Hyundai’s highly accomplished hot hatch, the i30N, has been updated to keep it keen against cars like the Honda Civic Type R and VW Golf GTI. Question is, is it still one of the best hot hatches on the market?
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car.
YesAuto’s exhaustive evaluation criteria considers every aspect of a car in terms of how it stacks up against rival models in the same class only. Below are the areas every car is judged and scored out of 10 on, each contributing to an overall score out of 100:
Interior quality and design
Ride and comfort
Driving and safety tech
Fit for purpose
Electric cars are scored out of 10 in the following areas instead of performance and economy:
Battery and motor
Range and charging
+ Endlessly fun to drive
+ Sounds great
+ Solid infotainment system
- Firm ride
- Shouty styling won’t suit everyone
Verdict:The i30N is still one of the best hot hatches money can buy, offering more bang for buck than a Golf GTI. Its firm damping can be tiring and it’s not quite as track-focussed as the Honda Civic Type R, but it’s an excellent all-around package. The addition of an auto’ box will broaden its appeal, but we recommend you save money and buy the manual.
2022 Hyundai i30N review: the five-minute read
In case you didn’t know already, Hyundai now makes cars your gran hates as well as sensible family wagons. It’s good at it, too. The i20N is a pocket rocket to give the Ford Fiesta ST a bloody nose, and the Kona N proves small crossovers don’t have to be dull to drive.
But this is the car that started Hyundai’s new era of performance production cars - the i30N. It takes balls to be the latecomer to a market populated by cars like the VW Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R, Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane RS, to name but a few. But, just like the more recent Toyota GR Yaris, the i30N proved the hot hatch class still has room for new entrants.
This midlife facelift introduces a few minor styling changes. The grille has grown, which not only makes the i30N look angrier but improves engine cooling. The more practical Fastback version remains unchanged at the back but the hatchback has a new rear bumper and brake lights. Both models come with 19-inch alloys as standard, clothed in sticky Pirelli P-Zero tyres.
The interior is still a blend of regular i30 features lifted in places by N styling cues, such as the blue stitching and excellent N-branded sports steering wheel. Ergonomically it’s sound and only occasionally does it look or feel cheap. It doesn’t feel quite as premium as the Golf GTI, although there’s not much in it, and it beats the Type R for quality, which for some reason features switchgear that looks like it’s been taken from a child’s toy.
The main upgrade is the addition of Hyundai’s new 10.25-inch infotainment system, which is sharp, bright and slick to use. It features a bank of shortcuts to make life easy on the move, whereas the frustrating system in the GTI does not. To find a better infotainment system in a hot hatch you’ll need to look at the BMW 128ti, which is a slightly less powerful car and slower over 0-62mph by 0.2 seconds, if you enjoy the whole top trumps thing.
Because it’s based on the i30 hatch the i30N is equally roomy in the front of the cabin, with plenty of handy storage pockets. The rear seats don’t have as much legroom as the Honda Civic Type R, but it’s far more comfortable for passengers than the Toyota Yaris GR. With 381 litres of boot space it’s bang-on par with the rest of the class.
In other markets there’s a choice between a standard model and a Performance version, in the UK we now only get the Performance, which means the i30N’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces a solid 280hp, a hike of 5hp over the old car. With the £1,950 DCT auto’ gearbox fitted the 0-62mph is done in 5.4 seconds, which is faster than the Golf GTI but 0.2 seconds slower than the Civic Type R.
Ignore the numbers though, we recommend you save the money and buy the i30N with the standard six-speed manual, which makes for a more involved drive. That is, of course, unless you’re going to drive it every day for prolonged periods of time in a town or city, because the slick DCT makes life very easy, and there’s always the paddle shift for when you want to take charge.
With a rev match function as standard you can jump straight onto track days without mastering how to heel-toe and everything from the electronic slip differential (standard on the Performance model) to the steering response can be adjusted via custom drive mode, you can make it very bespoke.
The i30N will give in to understeer sooner than the Type R, which is the better car if you want something purely for lap times, but on the road the i30N is in its element, with bundles of grip for road conditions and lightning-quick steering response. And it’s plenty fast enough, you won’t be longing for the Type R’s extra 26hp.
The only fault we can find is with the ride, which even in the softer drive modes is teeth-chatteringly stiff. The Golf GTI is more forgiving over notchy road surfaces, but overall it’s less fun than the Hyundai, more prone to body roll and altogether less edgy. And it doesn’t sound nearly as good as the i30N.
Judging on the i30N’s lairy exterior styling you would expect the interior to be similarly in-your-face, but it’s actually a relatively sober affair. It feels grown up and well screwed together, but it’s clearly a regular i30 with only a few extra flourishes thrown in. These include a solid N-branded steering wheel, some blue stitching here and there and an N-brand gearstick in the manual.
The Honda Civic Type R feels more like a sports car inside, but it doesn’t have the same quality when it comes to switchgear, which is made from flimsy plastic. The Golf GTI feels a little more sophisticated, but there’s not much in it. The BMW 128ti and Mercedes-AMG A 35 offer the highest interior quality, as you would expect, but the i30N isn’t far behind.
Optional sports seats will set you back £600 but they’re well worth it. Not only do they save some weight, they’re very comfortable and supportive. If you’re someone with track day ambitions then we strongly urge you fit them.
Hyundai’s 10.25-inch infotainment system is very good. It might not be quite as slick as the 128ti’s iDrive system, with its rotary dial, or the impressive MBUX system found in the A 35 but it boasts crisp and clear graphics and responds to inputs quickly. The bank of shortcut buttons is very welcome, for that reason alone it beats the infotainment system found in the Golf GTI, and the one in the Civic Type R is laughably poor.
The all-important Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard too, as does sat nav with speed camera alerts.
Up front there’s a generous amount of room for driver and passenger, with plenty of useful storage space found in the centre console. The door bins are a decent size for a hatchback too. The default driving position is typically low for a hot hatch, but the seats offer a good range of movement, as does the steering wheel
The back seats are more cramped than those found in the Honda Civic Type R or Ford Focus ST, but only in terms of legroom. Headroom is fine, in both the hatch and Fastback versions.
The Fastback offers more boot space, with 436 litres when the back seats are upright, whereas the hatchback has 381 litres. While some rivals beat these figures it’s only by a little, on the whole the i30N is bang-on par with the rest of the class for load space. There is a strut brace in the boot though, which can get in the way when you’re folding down the back seats.
2022 Hyundai i30N engine
While the facelifted i30N retains the rev-happy 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, power is up 5hp to 280hp and torque has been increased by 39Nm to a meaty 392Nm. All of that power is sent to the front wheels which features an electronic limited-slip differential as standard.
As standard the i30N comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, but for the first time for an extra £1,950 you can option an eight-speed dual clutch automatic. This allows for a launch control function, which brings the 0-62mph time down to 5.4 seconds, compared to the manual’s 5.9 seconds. It also features something called N Track Sense, which optimises the gearshifts for track driving.
If the whole buying-by-numbers thing matters to you, know that the i30N is faster than the Golf GTI, Focus ST and BMW 128ti, but slower than the similarly-priced Civic Type R. But a hot hatch should not be judged on numbers alone.
On both road and track the i30N is everything a hot hatch should be: fast, grippy and gloriously loud. The eLSD on the front wheels does a great job of keeping the wheels turning under load and lock, meaning you can punch the power nice and early on the exit of a corner.
There’s more grip to play with than there is in the Golf GTI and Focus ST, but if you’re super-serious about lap times then the Civic Type R has the i30N marginally beat. It also features a better manual gearbox, but even so we recommend the manual over the DCT in the i30N.
While not as tight as the Type R’s, it’s very slick and adds that extra level of driver involvement which we think is important for a hot hatch. Don’t forget it comes with a rev match function as standard too, so you can learn how to heel-toe in your own time, or not at all if you don’t want.
On the road the i30N offers all the speed and power anyone would ever need, and it corners very flatly in all drive modes, there’s noticeably more body roll in something like the Golf GTI. It really is a phenomenally engaging car to drive at speed.
Via the infotainment screen you can set the i30N up just how you like it, you don’t need to rely on the standard drive modes to alter the dynamics. You can turn the eLSD’s involvement up and down, adjust the weight of the steering and, of course, the firmness of the suspension. All of the i30N’s lovely grip is matched by lightning-quick steering which weights up nicely in corners.
Even with the suspension dialled back the i30N is a firm car. Its damping doesn’t dial out the chatter of notchy roads quite as effectively as the Type R either. The Golf GTI is a more relaxed companion, but then it’s less fun to drive, but just been warned the always-on nature of the i30N can become tiring.
A final word: the i30N isn’t easy on the pocket. Because it’s a car that encourages, er, spirited driving, we found the MPG didn’t get out of the mid-20s. Still, that’s the price you pay for having such a blast.