IT’S been quite a journey for Korean brands in this country, particularly Hyundai.
From very much sideshow in the 1990s with some, shall we say, quirky models like the Pony, Atos, Matrix and Coupe.
They were rock bottom priced and offered cheap motoring with excellent warranties.
That all changed with financial crash and the scrappage scheme which made these cars even more affordable, but also ushered in a new era of motors starting to match the traditional brands.
The i30 is an excellent example, with contemporary styling, (hide the badge and it could be any mainstream hatchback), smart looking, high quality interiors, a fine range of engines and of course retaining what was the ground-breaking five year, unlimited miles warranty.
The brand is right there at the forefront of electric vehicle development as well.
It was only a matter of time for the boffins got to work on the standard models, to produce hot versions and the N brand has taken up the challenge.
The i30N is a superb small car, a blinged up version of the latest 130 model. It features all the bits and pieces you would expect on a hot hatch, with lowered suspension, low profile tyres on smart alloy wheels and coloured brake callipers.
The design, says Hyundai, is based on true high-performance vehicles and includes the firm’s cascading grille at the front, front and rear bumpers, and a new rear spoiler, together with other specialist badging and trim bits to signify a hot motor.
The pace comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine delivers up to 275ps and 353Nm torque. It features front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission, and, unlike a Premier League defender, loves corners according to Hyundai.
A handling claim that is more than justified. The lowered body is rigid and in combination with the Electronic Controlled Suspension (ECS) reduces roll and enhances cornering speed.
The Electronic Limited Slip Differential enhances grip and delivers maximum power to the road. If you think you can handle it, switch of the stability programme and hold on tight.
The exterior is impressive and so is the interior, with a host of hi-tech gadgetry which even features such gimmicks as a G-Force monitor, you know, for when you are cornering without the stability control. Additionally, the driver can select the rev-matching button on the steering wheel to increase the revs on the engine when shifting from a higher to a lower gear, while the car’s Launch Control rockets the car away from a standing start.
It’s not all about bonkers performance, and given the drive mode, it a perfectly capable family motor suitable for commuting.
Drive modes are Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom selected by using two dedicated buttons on the steering wheel.
The interior is pretty much a match for anything in its segment, with good quality soft-touch trim, and a well screwed together feeling throughout.
The centrepieces are the smart and sport multi function steering wheel and the eight-inch touch which controls major functions like navigation, connectivity for smartphone and infotainment. The cabin comfortably accommodates four adults with the front passengers kept in place with figurehugging sports seats.
It’s a hatch, so it has to be practical and boot capacity is good with 450 litres available, which can be expanded with the rear seats folded to a maximum of 1,351 litres.
On the road the two-litre engine is a delight, providing instant acceleration via the launch control. the standard engine delivers 250ps, while the Performance Package on this model boosts maximum power to 275ps and powers the car to 60mph in just six seconds, through the close ratio and slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox. A firm ride, its assured handling and direct steering make it an excellent drive.
A new kid on the GTi block it may be but no less fun for being so. And still a practical motor. What’s not to like?
Hyundai i30 T-GD-i N Performance
Mechanical: 275ps, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Combined mpg: 36.2
Insurance group: 28
CO2 emissions: 178g/km
Warranty: 5yrs/unlimited miles