgring test track, home to its European Test Centre where the i30 N was honed.
Both models continue with the hefty equipment list from top i30 models, whilst adding N-specific interior and exterior equipment plus performance modifications.
Hyundai has resisted the temptation to create a warm hatch and pass it off as hot: there really have been significant changes to uplift the standard i30 model.
Whilst the manufacturer says the i30 N is meant for everyday use, it is also a driver-focused performance car.
There's a rev-matching function to support smooth gear shifts, and an over-boost to increase torque and acceleration. A launch control system will help you achieve the official 0-60mph time of 5.9 seconds (Performance model).
The soundtrack is enhanced with a dual muffler exhaust with variable exhaust valve system.
It's front wheel drive, with a more rigid body shell and Electronic Controlled Suspension (ECS) which aims to reduce roll and enhance cornering speed, enabling the driver to adjust the dampers from comfort-oriented daily commuting to performance track driving.
Aerodynamics have been enhanced to reduce lift, and there's an Electronic Limited Slip Differential (E-LSD) to enhance grip and deliver maximum power to the road. This can be switched off - if you're an expert driver!
Steering comes in the form of a rack-mounted motor-driven system, and traction in corners and braking gets the benefit of 18-inch Michelin or 19-inch Pirelli high-performance Hyundai N tyres.
The cockpit shows key performance info through a new instrument cluster and the 8-inch free-floating screen's modes such as the G-Force meter for live tracking of the performance.
Under the bonnet, you'll find a powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged engine delivers up to 275 PS and 353 Nm torque in the Performance model. Transmission comes in the shape of a six-speed manual set-up.
Both models share a "standard" torque figure of 353Nm between 1500-4700 rpm, however the Performance model can also deliver an additional 25Nm of torque using an over-boost function.
On sale in a few weeks, the standard i30 N is priced from £24,995 on the road and features include LED head and tail lights, Smart Adaptive Speed Control, Torque Vectoring System, steering wheel-mounted Drive Mode Buttons, 8" touchscreen sat nav with Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
Priced from £27,995 OTR, the i30 N Performance offers additional performance-specific equipment and 18" ventilated front brake discs with 17" rear.
There's also leather and suede seats and an Active Variable Exhaust System which allows the vehicle to reveal its "playful character" with 'crackle' and 'pop' exhaust notes in N or Custom drive mode.
Not so sure about the 'playful exhaust' bit, but overall, it's a very tasty package.