ROAD TEST: Hyundai'sT two-faced hot hatch i30N
HYUNDAI'S i30 N is the brand's first dabble in the hot hatch market and has become a much-praised segment disrupter. At $40,000 before on-roads, it makes VW Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST shoppers pause for thought. Subaru WRX buyers, plus those spending more on a Renault Sport Megane, Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R or Peugeot 308 GTi, must also raise an eyebrow. Can the i30 N cut it as a family car and weekend track toy?
IAIN: Remember 15 years ago when you had a Peugeot 205 GTi and I had a BMW M3?
JULES: We were childless and had disposable income for fun cars. Happy memories.
IAIN: The i30 N could help recapture such misspent youth. It has space for two kids and luggage. Its 202kW turbo engine and tech-packed chassis equal plenty of grins.
JULES: It looks special but is it too "boy racer" for oldies?
IAIN: Not at all. Compare it to the dog's dinner design of the Civic Type R and the i30 N looks classily purposeful with racy 19-inch alloys, large air intakes, red body trim and red brake calipers.
JULES: I like the body colour but it's very showy. Perhaps I'd need slate grey or white.
IAIN: Absolutely not allowed. Ours is in the correct Performance blue, as used by Hyundai on its World Rally cars.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: I like the chunky steering wheel, alloy pedals and blue stitching for the seats. Neat layout and roomy enough up front.
IAIN: It's a bit too "normal" Hyundai. At twice the price of an entry-level i30, I'd want a bit more to differentiate it.
JULES: The plastics are soft touch and the seats sporty and cossetting. I think you're being fussy.
IAIN: I can't help comparing it to a VW Golf GTI. The German has the benchmark classy hot hatch cabin.
JULES: You don't get many goodies. No keyless entry, push start or electric leather seats.
IAIN: Buy the Luxury Pack and get all of the above plus heated steering wheel, front park sensors and wireless smartphone charging.
JULES: I'd tick that box.
IAIN: Not me. I like the old-schoolness here. There's a proper handbrake, no stop-start fuel saving and it doesn't excessively beep like a fussy nanny. Stick a key in the ignition, depress the clutch and select first gear. Wonderful.
JULES: The money's been spent on the race stuff. Having a Drive Mode selector helps the i30 N change personalities.
IAIN: Agreed. Five modes - Eco, Normal, Sport, N or N Custom - change engine maps, damper settings, steering weight, stability control, limited-slip differential characteristics and exhaust sound.
JULES: Normal mode makes it just about liveable as a daily drive, though you still feel harsher bumps.
IAIN: I love the Custom mode. My drive to work had me selecting Normal for all, except the exhaust. I had that in "most obnoxious" setting.
JULES: No wonder the neighbours dislike you.
IAIN: Cruise control, dual-zone climate control, satnav and Apple CarPlay through an eight-inch screen help with everyday driving.
JULES: Hatchbacks make great load luggers. Nice light boot lid to open, and ample room for the weekly shop.
IAIN: A rear camera and park sensors prevent parking bingles too.
JULES: As a small hatch it's a fine size for our two young 'uns. Child seats fit across the back but there's no room for an adult between them.
IAIN: It lacks the latest active safety but seven airbags, lane keep assist and AEB are ample.
JULES: The kids' bikes squeezed in the boot, plus they loved the acceleration and noise, mini hoons that they are.
IAIN: Here's where the i30 N makes sense. After a week of school runs, I donned the crash helmet and took it hill climb racing for the weekend.
JULES: Best of all when you brought it back the brakes still worked, tyres weren't bald and it felt un-abused. You could drive to the track then home again.
IAIN: Exactly. And it's such a little weapon. More power and torque than a Golf GTI or Subaru WRX and the super-smart front differential sucks you into the apex of corners. Steering and balance are razor-precise, making average drivers look very good.
JULES: It's easy to select race-ready "N Mode" by tapping the blue N button on the steering wheel. And the noise. I love the burble and pops when lifting off at high revs.
IAIN: It's cheating but the car blips the throttle on downshifts so you don't have to heel-toe. Loads of on-board telemetry, lap timer, fade-free 345mm brakes and adjustable damping make it a proper track-focused tool.
JULES: You should really only buy one if you do track days, sprints or hill climbs.
IAIN: Makes the most sense but it's a desirable, fast road car too. Age doesn't matter, as long as you can handle three pedals and a gear stick. You'd be a grumpy sod to not enjoy the i30 N.
JULES: Great value for a talented and very fast hatch. I was a bit snobby about the Hyundai badge before but the i30 N's noise and sporty ability won me over.
IAIN: Daily drivable and a performance revelation at the track. In addition, Hyundai's five-year warranty has you covered for non-timed track use. Factory lightweight wheels, track tyres and brake upgrades are all available: the i30 N is the real deal. And I want one.
HYUNDAI i30 N
PRICE $39,990 plus on roads (cheap thrills)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/u'ltd km including track days, about $1500 for 5 years (excellent for track drivers)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 202kW/353Nm (378Nm with overboost, plenty)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, tyre pressure monitors, rear camera, rear sensors (good)
THIRST 8.0L/100km (creeps up when used properly)
SPARE Space-saver (not ideal)
BOOT 381L/1287L (good)