Hyundai i30 Fastback N
When I was told that my new South London flat had allocated parking, it's fair to say I was pretty relieved. No more stressing about trying to find a parking space on the street in Wandsworth or dealing with its nightmarish council for expensive and delayed parking permits.
But I soon discovered that while allocated parking was going to make life easy, it wasn't going to make me very popular with my new neighbours. When turning up in my first press loan since living in the flat, sneaking in at night was made impossible. The i30 Fastback N resulted in many twitching curtains.
"So you're a car journalist?" my neighbour commented the next morning while giving side eye to my new pride and joy. "Yes, sorry in advance," I said before I drove away noisily. On first impressions, it's fair to say the N is not subtle, and I think my neighbours would be inclined to agree.
Although it seemingly came out of nowhere—like my fast cars have in my neighbours' quiet car park—the Hyundai i3o N hatchback was the manufacturer's first hot hatch, and turned out to be a great alternative to the Golf GTI. After its successful launch it was only a matter of time before Hyundai applied the N treatment to other models in its line-up, and here it is in fastback (coupe) form. But the word on everyone's lips is whether it can offer the same performance as its hatchback sibling.
From the front, my nosey neighbours won’t notice any difference to the i30 N hatchback. It has the same aggressive yet understated look, but look closer and the overall shape of this i30 N is a sleeker and frankly classier alternative if you're not sold on that humdrum hatch body shape.
Inside, there is little difference between this and the hot hatch. Overall interior quality is OK, but not really up there with the VW Golf GTI, for example. The 8" touchscreen is easy to use, though , and looks the part. You get a few all-important physical buttons, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
One distinct difference is that the new fastback shape is more practical, and the boot provides another 65 litres of space to play with. It is a really practical little sports car with heaps of room, and apart from a slightly annoying boot lip, we didn't struggle to get a few dogs in.
It is quite an angular car—think Jonny Depp's jawline and you're not far off (I know). But although looks are subjective, there's no doubting it is more grown up and handsome than its hot-hatch sister. This car is slightly more expensive but beneath its striking coupe-like body is a car that's also better to drive. Yes, it's still a five-door hatchback, and fundamentally uses the same underpinnings as the 271hp front wheel drive i30 N. Its exhaust and five-stage drive programme are the same as the hatchback's but, as ever, the definition is in the detail. That's why the chassis and suspension have all been tweaked to become a little more usable, all in the name of real-world driver appeal.
You can feel the difference compared to the hot hatch from the moment you start moving, and that's a strange thing to say because the performance is in fact exactly the same: 0-60 in 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. Although a tad heavier, this car seems to ride that much better. It feels bloody quick, too, with only a hint of turbo lag. The six-speed manual gearbox is a delight to use. There's quite a short travel in between changes so it feels sporty and locks into place nicely.
Luckily, the fastback doesn't feel boring, just a bit more grown up, and that more competent as a result. In normal mode, it rides on the firm but not uncomfortable side and would honestly be adequate as a daily workhorse. In N mode the ride is incredibly firm, and a setting you would probably reserve for the track. However, it adjusts not just the suspension but also the steering, which makes for a beautiful, engaging drive.
This is a car that urges you to seek out great roads with the best corners, and brings all the noise, looks and fun that you would expect of a hot hatch. It is also a car that is bound to put a smile on the face of even the grumpiest of neighbours, although I'm yet to have proven that so far.