Hyundai’s ground-breaking i30 N hatchback may not be for everyone, so the Korean giant has fixed it with the i30 N Fastback.
The i30 is an excellent car. The i30 N is superb, walloping the good-but-reheated Golf GTI from its undeserving place at top-of-mind for hot hatch fans. It’s a tricky segment with lots of contenders, but the Golf’s long history, quality and its legions of unquestioning fans kept it on the boil.
Hyundai’s i30 N arrived with a bang, a lower price tag than most of its rivals, better ownership proposition and a similar form factor. Then wiped the floor with it. Problem was, not everyone was so keen on the hatch. It looks largely the same as its lesser versions and not everyone is so keen on that.
The other problem Hyundai had was the Veloster. In right-hand drive markets, it didn’t sell well enough to justify the expensive asymmetrical tooling. Australia and the UK quite like fast hatches, but not enough to warrant the weird Veloster N’s RHD production.
To make the i30 N happen, Hyundai invested a colossal amount of money, so the company needs to sell a few more to keep the suits happy. So it turns out there was another i30 in the works, a four-door coupe style thing called the Fastback. A car that doesn’t need expensive tooling to make right or left-hookers.
Obviously, it seemed like a good idea at the time to make an i30 N fastback instead of an Elantra N.
Words: Peter Anderson
Images and co-pilot: Matt Hatton
Look and Feel
It’s pretty obvious what’s changed when you get to the rear end what has happened here. The more abbreviated hatchback has been replaced with a Mercedes CLS-style swoopy backside.
I like it.
Not everybody does and not every angle is especially pretty, but it’s a nice job given the designers didn’t have a longer wheelbase to play with. The Fastback is 120mm longer at 4455mm and it’s all boot. Perhaps to offset the extra length, it’s also lower by 28mm. I reckon that saved the Fastback from looking like a BMW X4.
Most of the detailing is the same, with the grille, skirts and wheels we all know and love already, as well as the red brake calipers.
Inside, instead of blue stitching you get red and, er, that’s about it.
The i30 N Fastback engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, part of the Theta II engine family. With direct injection and variable valve timing, it produces 202kW (275PS) and 353Nm. Pin the loud pedal to the firewall and you’ll get another 25Nm, taking the total to 378Nm on overboost.
As with the hatch, you’re still in charge of changing gears until the often-rumoured eight-speed twin-clutch hoves into view. N could probably use the six- or eight-speed Aisin in most of other front-wheel drive performance cars, but that’s not Hyundai’s style.
The same obnoxious exhaust is also along for the ride and engages its loud in N mode.
The N comes with stiffer springs, adaptive damping, 19-inch Pirelli P-Zero tyres, torque vectoring and a LSD.
The Fastback weighs a mere 12kg more and it’s all on the rear wheels, so the weight distribution is actually better at 59.7-40.3 front to rear.
The suspension has a had a bit of a going over. The front end is slightly softer to improve ride but also helps to get the power down a bit more cleanly. Front and rear dampers have a had a tweak, with a rebound spring and softer bump stops. The front anti-roll bar is slightly smaller (by 0.8mm).
Out the back there’s a new camber control arm, but that’s probably mostly to help with the extra weight.
The adaptive damper software has also had a bit of a going over. Hyundai says it’s more comfortable, without losing any of the hatch’s agility.
Changes. There have been a few. That could be a problem. I mean, how much did I love the i30 N? How much do you love your i30 N? The Fastback is bigger, heavier and – whisper it – softer. Right? With smaller anti-roll bars and softer damping, it can’t possibly be as sharp as the hatch?
How can this be? The steering is still amazing, the grip still brilliant and the rear still playful. This car is fast, just as fast as the hatch, but more comfortable as a daily driver.
Haring down my favourite bit of road, I don’t have to dodge the bigger bumps as carefully as I did in the hatch. The extra compliance of the bump stops means less of a jolt through the shell and a more adherence to the line I’ve chosen.
The steering is precise, not too heavy and you can get the power down so early because of that lovely limited-slip differential. It’s fast everywhere – up hills the overboost gives you 378Nm to haul with. And when you get the top and start your descent, those brakes will be there for you.
And that gearshift – super-fast for a road car and with those carbon rings letting you slice from second to third as you manhandle it around. That’s an expensive detail that ensures the N team covered every base. Pretty important when this is the only gearbox you can get. If only the new Renaultsport Megane’s manual gearbox was this good.
The only real difference is that rear seat passengers have less headroom, traded for more boot space. The Fastback is meant to be more luxurious, but don’t be put off by that – it’s more practical while still being a giant barrel of laughs full of funny cat videos.
The i30 N Fastback is just as much a delight as the hatch. Fast, loud and silly in all the right measures, it’s a cheaper alternative than Honda’s ridiculous Type R and far more interesting than VW’s Golf GTI (yes, the Golf is good, but not this good).
The new setup is so right, the MY20 hatch will have the same. It’s car you can take on holiday, rip out all the luggage and go for a pre-dawn blast.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.