2021 Hyundai i30 N manual review

  • Doors and Seats
  • Engine
  • Engine Power
  • Fuel
  • Manufacturer
  • Transmission
  • Warranty
  • Ancap Safety

Tom Fraser

Hyundai already built one of the best value hot hatches on the market. The 2021 Hyundai i30 N facelift simply adds what’s needed and leaves what’s not to ensure it stays that way.

  • Shouty exhaust note is a proper hoot
  • Engaging driving characteristics would translate well to a race track
  • Phenomenal value offering

  • Dull interior presentation and materials
  • Extremely stiff ride comfort in N mode
  • Cabin isn’t friendly to taller occupants

Hyundai may be a relative newcomer to the performance car world, but the reputation it’s already earned with the i30 N is hard-won and not to be underestimated.

I’d argue a hot hatch from South Korea isn’t traditionally the go-to that many would be vying for from the outset, but Hyundai’s blend of practicality, affordability, and performance has won favour and stolen buyers away from popular hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

As well, the Golf GTI’s recent departure from the $40-50k price bracket has created an even bigger divide between the two. While now more expensive than when it launched, the i30 N still starts at an affordable $44,500 before on-road costs.

Subtly revised styling, interior infotainment upgrades, a mild bump in power, and the option of an automatic transmission for the first time defines the facelifted i30 N, all the while prices have risen by as much as $3100.

A three-tiered range is offered in Australia: an entry-level i30 N, the mid-spec i30 N Premium, and a flagship i30 N Premium with Sunroof. But we’ve kept things basic this time around by opting for the base-spec i30 N manual which, I think, represents the best value of the trio.

Each i30 N variant stocks a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine which outputs 206kW/392Nm to the front wheels – up 4kW and 39Nm over the previous model.

Each car is also fitted with adaptive dampers, an electro-mechanical limited-slip differential, a variable sports exhaust, 19-inch forged alloy wheels, Pirelli P Zero tyres, rev-matching downshift, and various driving modes.

The Hyundai i30 N can be picked out by its N body styling, red styling accents, small rear spoiler, LED lights, and 360mm performance brakes on the front wheels with red calipers. It’s a lot of kit for not a lot of money. But does the updated i30 N have the performance to back up its impressive on-paper cred?

As opposed to the i30 N’s flamboyant exterior styling with its red accents and butch body kit, there is less going on in the interior. There are some driver-focused additions that go to the car’s core purpose such as alloy pedals, bolstered cloth sports seats, and an N Performance Driving Data system, but there’s little else added throughout the cabin to make it feel special.

Aside from the above, the space presents largely similar to a regular i30. It’s no bad thing, as the run-of-the-mill i30’s cabin is a nice and comfortable place to spend time, though I was expecting a bit more in the way of differentiation. Perhaps some red stitching (in lieu of the light blue which is hard to see) or accented trim to match the exterior might’ve improved the bland grey panels found throughout.

On the other side of the coin, there is little benefit for opting for an i30 N Premium variant. The Premium doesn’t markedly improve the cabin interior look and feel – apart from specifying leather/Alcantara bucket seats with one-piece backrests and some other minor bits and pieces – so I’m happy with the base i30 N for now.

At least the level of standard equipment is high; the spec list includes dual-zone climate control, a new 10.25-inch infotainment display, digital radio and native satellite navigation, reverse camera with parking sensors, keyless entry and push-button start, tyre pressure monitoring, wireless phone charging, and power-folding mirrors.

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So while it may not impress in terms of premium-ness, the cabin is spacious and well equipped for its sub-$50k price. The front seats contain a nice amount of adjustability to get that right driving position and the bulbous leather-surrounded shifter has a nice weight and feel to it.

The leather steering wheel, too, has a fantastic diameter, thickness, and feel. The button layout is simple and there are drive mode buttons easily at-hand.

Loose odds and ends find various homes in the cubby in front of the shifter (with wireless charging function), the twin cupholders in the centre console, or the centre console bin itself which is a good size.

The cloth sports seats are nothing particularly special, but do the job with decent bolster support, and are comfortable for the most part. Annoyingly, bigger bums can feel the plastic shell underneath the cloth fabric which digs into your backside on longer drives. Perhaps it’s worth upgrading to the i30 N Premium just for those up-spec seats.

Back seat passengers get the bare minimum amount of amenity and space. There are no air vents and a small amount of storage in the map pockets and door cards. There is good headroom thanks to the conventional hatchback shape but legroom is compromised and you’ll end up straddling the front seats if you’re anywhere near six-feet-tall.

While I’m all for its presence (because race car), there is a stabilising beam between the two rear wheel arches that extends across the boot space which impacts full use of the 381-litre boot space. You can technically remove it, but it takes tools and time. A space saver spare wheel can be found underneath the false floor.

Infotainment and Connectivity

New for the 2021 i30 N is a 10.25-inch infotainment screen running an up-to-date form of Hyundai’s software, with added N Performance screens. The system supports both wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, though I was happy enough to use the car’s native software for running phone, music playback, and navigation controls.

A string of shortcuts along the bottom of the screen take you to various functions, though the lack of a dedicated physical Home button made for some frustrated screen prodding. The maps are nicely presented and information rich.

Though it’s no branded audio system, the standard six-speaker stereo is nice enough to play digital radio and streamed Bluetooth tunes.

There’s a small 4.2-inch TFT display within the analogue instrument cluster that tends to displays such as the trip computer, oil temperature, torque gauge, turbo boost gauge, g-force meter, lap timer, and a digital speedo.

Hyundai last supplied an i30 to the Australian New Car Assessment Program to crash test in 2017. In that test, the car scored a full five-star rating. But Hyundai has continued to add safety technology to the mix and the i30 N comes standard with autonomous emergency braking, driver attention monitor, high-beam assist, lane-keep assist, blind spot warning, lane-following assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.

This suite of Hyundai SmartSense safety features builds upon the passive safety of seven airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system, and a rear view camera with reverse parking sensors.

The Hyundai i30 N is fitted with a fixed cruise control system but can guide itself within a lane, so long as your hands are kept on the steering wheel.

At a glance2021 Hyundai i30 N
ANCAP rating & year testedFive stars (2017)
Safety reportLink

As with all Hyundais, the i30 N scores a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. What is different though is the fact that Hyundai backs its cars even through track use (as long as it’s not competitive or timed). This is a rare and generous addendum to a regular warranty and should give peace of mind to Hyundai owners keen to hit the racetrack in the i30 N.

Service intervals are set at 12 months or 10,000km, whichever is first. Servicing is also affordable, with a pre-paid three years’ worth costing $897 or five years’ priced at $1595.

Against Hyundai’s 8.5L/100km combined fuel claim, we recorded a 11.1L/100km across our week with the i30 N. The fuel tank can fit 50 litres of 95-octane fuel – which is the minimum octane rating required.

At a glance2021 Hyundai i30 N
WarrantyFive years / unlimited km
Service intervals12 months / 10,000km
Servicing costs (pre-paid)$897 3yr / $1595 5yr
Fuel cons. (claimed)8.5L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test)11.1L/100km
Fuel tank size50L

To the fun part. One of the first things you notice about the i30 N is the noise emanating from the twin exhaust pipes. No matter whether you’re in Normal, Sport mode, or N (Race) mode, for me, the exhaust is a raucously entertaining aspect of the i30 N. After quizzing various people throughout the week I found that it’s a love-it-or-hate-it affair, but I couldn’t help but stick the car into N mode every time for those satisfying whip-crack upshifts and silly burble noises on overrun.

If it’s a shouty characterful engine and exhaust note you’re after in your hot hatch, there are not many better out there than the i30 N.

A side effect of the awesome N mode is an extremely stiff ride quality that annoys on anything but the smoothest of surfaces. The adaptive dampers don’t let up over imperfections resulting in a ride profile that pogos over the small stuff and thuds through potholes and road joins.

Comfort comes back to an acceptable degree in one of the tamer driving modes, but thankfully Hyundai offers a Custom driving mode where you can pair the comfortable ride quality with the shouty exhaust and engaging engine character.

There’s a wallop of performance available from the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and feels as though it deploys every bit of its 206kW/393Nm outputs through the front wheels. This sometimes results in some wayward torque steer but it’s entirely manageable and makes the i30 N a bit of fun to wrangle.

Key details2021 Hyundai i30 N
Engine2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power206kW @ 6000rpm
Torque392Nm @ 2100-4700rpm
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
TransmissionSix-speed manual
Power to weight ratio142.4kW/t
Weight (kerb)1447kg
0-100km/h5.9sec (claimed)

The overwhelming sensation under throttle load though is that this car is quick – especially when you consider what you pay for it. Hyundai says it’s tuned the new i30 N with a flatter power tune which, in practice, means you’re unlikely to miss-shift and get bogged down without boost.

Quoted performance figures have the i30 N completing a zero to 100km/h sprint in 5.9 seconds yet it feels much faster by the seat of the pants. Hyundai also says the i30 N will run on to a 250km/h top speed, which we’ll have to take its word for.

With all that power and torque going through the front wheels, there’s a bit of mid-corner management needed to keep the i30 N on track. The steering isn’t a defined highlight of the i30 N driving experience – it’s nice, pointed, and a fun thing to handle, but it’s not overly feelsome or communicative in the same way a Civic Type R is.

That said, it is a joyously fun thing to throw at a string of tight switchback corners. Point-to-point, there’s a good case for this car being one of the best value offerings out there.

Braking performance is great from the 360mm front/314mm rear disc setup, with a solid prod of the middle pedal resulting in a swift, repeatable stop.

Body control is well balanced through the bends, those firm adaptive dampers going quite some way to offsetting the manual’s 1447kg weight.

Speaking of the manual, Hyundai has fitted rev-matching technology which is handily accessed by a button on the steering wheel. Colleague Justin Narayan steadfastly believes you should never not utilise that piece of tech if it’s on offer – presumably because he reckons it does a better job than a human could do repeatedly – though I thoroughly enjoyed trying to rev match it myself. The alloy pedals are placed close enough together to even allow for some racey heel-and-toe.

The shift itself is a nice throw and the knob itself feels quite nice with its leather covered outer and light blue stripe. I appreciate the fact that even though dual-clutch orders will far outweigh manuals, the option of an engaging row-your-own transmission is always a win for enthusiasts. Overall the i30 N’s character encourages you to behave naughtily which is what makes it such great fun.

We weren’t expecting a whole heap of change between the pre-facelift i30 N and this newcomer, but the way Hyundai has approached the facelift is a formula to be followed. Keep the bits that work, improve the bits that don’t.

The bump in infotainment, styling tweaks, equipment adds, safety kit, and boost in outputs all add to what was already a ripping little hot hatch. The added appeal of a choice in transmissions will only help the i30 N in the sales race too.

Look at it compared to a hot hatch hero, like the newly-available 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI – its sizeable jump in price and relative stagnation in added extras – and the new i30 N seems to have usurped the GTI as one of the best all-rounder performance car buys on sale today. (Side note – can you tell we can’t wait to put the two of these together in a comparison?)

Prices may have risen by $3100 over its predecessor, but the base manual i30 N still represents some of the best value and entertainment in the hot hatch segment.

2021 Hyundai i30 N manual review-0

Ratings Breakdown

2021 Hyundai i30 N Hatchback

8.7/ 10

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Tom Fraser

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive. As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories. He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content. Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.

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