Hyundai’s high-performance N division has had its best and most productive year yet, and the 2022 Hyundai i30 Sedan N is just the icing on the cake. Hot off the launch of the diminutive i20 N and high-riding Kona N, this sleek yet angular sedan only adds another feather to the N range’s cap.
It might be an i30 in name, but it isn’t an i30 in any other regard; the i30 Sedan is actually a replacement for the Elantra, and still goes by that name in the US. Furthermore, the i30 N hatchback is sourced from Hyundai’s factory in the Czech Republic, while this is built in South Korea.
We’re lucky here in Australia as we are actually afforded the most complete N range in the world. The only model we haven’t seen is the Veloster N, and with the Veloster being retired later this year, it leaves us with what will then be the entire global range. Europe has the Czech-made i30 Fastback N in place of this while the small and manual-only i20 N would never sell in the US, but here, we’ll take all the hot four-pots we can.
Unlike most Hyundai N models offered in Australia, the i30 Sedan N comes in just one trim level, the full-fat Premium. The only big option you have to choose from is which transmission you’d like – a six-speed manual or the eight-speed DCT fitted to our tester – but both ask the same $49,500 list price. A $2000 sunroof and $495 premium paint are the only other options on offer.
As you’d expect, it wears all of the same design cues we’ve come to expect from any N model – a baby blue paint job, red highlights on the splitters and side skirts, and some massive tailpipes ready to emit a burly four-pot burble with all the violence of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on overrun.
Of all the N models, I’m tempted to say this is the best-looking of the lot. With the addition of its three-bridged rear wing and 19-inch wheels, the intense angles of the low-sling i30 Sedan’s design make it a real standout among the hatchbacks (and one small SUV) that comprise the rest of the range.
To compliment this, it also has a more driver-focused interior than most other N models as well. As a driver, you’re cocooned behind the wheel with the dashboard wrapping around you in the same way it does in cars like the Jaguar F-Type.
Of course, there are plenty of carryover items but they’re all welcome, such as the steering wheel shared with every other N model which has a set of big tactile paddles on the back of it in this DCT model. The big red ‘N Grin Shift’ overboost button and the customisable blue drive mode paddles put all the controls you need right at your fingertips, too.
You’ll note one big upgrade over the i30 N hatch being the digital instrument cluster, with this 10.25-inch screen complimenting the infotainment screen that’s a match in size. However, the seating position is a bit too high if you’re around my 6’2″ height – although the seats themselves are nice and supportive – so a head-up display would be nice as well.
For the 2022 Hyundai i30 Sedan N, there’s of course a host of performance displays on these screens that lesser Hyundais don’t get including a lap timer with track maps, G-meter, oil temperature and boost gauges, and further drive mode customisation screens. There’s so much control on offer, you can even set what RPM level you’d like the launch control system at.
Of course, the usual accoutrements you expect these days are all here as well. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (although not wireless), a wireless phone charger, an eight-speaker Bose audio system, dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled seats, and a heated steering wheel. Admittedly, this interior does feel quite plasticky and cheap when you start to poke around, and it’s quite a noisy cabin on the move as well, but it’s undeniably well-equipped.
However, there are some compromises you make by going for this performance variant. For instance, there’s a manual handbrake rather than an electronic one – brilliant for offering additional vehicle control, but I do miss the ‘auto hold’ function of an electronic one in traffic.
In the rear, there might at least be air vents for rear passengers but there’s no longer a centre armrest – something which does feature in the standard i30 Sedan but is inexplicably absent here. Yes, it’s a performance car, but it still needs to be practical as most owners will daily drive it, no?
Nowhere is it less practical than when you fold the rear seats down, though. It might have a massive 466-litre boot, but fitting longer items is largely impossible as there’s a massive rear strut brace – or ‘rear stiffness bar’ as Hyundai amusingly calls it – behind the rear seats.
But while these things are a tad annoying on a day-to-day basis, some of the impracticalities of the Hyundai i30 Sedan N pay dividends when you want to drive this thing hard.
The one regard in which it is actually the same as the i30 N hatch is under the bonnet, with both featuring the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 206kW from 5500-6000rpm and 392Nm from 2100-4700rpm on offer. The six-speed manual and eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions are a carry-over as well.
However, the i30 Sedan N uses a new Integrated Drive Axle developed for Hyundai’s WRC cars which is 1.7kg lighter and 55 percent more rigid than a typical front-wheel drive setup. The chassis brace in the boot makes the rear 29 percent more rigid as well, so it’s safe to say it feels as tight as a drum skin.
Thanks to its N Corner Carving Differential – yet another hilariously descriptive bit of terminology from Hyundai’s marketing department for the e-LSD between the front wheels – you can hook it into corners at any speed you like and the diff will sort it all out for you. Throttle on too early on the exit? Not a worry, the diff has it sorted. The road is wet and you want to push it hard? Again, it accounts perfectly for every bit of slip you’ll encounter.
A new set of bespoke tyres from Michelin – the Pilot Sport 4S HN; other N models use the Pirelli P Zero HN – only enhance it in this regard, as they perform much better in the wet and offer exceptional grip in the dry. Even just looking at the tread on them, you can see how sticky this rubber is.
Combine this grip with how flat it remains thanks to its rigidity and stiffness, and you have a car that is razor sharp in the bends. Factor in the ferocious engine with its smooth wave of torque and the rapid dual-clutch transmission that blips through the gears instantaneously, and straight line performance is accounted for as well – it completes the 0-100km/h sprint in just 5.3 seconds with the DCT, making it the fastest N model currently on offer.
That engine, of course, is the biggest attraction of all with its wide torque band and the adrenaline hit that is its overboost function. It’s undoubtedly an enthralling power plant for what is one serious performance car.
I can’t help but wonder if it’s too serious a performance car, though. What gives it its character are all the extreme performance upgrades it’s been fitted with, but many of them are the same things that make it a bit of a pain to live with.
The steering, for instance, feels tight and stiff, but try to get into a tight parking spot and you’re faced with a turning circle greater than Jupiter’s. That stiff chassis that makes it a dream through the bends can be tiresome after a long day at work. Factor in an underwhelming if well-equipped interior, and as a daily driver it falters.
Don’t get me wrong – as a bang for your buck driver’s car, the only other cars you can truly cross-shop it with also wear an N badge on the back. It might be the most expensive of them, but it’s also the fastest, tightest, and most advanced.
The closest competitors that initially come to mind from another brand are the Audi S3 Sedan and BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe, and while they may be all-wheel drive and a touch more powerful, the cost of entry for either is more than $70,000. I can complain as much as I want about the road noise and the crap cabin plastics – a $20,000-plus saving is impossible to ignore when you’ll be keeping up with both of those cars. The only competitor that is actually close on price is the new Subaru WRX, but it’s so drab that I almost forgot about it. Plus, the i30 bests it in every performance metric and on price in like-for-like spec.
It might not be the N model that resonates most with me, but there’s no denying what the i30 Sedan N brings to the table. If you want to go fast on a budget, especially around a track, there is no better way to do it. There might be some compromises on a day-to-day basis, but that’s a small price to pay for the massive savings it offers.
2022 Hyundai i30 Sedan N Premium DCT List Price: $49,500
- Performance - 8.5/108.5/10
- Ride & Handling - 9/109/10
- Tech & Features - 8.5/108.5/10
- Practicality - 7.5/107.5/10
- Value for Money - 8.5/108.5/10
Pros: Thrilling turbo engine and rapid DCT, incredibly tight and sorted chassis, bespoke Michelin tyres perform incredibly well in the wet and dry, plenty of equipment for the money
Cons: Noisy cabin with cheap plastics, no rear centre armrest when the normal i30 Sedan has one, too serious a performance car to still be the ideal daily driver
In a nutshell: There’s no better way to go this fast for the money if you’re prepared to put up with some compromises.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Hyundai Motor Company Australia for 10 days with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel costs were covered by the author.