The sporty i30N is the South Korean brand's first serious stab at the premium performance segment, but it won't be its last
The sporty i30N car is Hyundai's N game The Hyundai i30N hatchback is lively and a little aggressive, with a hint of torque steer. PHOTOS: HYUNDAI

I have come to Nurburgring to drive the Hyundai i30N as well as a prototype of the i30N Fastback, which will be unveiled in November.

So what is the i30N? Think of it as a "Hyundai GTI", as it seems closest to the concept of Volkswagen's hot Golf.

It has a 250hp 2-litre turbo engine, while a Performance Package version will have 275hp - achieved through a slightly higher turbo boost - and an e-differential. The latter, test-driven here, also has a sportier exhaust and more purposeful-looking front and rear spoilers.

The Nurburgring is essentially 20km of the most challenging road conditions in a single lap. Taken at slow speed, almost any car will pass muster. But taken fast and furiously, only the most sorted machines will survive.

A car honed to handle the Nurburgring will usually do exceedingly well on your favourite stretch of road back home.

The cars are equipped with a manual six-speed gearbox with rev-matching function (although Hyundai is said to be planning a dual-clutch later). It is pleasingly slick in its operation, with a short throw and slightly notchy feel to it.

There is some form of launch control - which holds revs at 4,200rpm - to help you get off the line quickly and consistently. The Hyundai hot hatch hits 100kmh in 6.4 seconds, with the Performance version clocking 6.1 seconds.

Both are electronically limited to a 250kmh top speed.

Stopping power comes in the form of 345mm front vented discs and 314mm rear discs. They seem bigger than necessary for the 1,429kg i30N, but I am not complaining.

The i30n is fitted with adaptive suspension from Hyundai's flagship Genesis range, but modified for a sportier performance.

In normal drive mode, the car provides the best comfort. Sport is the best all-round mode, with an excellent mix of comfort, control and handling. Sports Plus is enjoyable only on long and fairly smooth stretches.

There is also an N mode, which allows you to customise various settings, including exhaust note.

The hatchback is lively and a little aggressive, with a hint of torque steer. The Fastback is more mellow, more sophisticated in its ride and handling. It is more resolved than the already impressive hatch.

In Singapore, the i30N squeezes under the 160g CO2 mark by a gram, thus keeping it in the neutral emission tax band. But the 275hp i30N Performance Package will attract a surcharge. Hence the standard i30N will arrive in October, while the Performance variant will come later.

It has been a while since something from Hyundai excites me, but the i30N is quite impressive. It is an honest, unpretentious stab at making a better performance car than the Europeans or the Japanese for less money.