What is it?
Hyundai’s first N Specification vehicle was a five-door hatchback.
In mid 2019 the Fastback body, shared with Kia, was given the same N treatment, with some extra benefits from doing so.
It sits lower and is less stubby, so has slightly better aerodynamics and better fuel economy as a result.
What’s it cost?
Pick the Luxury Pack and pay just under $50K driveaway.
Otherwise you’re looking at not much more than $46K.
Buy and have one delivered before December 2019, and a 7-year warranty with two years of free scheduled servicing is included.
The Luxury Pack is comprehensive.
There’s Push button Start/Stop, synthetic suede and leather seats (bloody comfortable and supportive, by the by) that feature a subtly embossed N logo, with both front pews and steering wheel heated.
There is two-position memory for the driver’s seat plus 12-way power adjustment.
Both front seats have extendable squabs for extra support available as an option.
A wireless charge pad for compatible smartphones is also part of the pack.
Front sensors for parking and puddle lamps are included, as is privacy glass for the rear seats.
The wing mirrors are powered and dip automatically when reversing.
The externals are low key.
A gloss black grille features the N badge.
Wheels are 19-inch alloys with Pirelli P-Zero rubber at 235/35 hiding red N embossed brake calipers.
The rear has a subtle black lip spoiler and there is a diffuser housing a pair of twin pipes.
Inside, the touchscreen and surrounds look as Hyundai as can be.
But there’s a small, critical addition.
There is a tab for N spec which brings up gauges for G-force, turbo boost, power and torque — plus a lap timer for track day excursions.
The steering wheel has buttons for drive mode selections and the N function.
Oddly enough there is a small oversight, but one that has some ramifications.
There is no central locking switch, nor do the doors have their own lock switch.
In order for someone outside to enter while the car is running, the engine must be switched off before the door can be unlocked.
Another oddity is the quality of the sound system.
Even with the bass wound right up to 10, low end thump was almost non-existent.
Otherwise the DAB, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay plus Bluetooth streaming do their job.
Open the boot and there’s a reasonably sized 436-litre boot.
A slim chassis brace adds extra torsional rigidity and is located behind the 60/40 rear seats that provide 1337 litres of space when folded.
That rear look has apparently caused some angst, with some drawing parallels to a certain German brand.
Safety is agreeably high, with Hyundai’s Safety Sense in full swing.
Forward Collision Avoidance, Driver Attention Warning, and Lane Keep Assist are standard.
There are quad sensors front and rear which provide accurate parking measurements, as does the clear view from the reverse camera which includes guideline assist.
On the passive safety front there are seven airbags including a driver’s kneebag.
Hill Start Assist was a welcome inclusion due to the vagaries of the clutch take-up point.
What’s it go like?
The engine is a 2.0-litre twin scroll turbo design.
But it’s not as firecracker mad as one might expect.
Yes, there is launch control that requires traction control to be switched off.
And the Fastback N gets into the 100 club in 6.3 seconds as a result.
The touchscreen displays two different N Spec screens, one of them a Custom screen that allows the driver to choose settings for the exhaust note, engine mapping and the electronically controlled diff.
There is 353Nm of torque available and over a broad rev range, from 1450 through to 4700rpm. Peak power is 202kW at 6000rpm.
The sole transmission is a 6-speed manual and the clutch is heavier than expected, given how light the throw of the selector is — the mismatch meant more than a couple of stalls.
Economy was not quite as expected either.
Hyundai quotes 8.0L/100km for the combined cycle which is easily achievable.
Urban driving saw a best of 10.6L/100km, while our best highway run was 7.5L/100km — not far off the quoted 6.4L/100km.
Tank size is 50 litres and it takes 95RON at a minimum.
That economy figure is slightly better than the hatch which is stubbier, taller, and less aerodynamic.
Get it all hooked up in Normal or Eco mode, and the power delivery is very linear.
Tap the Sport option and things firm up, plus the exhaust gets a bit more throaty — thanks to a bit of electronic fettling.
Go the full jalapeno and this is where fire and brimstone come together.
The steering gets heavier, the suspension stiffer still, the exhaust more snorty, with nifty rev matching for downshifts.
Mid-range urge is solid if not sparkling, which makes the N Fastback a very driveable car — rather than an all out tarmac assault weapon.
Steering response is superb at just two turns lock to lock and the brakes are breath-on responsive in setup.
Ride quality goes from pretty damned good, to pretty damned awesome.
It’s a s taut as it comes but somehow still manages to keep your backbone intact.
What we like?
- Sleeper looks match sleeper performance
- Super light gear selector
- All round performance is suitable for almost everyone
What we don’t like?
- Heavy clutch and soft throw lead to many stalls
- No internal locking and door lock mechanisms
- Generic cabin look and feel
- Visually doesn’t sell the ability
The bottom line?
In a way it’s kind of a missed opportunity and it’s odd to suggest that about a very well prepared vehicle.
It’s an absolute doddle to drive, irrespective of which drive mode is selected, but it’s also understated in how it looks and delivers that driveability.
There’s pinpoint sharp steering, beautiful chassis dynamics, and awesome brakes — but it simply doesn’t make it all that apparent at a glance.
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Hyundai i30 Fastback N, priced from $41,990
- Looks - 7.5/107.5/10
- Performance - 8.5/108.5/10
- Safety - 9/109/10
- Thirst - 7/107/10
- Practicality - 7.5/107.5/10
- Comfort - 8/108/10
- Tech - 7.5/107.5/10
- Value - 8/108/10