Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Not so long ago, the hot-hatch segment was on life support with little hope of recovery. The only genuine option was a Golf GTI, but even that was looking for friends as dark clouds formed in the shape of an unreliable transmission.
Despite the worrying prognosis, we now find ourselves in a new hot-hatch golden age. Fresh metal in the form of the Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS reinvigorated the segment.
Adding further fuel to the hot-hatch flame was the arrival of Hyundai’s i30 N, the brand’s first foray into the world of hot-hatchery.
The i30 N is only 12 months old, yet Hyundai has spawned a new variant, the strangely titled i30 Fastback N. It offers an alternative new body style that aims to bring a premium vibe wrapped in a mature package to widen the appeal of the N brand.
The i30 Fastback N is priced at $41,990 which is a neat $1500 more than the hatch. Even with the additional premium, it still easily undercuts the segment’s established players.
There’s been no skimping on kit to keep the cost low, LED headlights and tail-lights, a body kit, 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, a sports leather steering wheel, and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with satellite navigation, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all standard inclusions. An extensive safety package is also part of the deal.
Hyundai is offering an optional Luxury Pack for buyers who want to dress their car up further. For a full rundown on the Fastback N’s equipment list click here.
To fully appreciate the Fastback N it’s important to note it’s sold as a five-door coupe which makes it a unique offering, it’s a virtue worth celebrating. Unfortunately, uniqueness continues to be a grossly underrated commodity.
It’s an arresting design, one that holds your attention for longer than necessary. The sloping roofline flows in a very gentle, yet dramatic way into the rear. It’s difficult not to stare at it. Regardless of the angle, it’s a stunner. The gorgeous shape is further emphasised by the Performance Blue paint that’s exclusive to the proper N models. If it’s to boy racer for your tastes, the Shadow Grey is worth a look.
Style aside, this is a car looking for an enthusiast. The Fastback N has the same underpinnings as the hatch and packs the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that develops 202kW and 353Nm. If you’re a redline reacher, the turbocharger has an overboost function that activates when maximum torque is reached, lifting the torque peak to 378Nm for up to 18 seconds.
Sending the power to the front wheels is a six-speed manual transmission, a welcomed sight for the purist. Stick shifters are heading the way of the Tasmanian Tiger.
For some extra character, there’s an electro-mechanical limited-slip differential and an active variable exhaust system.
Underneath the sensual Fastback shape is a new suspension set-up that incorporates front springs which are five per cent softer than those beneath the hatch, revised front dampers with a rebound spring, and longer, softer bump stops.
Engineers have also reduced the diameter of the front anti-roll bar by 0.8mm, while the rear dampers have been tweaked and there's a new camber-control arm.
As a result of the changes, the i30 Fastback N is 12kg heavier over the rear axle, which translates to a weight distribution of 59.7 per cent at the front and 40.3 per cent over the rear.
All the ingredients are accounted for and they mix beautifully for an entertaining drive. All the mechanical and electronic wizardry that has gone into the car is on show from the second it roars to life. It makes a great sound.
The seating position is perfect, the throttle response is superb, the transmission is divine and the calibration of the performance brakes are spot on with a lovely feel through the pedal, so things are off to a flying start.
As a hot-hatch should be, it’s happy to be chucked into corners which highlights the taut chassis, keen drivers will enjoy the tail-happy nature of the car if the situation is right.
Give it a bootfull on a straight or exiting a corner and you will need to ensure the wheel is firmly in your grasp to counter the dash of torque steer.
It’s not the fastest car in the segment to accelerate from 0-100km/h, the claimed sprint time is 6.1 seconds which is pegged to how fast you can swap cogs. No doubt, the upcoming dual-clutch automatic will be faster to triple figures along with appealing to more buyers, but it will rob the car of some of its character.
Driver’s can choose from Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes, along with a customisable N mode that presents a seemingly endless array of options to configure the car to the tastes of the driver. The driver can also turn off the electronic traction aids if you're happy to reduce the amount of tread on the grippy Pirelli P-Zero hoops.
Even though the suspension has been softened, it’s still on the firmer side of things. The electronically-controlled adaptive suspension doesn’t provide a comfort setting to mimic a non-performance model. In Normal mode on smoother surfaces, it presents no dramas. It’s a car conceived, designed and engineered for sporty driving, so it will never be all things to all buyers, but it’s very close.
On coarse roads, especially at highway speeds, the Fastback N is not what one would call refined. Too much tyre roar infiltrates the cabin, so it’s not one for long-range comfort.
For in-town commuting, if you can manage to maintain a restrained right boot, it’s a civilised car that makes a fabulous daily. On well-kept city roads, it’s lovely to pilot and elevates what is normally a dreary part of the day.
The driving experience is elevated by the cabin appointments and presentation, the sports seats are comfortable and supportive, the steering wheel feels nice in the hands (it’s the best tiller we’ve encountered in a Hyundai), and the infotainment system covers all the modern essentials.
For those looking to justify purchasing a Fastback N to handle family duties during the week and blast out the cobwebs on the weekends, there are some things to consider.
There is a price to pay for the sensual curves of the exterior, headroom and legroom are tight in the back. Limited room to one side, there’s also no rear charging points or proper air conditioning vents which reinforces that rear seat comfort isn't the focus of this beauty.
The Fastback does score some additional practicality points when it comes to boot space - it offers 450 litres of cargo capacity, which is 55L more than the hatch.
Interestingly, the Fastback N is reasonably efficient to use as a daily commuter, expect between 8.0-9.0L/100km in town. Drive it like you stole it and you’re looking at 12-14L/100km. Potential owners should also note, Hyundai recommends a minimum of 95RON premium unleaded petrol.
Hyundai backs the Fastback N with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which remarkably, also covers race track use for non-competition events, including the fitment of track-focused tyres such as semi-slicks.
There’s also a lifetime capped-price servicing plan with maintenance intervals set at 12 months/10,000km, whichever occurs first. Costs for the first five trips to the dealership service bay average out to $319. It’s very competitive.
If you stick with dealer servicing, Hyundai will stump up 10 years' roadside assist coverage.
Driving the i30 Fastback N was an enlightening experience, it’s hard to believe Hyundai is only a new competitor in a busy segment. There’s enormous potential here as more N models evolve.
With the i30 N twins, Hyundai has legitimate halo models to boost its image, it's similar to what the Stinger has done for Kia. Anyone who thinks halo models don’t matter should check what’s going on at Holden.
The N brand and the subsequent spin-offs into other product lines (an N version of the Tuscon is a certainty) will surely broaden Hyundai’s customer base.
For now, the i30 Fastback N is a unique, involving and highly likeable performance car. The pace and chassis tune along with Hyundai’s bang for buck philosophy provide keen drivers with a focused package that’s usable and affordable.
Hyundai dealerships have long been a place where sensible car buyers frequent, with cars like the i30 Fastback N the doors are now open for enthusiasts.
2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N Specifications
Price from $41,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 202kW @ 6000rpm Torque 353Nm @ 1450-4700rpm (Overboost: 378 Nm @ 1750 – 4200rpm) Transmission six-speed manual Performance 0-100km/h 6.1 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 8.0L/100km Tank Capacity 50L Length 4455mm Width 1795mm Height 1419mm Wheelbase 2650mm Turning Circle 11.6m Kerb Weight 1441kg - 1520kg Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty five year/unlimited kilometre
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