2018 Hyundai i30N: Hyundai Hot Hatchback Could Drag The Market With Ford Focus GTI

Hyundai’s new performance-oriented N Division has officially introduced its first car for sale. As we expected, it’s a hot hatch based on the Europe-market i30, a car that is sold in the United States as the Elantra GT. Sadly for the American hot-hatch market, though, this N won’t make it to our shores. Hyundai won’t introduce its first N-badged car in the U.S. until the next-generation Veloster arrives sometime next year.
2018 Hyundai i30N: Hyundai Hot Hatchback Could Drag The Market With Ford Focus GTI

Even so, we’re enticed by the GTI-fighting i30N’s specifications because of what it might portend for that U.S.-spec Veloster N. Under the hood is a direct-injected turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 271 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission delivers torque to the front wheels, and an electronic limited-slip differential is standard equipment. Launch control and automatic rev-matching capabilities are included, as are adaptive dampers, a variable exhaust, and a driving-mode selector with five settings.

The i30N also looks the part of a proper sport compact, with an attractive but not overwrought body kit that turns up the already attractive hatch’s aggression factor. We’re especially fond of the Performance Blue exterior color, which contrasts nicely with red accents on the front and rear bumpers and brake calipers. The tame interior doesn’t look too different from a standard i30’s, but it does feature sport seats with extra bolstering.

Hyundai plans to start selling this car in Europe and Korea by the end of this year. It’s a shame that this N won’t make it to the States. But, given that the next-generation Veloster is expected to share its platform with the i30, we anticipate that the eventual U.S.-market Veloster N will share most of the i30N’s componentry, including its engine and basic chassis tuning. Until then, we’re eagerly anticipating N’s stateside debut.

The i30 N features a high-output version of Hyundai's familiar 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder, tuned to deliver up to 276 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque when equipped with an optional performance pack. Those out figures fall between Honda's sporty Civic models, not to mention rivals such as Volkswagen's GTI and Golf R. 0-62 mph is estimated at 6.1 seconds. The less-powerful standard i30 N still delivers 250 hp and the same torque, enough to hit 62 mph in 6.4 seconds.

But this isn't just a case of Hyundai turning up the wick on the turbo and slapping on some red trim pieces, the i30 N gets its own computer-controlled suspension, electronic limited-slip differential, variable-valve exhaust and launch control, among other performance-minded party tricks. 

Like many of its rivals, the i30 N is only available with a six-speed manual and it delivers power exclusively to the front wheels. Front-wheel drive isn't always a recipe for driving greatness, but like rivals, the i30 N was extensively tuned on Germany's famed Nürburgring circuit and its development has been overseen by Alfred Biermann, formerly the boss at BMW's M, so it's certainly worth giving this car the benefit of the doubt.

On the street, the i30 N should be easy to spot, with its large 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels and a stance that's lowered 4 to 8 millimeters, depending on options. New aero bits include more aggressive front and rear fasciae and a rear wing that features a unique triangle-shaped third brake light. 

Additional telltales include a double-outlet exhaust, blacked-out headlamps and the usual smattering of badges. It's a handsome-looking design that's markedly more restrained than that of its Honda rival, hewing more closely to the VW school of subtle performance than anything else.

Hyundai i30 N ushers in a new age of performance with Seoul
Naturally, the i30 N's interior gets an updo, as well, with a fatter steering wheel with drive mode buttons, more heavily bolstered seats, and a model-specific instrument cluster, plus special modes like a g-meter and lap timer. Additional performance frosting includes special pedals, N-branded door sill plates, and so on.

The i30 N will launch first in other markets, but if there's enough demand, it's possible we'll see it in North America, likely branded not as i30, but instead under the Elantra GT umbrella, which is itself getting a new generation this summer. Hyundai is understood to have global ambitions for its new N brand, and this car would be a welcome addition in the US, as Hyundai has seemingly been focused on augmenting its crossover SUV range over the past few years. Practically speaking, that has meant the Korean automaker has been largely ignoring its enthusiast-minded offerings -- it killed off its Genesis Coupe recently, and it just announced that its spunky Veloster is going on hiatus for the 2018 model year.

In the meantime, performance-minded Hyundai fans in North America will have to content themselves with the 201-hp Elantra Sport sedan and GT Sport hatchback.