Hyundai's surprisingly racy i30N is more than just a family car
Hyundai i30 N: Unexpected hot hatch The Hyundai i30 N is equipped with a 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged motor, kicking out 250hp and 353Nm of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. PHOTO: YANG

With the i30 moniker, you would think the Hyundai i30 N is just a family car with some upgraded bits added. But you would be wrong.

In its maiden attempt to make a hot hatch, Hyundai has come out with guns blazing. And rightly so, considering its competition.

That includes the 306hp Honda Civic Type R and the 286hp Volkswagen Golf R, two time-tested legends.

But at $145,999, the i30 N undercuts the two by a fair bit. And it is packed with features.

The car was created at Hyundai's Namyang tech centre and tuned at Germany's Nurburgring circuit, hence the "N".

The result is a shockingly good hot hatch.

While not entirely handsome, the i30 N has interesting looks. With a sky-blue paint job and custom decals on the test-car, you will never miss it in a carpark.

The interior is typical Hyundai - meaning a well-constructed and solid (if plain) cabin, complete with Apple Carplay/Android Auto head unit, Isofix points and plenty of storage.

The star, however, is a 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged motor, kicking out 250hp and 353Nm of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.

The manual moves with fluid precision and sublime slickness - a proud anachronism amid today's modern automatic gearboxes.

On the road in Normal mode, the i30 N maintains a ride unsettled by only the biggest undulations.

It feels supple and controlled over large bumps despite large 18-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport and unforgiving sidewalls.

But find a patch of twisty road and the blue N mode steering wheel button on the steering wheel begs to be pushed.

When activated, the car instantly transforms from highway cruiser to battlecruiser.

The adaptive suspension stiffens, the steering weights up and the exhaust becomes an outlet through which hydrocarbons are converted into rapid-fire pops and bangs.

Blast down a deserted road, holding the revs above 5,000rpm, and the car comes alive, as if invoking the spirit of its rallying forebears.

Take corners at speeds which would make your rear passengers sick and the i30 N simply grips as if on rails, with the steering giving you plenty of feedback - even if you push too hard.

But if you are not fond of visiting your chiropractor too often, you can dial down the vice-like suspension stiffness through N custom mode.

You can decide how racy you want the engine or chassis settings to be and even see how many Gs you are pulling.

Hard-driving as the i30 N is, it is a good first try from Hyundai. The South Korean car-maker has proven that it can create an operatic masterpiece as well as it can make competent everyday cars.