Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - Sedan N
Final model in the i30 range scores the N treatment
16 Dec 2021
HOT HATCHES have been a staple marketing tool for brands since Volkswagen – arguably – invented the concept. The Golf GTI is now in its eighth (technically ninth) generation and is still the conceptual if not dynamic benchmark for the sub-genre. Few challengers have really taken it to the Golf in the way Hyundai’s i30 N has.
Launched in 2019, the hatch has conquered once and for all the perception that Hyundais aren’t as good as anything else out there, an idea that has taken a decade to kill after the brand got serious about engineering in the late noughties.
This year has brought few good things, but as far as Hyundai is concerned, the arrival of the eight-speed automatic in the form of the Korean giant’s wet-clutch DCT gearbox was a great thing.
Sales have surged on the back of the two-pedal version and Hyundai has, in quick succession, introduced the i30-based Kona N SUV, the i20 N light hatch, and now the final piece in the small car range, the $49,000 i30 Sedan N. Whether you choose the new DCT or stick with manual, you’ll pay the same price and get the same five-year warranty all other Hyundais enjoy.
Obviously, apart from the i20 N, none of these cars is particularly small. The hatch is doing extremely good business, buoyed by the DCT’s introduction and a comprehensive mid-life upgrade to the chassis and cabin technology.
The i30 Sedan has been part of the Hyundai range for about 18 months, replacing the Elantra. It’s not technically an i30 – it rides on a different platform, with a significant increase in wheelbase to accommodate rear seat passengers more comfortably and a much bigger boot.
The interior architecture is quite different from the hatch, with a different cabin design, lower roof (courtesy of a swoopy coupe design) and a huge boot. The longer wheelbase delivers so much more rear space that it’s clear this car might behave quite differently to the hatch.
If it wasn’t for an extravagant exterior design by ex-Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke, an N version would perhaps be a bridge too far. Mazda’s 3 sedan is the more conservative of the range, but Hyundai pulled out rather more stops than it did with the hatch, delivering a striking design with geometric themes reminiscent of its designer’s time at Lamborghini.
The sedan’s N additions complement the already exciting sheetmetal. A new grille and front bumper, 19-inch wheels with machined finish, side skirts and a deeper rear bumper. The only misstep is possibly the rear wing, which looks like an afterthought. Its three-post design is said to reduce deformation at high speed, and one imagines it serves a useful drag reduction purpose.
As with the hatch, the sedan takes many of the facelift’s N-specific modifications. The front brakes measure 55mm more than the standard car’s at 360mm and a brake pre-fill function ensures you have a confidence-inspiring firm pedal once you lift off the throttle. You can also flick a switch in the ESC to stop it interfering with you left-foot braking.
Adaptive damping, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and underbody bracing (increasing torsional rigidity by 29 per cent) all conspire to deliver a more purposeful chassis.
An interesting change for the sedan is the fitment of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. The hatch still ships with HN-stamped Pirelli P-Zero rubber. Spend any time talking to a group of N owners and they’ll tell you that the first thing to go are the Pirellis which are prone to axle tramp. Hyundai says the Michelins have stiffer sidewalls and it’s not a stretch to suggest that they’re quieter than P-Zeros, which are notoriously loud.
An interesting detail is the inclusion of the Integrated Drive Axle (IDA) which Hyundai says is a flow-on from its WRC program. The IDA reduces the number of parts required, is more compact and reduces unsprung weight at each corner by 1.7kg and allows for a larger wheel bearing.
Hyundai is serious about these cars and they’re a step above most rivals as far as detail engineering goes.
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