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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - N

Our Opinion

We like
Torquey turbo engine, slick six-speed manual transmission, comfortable race seats, numerous drive modes, exhaust note, tidy front-drive handling, strong brakes
Room for improvement
Weighty, one-touch custom drive mode select would be handy, more wheel alignment adjustment on front for track driving needed

We test the Hyundai i30 N hot hatch at the gruelling Victorian 12-Hour Regularity Relay

10 Oct 2022



STAFF at GoAuto took the opportunity recently to compete in Australia’s biggest amateur motorsport event, the Victorian 12-Hour Regularity Relay, held over two days at Winton Raceway, Benalla, where up to 200 cars ‘race’ at high speed over the demanding, three-kilometre rural Victorian racetrack.


We convinced Hyundai to loan us a car (an i30 N hatch) for the event which entails each of four team members (usually in different cars) setting a lap time they think they can replicate in back to back sessions comprising 36 cars for about 30 minutes.


Points are awarded or deducted depending on how close to the nominated time the driver can lap.


Adding to the competitive nature of the event was a point score structure that deducted additional points for going faster than a nominated time (breaking) effectively forcing teams to set fast times to avoid that happening.


Though not traditional “door banging” racing, regularity relay is fast and demanding of its participants and the cars. 


The GoAuto car was seconded from Hyundai’s press fleet and was well run in with 12,000km no-doubt-hard kilometres on the clock.


We opted for a six-speed manual car because it affords more control to the driver and less electronic “intervention” by the car.


The i30 N also has plenty of power for overtaking slower vehicles and making up lost time. With 206kW and 392Nm of torque on tap, few cars were faster over the two days.


It was properly set up by Hyundai technicians with an aggressive wheel alignment, semi-slick 60 tread wear Pirelli Trofeo R 19-inch tyres, competition Circo brake pads, a four-point harness, fire extinguisher and 600-degree brake fluid… along with being fully serviced before the event.


Apart from that it was stock.


Racing numbers were stuck on, a ‘Custom’ drive mode selected to suit the event and the drivers then the tyres were heat cycled for five laps before the event starting at 36psi cold to ensure optimum wear and grip and then took the car out for a preliminary test drive to make sure everything was OK.


We found the front brake discs were warped causing a shudder and replaced them along with changing the damper setting to slightly softer, let the hot tyres down to 36psi from 43psi and everything else was maxxed out on the ‘N’ mode menu.


When the flag dropped on a fine, cool Saturday morning, we knew the i30 was a good choice as it was relatively easy to duplicate our fast lap times even after being held up by slower traffic.


Driving Impressions


In that scenario it was just a matter of being patient, waiting for the opportunity and ‘pulling the trigger’ on the i3 0N which quickly spooled up the 2.0-litre (closely related to Mitsubishi’s Evo 10 engine) to full, twin-scroll turbo boost easily dispatching slower cars.


Accurate and responsive steering and impressive tyre grip allowed changes of direction halfway through a corner if needed and minimal front wheel spin was evident even getting on the gas early to ‘jump’ out of a corner.


Hyundai’s techs had done a good job with the wheel alignment as the usual bane of front wheel drive cars, understeer and front wheel ploughing, was not that evident, instead, the car felt fairly neutral tending to mild oversteer… almost like a rear-wheel drive. Undoubtedly, the electronically controlled limited-slip differential would have played a part.


The i30 N was completely stable at high speeds up to nearly 200km/h and on Winton’s notorious double apex high-speed sweeping left hander… complete with an unsettling bump three quarters of the way around, it never put a wheel out of place.


The car was a real handy tool for the job at hand and the brakes held up well despite the hours of flogging they received wiping off speed in the 1450kg hatch after Winton’s four straights and 13 corners, mostly right handers. The pads were only half worn at the end of the event and that 600-degree brake fluid paid dividends.


The i30 N engine operated at or near full boost and hovered between 4000 and 6000rpm growling in third, fourth and fifth gears most of the time which tuned out to be seven hours on-track with two drivers sharing the tiller. The experience was accentuated by a satisfying ‘bang’ from the exhaust on throttle over-run such as running up to a corner.


Acceleration isn’t explosive like some other turbo cars but winds on, building to full boost (20psi) after initial throttle application. That turned out to be an advantage as it saves tyres and prevents unnecessary loss of drive. Not very economical though as your planted right foot opens all the taps feeding the i30N ‘buckets’ of fuel.


The gearbox was as slick at the end as it was at the start and the car had ideal gearing for the track with minimal unnecessary changes required. You could even pull a higher gear and let the torquey turbo engine do its thing.


Day two (Sunday) dawned the same as the Saturday. The cool and mild conditions were ideal for racing, and for a repeat performance from the i30 N. We changed the front passenger side wheel as it does most of the cornering work around Winton and was showing signs of wear on the outside edge.


With two drivers sharing the i30 N, there was only half an hour between sessions for the car to cool down, to refuel and perform a safety check.


Refuelling was necessary after every session as the turbocharged i30 N consumed 20 litres of premium every 30-minute session under racing conditions. Filling the tank is not an option because of the weight penalty of the fuel and its effect on dynamics.


We kept on lapping and chalked up plenty of bonus points on the way mindful that any ‘transgressions’ are heavily penalised on the point score. Which is unfortunately exactly what happened as the i30 N made it too easy to exceed the one minute forty lap time limit imposed by the organisers. We lost quite a few laps for going too fast…


Our team – which also comprised a couple of Mazda MX-5s – made a couple of pit lane exit mistakes crossing the blend line into the racing line too early. Oops. And we were cracking on, too. Neither of the other cars was turbocharged which made it easier to maintain consistency. That’s our story anyway…


We clipped a horrible ripple strip which barked a rim and affected the wheel alignment a touch but the i30N soldiered on finishing the gruelling event with no real adverse effects.


We on the other hand were somewhat pole-axed from the experience as driving at that intensity for that long is draining at the very minimum. Maintaining total concentration behind the wheel of a ‘race’ car is a hard learned discipline that gives a greater appreciation of F1 drivers, even Supercar drivers…


In the wash up we came home in 12th position out of 36 teams so not bad for a bunch of amateurs.


The lack of discipline told against us and played into the hands of other teams who set slower times in less powerful cars that were obviously well driven. Had we been allowed to use the in-built lap timer to monitor our times we may have done better – but rules are rules, and the screen remained covered for the duration of the event.


We enjoyed the drive and the Hyundai i30 N makes a great road car/hot hatch that can be taken confidently to the track for a fang.


Our only criticism in this circumstance is the necessity to confirm your custom drive mode every time you start the car (to let you know that ESC is switched off at your peril). It’s saved in the system, but the driver has to click through three options to get the desired setting.


We’d have also appreciated slightly more adjustment on the front-wheel alignment as this would have been useful for track driving and would optimise tyre wear. Maybe this is something Hyundai’s N division can consider for the future.


Images courtesy of SD PICS

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