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Gran Canaria was the destination for my Hyundai i30 Fastback N review, which involved taking the C-segment performance coupé on road and on track as part of the European launch.

Nobody expected Hyundai to hit a home run with its first proper attempt at a hot hatchback (2nd if you include the Veloster). Now the South Korean brand is attempting to do the same again with the third N model.

Only this time the competition has gone from the equivalent of a dense forest of formidable predators such as the VW Golf GTi, Renault Megane and BMW M140i to the empty, foliage-less landscape I found myself surrounded by for the European launch of the i30 Fastback N in Gran Canaria.

There is, quite simply, no other five-door performance coupé in the C-segment, which makes it unique. But does that mean it is worth buying and what, if anything, do you gain over the already glorious i30 N hatchback? I tested the i30 Fastback N Performance, which is the only model coming to the UK, to find out.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: What’s it all about?

Hyundai i30 Fastback N review - A Tribe Called Cars

Being a coupé means you get a stylish swoopy roof line and a hatch boot, which would open to 450 litres of space were it not for the fact that 14 litres is lost to a rear stiffness bar.

Dimensions-wise, the i30 Fastback N is actually 120mm longer, 21mm closer to the road and more aerodynamic. It has the same kerb weight of 1,429 to 1,309kg as the hatchback, depending on options, but 12kg more of that total hangs over the rear.

Being on the same platform as the i30 N means there are relatively few differences, but effort has been made to learn from past mistakes as well as make the car feel even more ‘playful’ – something Albert Biermann of BMW M division fame managed convincingly the first time around.

 

For one thing, the car is around 6.8 per cent stiffer so it’s an even more precise tool than before. The camber has also been reduced from 1.7 to 1.5 degrees, the suspension bump stops bigger and longer and the front rear stiffness bar is thinner.

Minor tweaks, admittedly, but ones that should make the i30 Fastback N more forgiving and a sign of Hyundai listening to the 9,000 plus owners of the i30 N hatchback, some of whom said about the sometimes overly harsh ride.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: Power to the Nth degree?

Hyundai i30 Fastback N review - A Tribe Called Cars

Hyundai’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder T-GDI delivers 271bhp and 353Nm of torque as it does in the i30 N, with the latter extending to 378Nm using the overboost function that kicks in at the top of the rev range.

Technically, this temporary boost is only 18 seconds. But if you can find a stretch of road where you can accelerate for that long and survive or keep your licence, I would be most interested.

0-62mph takes 6.1 seconds and the i30 Fastback N’s top speed is 155mph, which is also the case for the i30 N. That sounds a lot slower than the aforementioned Civic Type R, M140i and other higher tier hot-hatches, but in reality it feels close enough.

This is partly because maximum torque kicks in from 1,450rpm, but also because of the electronic limited-slip differential’s ability to keep it all in check. As best as a front-wheel drive car can, anyway.

When it comes to losing speed, 345mm front discs at the front and 300mm discs at the rear make light work of the task. Six fast laps of the Gran Canaria circuit was about the limit before fade kicked in, but for road use they proved faultless.

Cornering grip, meanwhile, is the job of Pirelli P Zero tyres specific to the i30 Fastback N, which come wrapped around 19-inch alloys.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: What’s it like on track?

Hyundai i30 Fastback N review - A Tribe Called Cars

Driving around the small, very twisty Gran Canaria circuit, it’s immediately obvious how much effort has gone into making the i30 Fastback N remind you what motoring is all about.

It’s fast enough to excite but without intimidating, it’s grippy enough to get round corners at speed but without being too predictable and it remains composed enough when braking hard to give you the confidence to push your luck, but not before giving you some oversteer to rectify.

Even if you overdo it into a corner, the i30 Fastback N’s torque vectoring and limited-slip differential tuck the nose in and undo power-on and lift-off understeer. But not in a way that feels too contrived or like you’re not having the biggest impact on how well the car is performing.

It’s just such a responsive, readable handling experience that you end up feeling like a good driver. And if you are, it would undoubtedly take something rather special to beat it.

A couple of negative characteristics do exist. For starters, you can feel the engine flat-line a little early in the rev range and there is some turbo lag to contend with, though nothing careful pre-exit acceleration cannot reduce. You can also all-too easily hit the limiter in 1st and 2nd, although with practice it’s a non-issue.

Not that any of that matters much because you are too busy playing driver, too busy chucking the car around and having fun. The sort that made you a petrolhead in the first place.

Usually track driving shows a car’s weaknesses, but the i30 Fastback N is one of those rare cases where it does the opposite. For that reason (and because I was stuck behind a few slow journalists) I took it out for another three laps. And it was even more grin-inducing.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: Is it rubbish on the road, though?

Hyundai i30 Fastback N review - A Tribe Called Cars

Unless you stick it in N mode, which is way too harsh for the road and even some circuits, the i30 Fastback N is actually very livable. In Eco and Normal the suspension is firm but forgiving.

You do get the odd suspension noise coming through the cabin, but nothing too intrusive. It’s an otherwise quiet drive to the point that you need Sport or N to properly hear the engine at work, which is good and bad.

An argument could also be made for sticking to the hatchback because, despite having a bigger boot, you lose some rear headroom and said boot is somewhat shallow. With that said, the rear seats accommodated my six-foot frame without brushing my head on the ceiling.

Fuel economy is said to be 34.1mpg combined, but the moment you try to have fun it can drop to the early teens. Those 271 turbocharged horses are thirsty. CO2 emissions are also high enough, at 188g/km (WLTP), to land you a first-year VED bill of £850.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: Can you tell the hatchback and coupé apart?

Hyundai i30 Fastback N review: Boot space - A Tribe Called Cars

Quite honestly, it would take a back-to-back track session to notice the handling differences in any meaningful way. But technically the more rear biased weight distribution and improved suspension certainly do little to harm how involving the i30 Fastback N is to drive.

Steering is a precise, intuitive affair, with enough feedback fed through the electronic system to allow rapid counter steers. In the Sport and N driving modes, you also get a great deal of communication through the tyres.

Sometimes a little too much, actually, in the case of the latter as it will shake out any loose fillings you may have. But on a smooth surface it only heightens the level of involvement. This is a car that successfully emphasises everything good about old-school, back-to-basics motoring.

It helps that, unlike a lot of cars these days, you get a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s less satisfying to use than as some of its rivals as it’s so slick you sometimes question whether you made it in gear or not. Shifting through the gears can, however, be done as fast as you can make it happen, which is important.

Speaking of gears, the i30 Fastback N features rev matching, which can be enabled or disabled depending on whether you can be bothered (or able) to heel and toe. During our road and track sessions, it worked flawlessly, ensuring the car was kept balanced before entering a corner.

Then there’s the exhaust note, which is enhanced by a variable exit and subtle, relatively unnoticeable augmentation noise through the speakers. In the i30 Fastback N, you get the same lovable mixture of boom and rasp, with a couple exhaust bangs reminding you it wants to be a rally car. But the body does reduce the volume, which is a shame.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: Should I buy it, then?

Hyundai i30 Fastback N review: On the road - A Tribe Called Cars

Apart from a discounted BMW M240i, there are very few cars that are anywhere near as as the Hyundai i30 Fastback N fun for under £30,000. On track and road it really reminded me what a car is meant to feel like, only without the foibles of yesteryear. It’s exciting, keen to please and very capable, but also easy to drive, refined and backed up by a five-year warranty.

Sure, it may not be perfect in terms of styling, eco-efficiency and interior zest, but it’s even better than the i30 N hatchback and that in itself is tribute to how much Hyundai is listening to customer feedback and how quickly it is implementing the changes.

To ignore it, then, because of the badge would be a crying shame.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N: Key Specs

  • Engine: 2.0-litre ‘THETA’ four-cylinder T-GDi petrol
  • Horsepower: 271bhp (275PS) at 6,000rpm
  • Torque: 259lb/ft / 278lb/ft (378Nm) with overboost
  • 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Dimensions: 4,455mm (L), 1,795mm (W), 1,419mm (H)
  • Kerb weight: 1429-1501kg
  • Fuel economy: 34mpg (combined)
  • CO2 emissions: 188g/km (WLTP)
  • UK price: £29,995
Hyundai i30 Fastback N review: Better than the hatchback?
Brimming with enthusiasm and the handling credentials to match, the Hyundai i30 Fastback N is about as fun as it gets for less than £30,000.
Performance
Handling
Enjoyment
Cool-factor
Usability
The Good
  • Exciting to drive
  • Looks distinct
  • Versatile
The Bad
  • A tad quieter
  • Thirsty engine
  • Lacks badge appeal
4.5The Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief

Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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