I’m thinking of including a new section in my car reviews.
Let’s call it the First Five Minutes, because it’s such a crucial period in any relationship with a car.
It’s been this way for as long as I can remember and it is exactly how long it took me to figure out the Hyundai i30 N Line hatch is a keeper — the rest of the time was about getting to know it better.
What’s it cost?
Prices for the hatch start from $23,420 before on-road costs.
That gets you the base model with a 2.0-litre engine and manual transmission.
From there it’s Special Edition, Active and Elite, the last for priced from $30,220.
If however you fancy a sportier version with a more powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, the N Line is the answer, priced from $29,420.
An auto in the form of a 7-speed twin clutch unit adds $2000 to the price, while metallic paint is another $495.
N Line Premium, with extra kit, is $34,220. An auto again adds $2000.
The full on, fire-breathing N with an even larger 2.0-litre turbo starts from $44,500.
Replacing the previous award-winning SR grade (remembered fondly), N Line introduces more aggressive front and rear styling, along with 18-inch alloys and N Line badging.
Inside, there are N Line-exclusive front sports seats, N Line leather steering wheel and gear shift knob, along with red highlights and a contrasting black headlining.
Standard features include leather, dual zone climate air, with rear air vents, smart key with push-button start, auto lights and wipers, LED head and tail lights, 8.0-inch infotainment system featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity — plus Qi wireless phone charging.
It’s more about what N Line misses out on and that includes satellite navigation, digital radio, premium audio and an auto dimming rear view mirror.
Safety extends to Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Following Assist.
It misses out on Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning and Smart Cruise Control (automatic and DCT variants).
What’s it go like?
Let’s clear something up.
i30 hatch is based on the K2 platform that is shared by Kia and Hyundai.
The i30 sedan, previously sold here as Elantra (it’s still an Elantra by the way), sits on the larger K3 platform, making it appreciably more spacious inside.
And, because they are in reality different cars, they have been developed on separate timelines.
The hatch which is in its third generation dates back to 2016, while the sedan, now in its seventh generation, was updated only last year.
Now we’ve got that sorted, let’s move on to the N Line hatch which was added to the lineup in 2018.
It’s more powerful, 1.6 turbocharged engine puts out 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, the latter between a very useable 1500 and 4500 revs.
Transmission is a choice of six-speed manual or 7-speed DCT, the latter a robotised twin-clutch style affair with paddle shifters.
N Line is also fitted with more sophisticated, multi-link rear suspension and larger front brakes, giving it the stopping power to match the increased output of the turbocharged engine.
It rides rides on 18-inch alloys that are fitted with sticky, and I might add expensive, 225/40 series Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber, with a stiffer sports suspension tune.
A full size spare makes way for a space saver in this model.
These days most of the cars we get to test are autos.
A manual change has become, believe it or not, a bit of a rarity.
In this case, the six-speed manual in our test vehicle was a revelation.
It transforms the drive experience and anyone who fancies themselves as a dab hand, should look no further.
Yes, a dual clutch auto is quicker off the mark and quicker through the gears, but driving the car is nowhere near as engaging.
Powering into a corner, braking late, changing down a gear, getting your line right, when it all comes together — it’s pure magic.
The better the car, the better the balance, the better the experience.
There’s no feeling like it.
Ar the same time, the hatch feels dated in comparison to the N Line sedan that we drove previously — with its low-tech dash.
But it does offer a great combination of performance and practicality, a car that is equally happy around town, out on the open road or stringing corners together on a mountain pass.
You could opt for one of the more fancied, European brands, that could cost you twice as much — but it won’t deliver twice as much.
Completing the picture for N Line are a sports body kit, rear spoiler, twin tailpipes, sports seats, contrast stitching, red coloured seatbelts, black roof lining, together with a sports wheel, gear knob and pedals.
The steering is excellent and delivers plenty of feedback to the driver.
And, while the suspension has been tuned for sport, the ride isn’t too firm and remains settled even on poor roads.