Hyundai turns on the heat

with i30 N

HOT is the buzzword at Hyundai as the Korean car maker releases its first super-sport model in the shape of the i30 N.

And hot it certainly is.

Developed by the man who helped create some of BMW's legendary M machines, the i30 N is good enough to stand alone as a great hot hatch.

In fact, it's more fun to drive than a Golf GTI or a Ford Focus ST.

What Albert Biermann - who Hyundai wooed from BMW two years ago - has achieved is little short of remarkable.

Not only does it give Hyundai a halo model of the highest order, it also stretches the brand's appeal to a new audience.

Even the most demanding hot hatch fan will be impressed by what the i30 N delivers.

Raw statistics of 0 to 60 in 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 155mph are right on the button but it is the way the i30 N handles that sets it apart.

It's astonishingly agile, ultra precise and for a front wheel drive model with 275ps on tap, almost perfectly composed. Any hint of torque steer as the turbo ramps up has been ironed out, such is the engineering.

With torque vectoring, an electronic limited slip differential and electronic suspension, the i30 N has dynamics that reward as much as they impress and will leave any driver in awe.

Biermann has described his baby as a "corner rascal" and that sums it up to a tee.

The i30 N is not RS material - whether that be Audi or Ford - but a car which is a sublime performer both on the road or on the track.

Moreover, it is just pure fun - an experience enhanced by a crackling exhaust note on the over-run and enough technology to keep any gadget freak happy with the likes of G-force and powerflow displays all part of the software.

The i30 N is available in two states of tune, one delivering 250ps and the other - dubbed the Performance - 275. Prices are £24,995 and £27,995 respectively and that's a bargain in anyone's book.

Having just put the i30 N Performance through its paces around the sinewy Cadwell Park circuit in Lincolnshire and on nearby country roads, its composure is par excellence, so easy to drive yet venomously potent when unleashed.

Driving it on the track demonstrates the genius of Biermann and his new-found Hyundai performance team and the grip of the car is astonishing. So is its nimbleness through some of the tightest corners on any British race track.

Cadwell Park is known as the British Nurburgring - albeit nowhere near as long - and a fitting place to demonstrate the hot Hyundai which although developed at Hyundai's Namyang research and development facility in Korea, was honed on the legendary German track.

It's a process which has paid handsome dividends and the set-up of the i30 N is nigh on perfect.

To complement the high performance, the car is fitted with Brembo brakes which can rein it in from 62mph to stationary in 34.6 metres while the electronics also include a ‘rev matching' system which has the same effect as heel and toeing when fast shifting through the box.

Pirelli P-Zero tyres with a compound specially developed for the car are standard fit on the Performance model, which sits on 19-inch rims.

The i30 N is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission with a multi-mode drive pattern that can be varied in a myriad of ways for eco, normal, sport or personal settings.

Hyundai says there are some 1,900 variables to be had but tweak it into sport mode and the stiffer feel plus sharper throttle response will be good enough for most.

The drive modes are accessed from two buttons on the steering wheel, one to the left for everyday use and an N button on the right for track conditions. If required, the stability systems can be switched off completely.

Fuel economy for the i30 N Performance is rated at 39.8mpg with emissions of 163g/km and we saw an average of 28.6 to the gallon on the road. On the track was a different question and the hard demand saw that slump to just eight mpg.

The i30 N sits a fraction lower than the standard i30 hatch and is dressed with aerodynamic body kit including a front air dam, rear spoiler and diffuser which are highlighted with a red band on the lip, twin exhausts and larger air intakes.

The sub frame and suspension have been stiffened while inside there are some body-hugging sports seats, plenty of N logos and a very tactile feel to the gear lever and steering wheel.

It feels just as good as it drives and the back seats and boot are as roomy as on the regular model - although on the i30 N Performance there's an extra body strut across the back of the boot for some added stiffness.

Like all Hyundais, the i30 N comes with a five year, unlimited mileage warranty and despite its performance credentials the cover includes track use - an indication of how much confidence there is in the reliability.

Hyundai has its sights set on becoming the leading Asian car brand in Europe and while the i30 N is not meant to be a big seller, it's proof that the company takes very seriously the demands of British drivers.

With cars as brilliant as this it is upping the ante in no uncertain fashion.

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