If imitation is the best form of flattery, then the Hyundai i30N is possibly the biggest tribute to the Volkswagen Golf GTI
Hyundai's i30N Performance Pack is packed with thrills The Hyundai i30N Performance Pack is resistant to wheelspin even on aggressive take-offs, but there is still a trace of torque steer and just a hint of understeer. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

If imitation is the best form of flattery, then the Hyundai i30N is possibly the biggest tribute to the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Of course there have been many other GTI wannabes in the course of history, but the i30N comes closest to nailing it, especially in its latest iteration.

Hyundai calls it the i30N Performance Pack, but it could easily have been named i30N Woah.

Power has been raised by 25hp to 275hp, while peak torque remains at 353Nm but is available across a wider rev band. There is also an overboost function which raises torque to 378Nm momentarily.

The result is a 6.1-second century sprint, down from 6.4 seconds by the i30N (introduced early this year). Top speed remains at 250kmh, which is plenty for a hot hatch.

Still, among the very few cars with a manual box and a handbrake, the i30N allows you to calibrate performance and handling to a grain finer than any automatic can (if you ignore the car's instrumentation which keeps telling it to shift up).

There is rev-matching as before and a drive mode selection in a menu Hyundai cheekily calls N Grin Control. There is Eco, Normal and Sport as usual, but also a customisable function which allows you to mix and match the characteristics of each mode.

For instance, you may want Sport for the sharper engine response and loud (and lovely) exhaust, but prefer the more pliant ride in Normal.

Unfortunately, you will have to reconfigure every time you get back into the car as this function has no memory. A hassle, but really a safety precaution.

The car gets an electronically controlled limited slip differential now. Also tempered by N Grin Control, it regulates the speed of each front wheel to sharpen handling around corners.

The i30N is resistant to wheelspin even on aggressive take-offs, but there is still a trace of torque steer and an ever so slight tendency to understeer at times.

But it also rewards with an excellent overall tractability, well-sorted damping and a rich tailpipe burble, which is less apparent in the non-Performance Pack car and uncommon among inline-four engines.

The Performance Pack car comes with 19-inch wheels shod with Pirelli's. It has larger brakes, with ventilated discs for the rear.

Driven enthusiastically, the Hyundai hatchback's agility comes to the fore, with a confident planted feel you normally associate with better European performance cars - and with a comfort level better than some.

The driving experience is marred slightly by a squeaky steering wheel, but the car impresses with zero cabin rattle even when going fast over poorly patched tarmac.

On board, new amenities include a memory driver seat with lumbar and cushion extension for better thigh support.

Size-wise, the car is negligibly narrower, but slightly bigger on the whole than the GTI. This makes for more practicality.

At around $170,000, the i30N Performance Pack is priced closely to the iconic Volkswagen, and appreciably more than the standard i30N. This is largely because the new variant attracts an emission surcharge and has more features.

Drive it for yourself to decide if it is worth the price premium.