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Hyundai i30 N Drive-N Limited Edition review (video)

When it comes to hot hatches, the Hyundai i30 N will go down as one of the greats. It helped the brand and the N sub-brand build a huge new following around the world because it is such a genuine, fun-loving vehicle.

To celebrate its success, Hyundai launched a special edition model last year called the Drive-N Limited Edition. Just 800 were made, globally, with 180 offered in Australia. This is one of them.

Hyundai i30 N Drive-N: Specifications

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 206kW@6000rpm / 392Nm@2100-4700rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 19×8.0, 235/35
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1511kg
Power-to-weight: 7.33:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 8.5L/100km
Our consumption: 8.6L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 50L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 24.23kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.11 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.50 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.21 seconds*
1/4 mile: 13.72 seconds at 172.9km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.846g*
100-0km/h braking: 38.17m in 2.96 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.148g*
Decibel at idle (/sport mode): 46/51*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 90*
Starting price: $56,200

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

Hyundai i30 N Drive-N: How much does it cost?

The i30 N starts from $46,200 for the manual and from $49,200 for the eight-speed dual-clutch auto. However, at the moment sales are on pause, according to the Hyundai Australia website. The i30 Sedan N, receiving a facelift later this year, remains on sale priced from $50,200.

As for this special Drive-N Limited Edition, it is technically an MY2022 version and it is all sold out. Prices started from $53,200 for the manual, plus $3000 for the auto as tested here (all excluding on-road costs).

Hyundai i30 N Drive-N: Interior & packaging

It is pretty similar to the regular model but there are a few tasteful enhancements to help it stand out. Such as racing stripes down the sides and front and rear, and special badges that have the coordinates for Hyundai’s test centre at the Nurburgring in Germany.

The exterior also features 19-inch forged alloy wheels in a unique dark matt bronze finish, matching some of the badges and racing stripes, with black Hyundai badges front and back for that sporty look. No major hardware changes are made beneath the skin, but the i30 N already features a wide range of performance goodies and adjustable functions.

Inside, passengers are treated to red-accented sports seats clad in Alcantara instead of the usual leather. These are the N Light seats, with red used for the steering wheel ‘N’ buttons and stitching (replacing the usual blue), and the seat belts are red as well. Lastly, a set of bespoke floor mats complete the package.

The i30 N is an excellent everyday hatchback because it is roomy inside but also very practical. You’ve got good storage options around the centre console including a flip-up arm rest and box, with cup and bottle holders, with USB, 12V and wireless phone charging options.

Rear seat space is more than acceptable for this class. In fact, legroom is better than most. There are no climate vents or charging facilities in the back, though, which is a bit of a shame. It’s nice to have the flip-down arm rest with dual cup holders, and bottle holders in the doors.

Boot space is rated at an impressive 381 litres. Some small-to-medium SUVs only just manage that. And you can flip down the rear seats – easily doable from the back – to expose 1287L. This really does prove you don’t need to instantly revert to an SUV when you’re considering boot space.

Hyundai i30 N Drive-N: Powertrain & handling

This is where things get exciting, because, in our opinion, the i30 N is the most fun hot hatch on the market right now. Aside from the driving characteristics, which I’ll get to in a second, the sheer array of adjustable parameters makes it very interactive and engaging, like no other on the market.

You have settings for not just the myriad drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport – but different options for the exhaust, the limited-slip differential, the gear shift speed and engine response, and suspension. You can configure a pre-set mould of your favourites, too. And then you just hit the N Custom mode on the steering wheel when you want it all activated. There’s also displays so you can watch the live action, such as turbo boost pressure and g-force gauge.

All of the adjustable settings make a huge difference to the driving character; they are not just superficial modes that don’t really do anything. It’s great because it allows you to set up the vehicle so it can adapt to various conditions. Going for a mountain road sprint? You might want to dial out the suspension firmness. Hitting a smooth and fast track like Phillip Island? You’ll want the most hardcore setting for all areas. It’s so good to have this level of versatility.

How does it drive? The original i30 N was a cracking first effort from Hyundai and the then-new N division. Now with the facelift and the new eight-speed dual-clutch auto, it is utterly superb. The chassis is rigid resulting in pin-sharp steering response and precision, and the powertrain provides more than enough grunt and low-end torque. You even get the enjoyment of managing handling characteristics with the throttle.

With the dual-clutch auto, it is astonishingly quick from point-to-point. You’ll be amazed at how effortlessly it can rail around corners, tugging with grip, and power down the straights. I was fortunate enough to take one of these for a day of track driving at Mount Panorama in Bathurst last year, and, honestly, the car made the otherwise daunting circuit feel like a playground.

The Drive-N features the same 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder as the regular model, producing 206kW at 6000rpm, and 392Nm between 2100-4700rpm. That’s a wide torque window for a four-cylinder, so it has excellent low-end pick-up when exiting corners. In fact, you can often leave it in third and ride the torque-wave rather than downshift to second. And it builds speed quicker during corner exits using this method. It’s awesome.

In terms of day-to-day conditions, yes, the suspension is pretty firm as you should expect for a serious hot hatch. We can see how the exhaust could be a bit loud at times, too, for some people (we’re not complaining), especially in the sporty modes. But again, what else do you expect from a high-calibre hot hatch like this? The other thing is, it’s not an SUV. So you do need to be more careful entering driveways and so on.

Fuel economy is impressive. Considering I’ve previously timed 0-100km/h in just 5.19 seconds in a different example (with fresher tyres), the official rate of 8.5L/100km is more than acceptable. We did conduct some Vbox tests with this Drive-N, on the same piece of tarmac, but the best we could manage was 5.50 seconds.

There is a launch control feature with an adjustable rev-limiter between 2600-3500rpm. The best time we achieved was with it set to 3100rpm. Even so, wheelspin can be a (fun) problem. After performance testing and a spirited drive or two, the consumption rate during our week with this vehicle was 8.6L/100km. That’s a solid effort.

Hyundai i30 N Drive-N: Key attractions/reasons to buy

Fun. If you enjoy driving, then you’ll have a lot of fun in the i30 N. This is a car that is not just extremely capable in experienced hands, but also playful and gentle on beginners. The sheer level of adjustment and different driving modes only makes it more versatile.

Unfortunately for this special edition, production is limited to just 180 units for Australia. But that’s okay as the regular i30 N hatch and sedan offer the same level of performance and capability, just without the bespoke garnishes and exclusivity.

Hyundai i30 N Drive-N: Key considerations before you buy

This is quite a serious hot hatch, so if you’re not keen on the idea of loud exhausts and firm rides, then you might not enjoy this as much as somebody else that does. For those that do, this is all the hot hatch you could ever ask for. It does everything you want it to do, yet you can drive it to work and do the shopping.

It’s not an SUV though, which will no doubt turn away some buyers (because SUVs are so fashionable at the moment), but it means it is low to the ground; be careful of that front spoiler and be prepared to get those leg muscles working again to get in and out (if you’re swapping from an SUV).

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Handling
  • X factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

The i30 N Drive-N is a strict limited edition with just 800 produced globally, 180 of which made it to Australia. The chances of getting your hands on one is very slim. But if you can, it provides an extra layer of exclusivity and visual stimulation over the already-desirable and properly capable regular i30 N.

Brett Davis

Brett started out as a motor mechanic, but eventually became frustrated working on cars that weren't his. He then earned a degree in journalism and scored a job at Top Gear Australia back in 2008, and then worked at Zoom/Extreme Performance magazines, CarAdvice, and started PerformanceDrive/PDriveTV in 2011 with Josh Bennis, and ran it for 12 years. He's now the owner and managing editor here at Driving Enthusiast.

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