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Hyundai has launched its most potent product for the South African market.
The Korean brand might have established its reputation with affordable city cars, but the Hyundai i30 N is an unapologetic hot hatch.
It occupies a unique position in Hyundai’s product portfolio. The company doesn’t sell its i30 hatchback range in South Africa anymore, but it decided that local enthusiast demand for high performance hatchbacks is strong enough to warrant the introduction of i30 N as a standalone product.
A decade ago, the notion of a Hyundai hot hatchback to compete with VW’s Golf R would have been laughable, but the i30 N is an example of very focussed engineering.
Developed separately, by Hyundai’s N-Division, the i30 N can claim a lot of BMW influence. Chief of Hyundai’s R&D is a German: Albert Biermann. And he is formerly a senior staffer at BMW’s M-Division.
His influence is clear in the purity of execution with i30 N. Making a hatchback look radically different is easy to do. The i30 N has large 19-inch alloy wheels, a model-specific front bumper and aerodynamic details.
But what really matters are the bits you can’t see. Its 2-litre turbocharged engine boosts 202kW and 353Nm, output numbers which are very competitive. Besides the generous engine statistics, overall body stiffness is improved due to structural reinforcement and specially calibrated adaptive dampers, at each wheel corner.
Hyundai’s desire with i30 N is to show that it has transitioned beyond being a value brand to an accomplished automotive engineering firm, capable of challenging the dynamics of any German rival.
Unlike most hot hatches available in South Africa, Hyundai’s i30 N features a six-speed manual gearbox. Purist drivers have lamented that manual gearboxes are becoming nearly impossible to order and the only hot hatchbacks offering you the delight of deciding which gear you wish to be in, are Renault’s Megane RS, Honda Type-R and i30 N.
How does it go? With an urgency unlike any Hyundai you’ve encountered. It feels brisker than the claimed 0-100kph time of 6.1 seconds.
The i30 N delivers a very immersive driving experience, with ferocious power delivery and short-throw manual gearbox which shifts with incredible mechanically accuracy and speed – thanks to carbon-fibre syncro rings.
Lateral stability is excellent and there is virtually no wheel scrabble accelerating out of tight corners, thanks to a sophisticated electronic limited-slip differential system.
At R679 000 the i30 N becomes Hyundai’s most impressive South African market car. It also acts as a symbolic statement of intent, showing how far Hyundai has progressed as a brand.
Feature image: Hyundai