At the end of 2015 I went to Germany to have a look at Hyundai Motorsport’s 2016 World Rally Championship car.
While I was there, I met Albert Biermann, the newly appointed boss of Hyundai Motor Company’s Vehicle Testing & High-Performance Development.
I didn’t think too much about his title because back then, Hyundai and high-performance road cars were somewhat of an alien concept to most consumers.
But here was this man talking a big game by stating that that he not only wanted to build a high-performance Hyundai hatch, but he also wanted to build a hot hatch that could take on VW’s Golf GTI.
I would have laughed out loud if it were not for the fact that he had spent 31 years at BMW. There he headed up the M performance division before jumping across to the Korean carmaker.
I am ever so thankful that I shut my mouth for once. Because we are in 2022 and I am driving a Hyundai i30 N that I would choose over the now very sterile and business-like Golf GTI.
I know it’s a bold statement, but if you look past the GTI badge, you will realise that there is a world of fun waiting for you out there.
Watch i30 N in action
The meaning of Hyundai’s “N” is twofold. It stands for Namyang, the manufacturer’s global R&D Centre in Korea, and for the Nürburgring, home to their European Test Centre. It is at this iconic venue where the i30 N was developed and tested and it shows in the way drives.
You have a 206 kW and 392 Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that drives the power to the 19-inch lightweight alloys upfront via an eight-speed DCT gearbox. An Electronic Limited Slip Differential does its best to keep the power on the tar.
The part that I enjoyed most about the drive was that making use of the various drive modes (Normal, Sport, Eco) or N custom mode, actually transformed a relatively soft road car into a much stiffer more track-focused machine at the push of a chequered flag button.
Many cars offer these drive modes, but a lot of the time, not much happens when you change between them. Car manufacturers try to be everything to everybody and are afraid of putting their car on one side of the fence. Hyundai Motor Company makes no bones about it, the i30 N is about track-type feel and performance before soft road cars.
i30 N vs Golf GTI: the numbers
I spent a great deal of time playing around with the Hyundai i30 N out in the twisties and also by using the local neighbourhood GP circuit, much to the annoyance of most of my neighbours.
But then it was time for The Citizen Motoring to take this snap, crackle and pop hot hatch to Gerotek for some straight-line performance testing.
Did I expect it to beat the less powerful but lighter Golf GTI? Yes. Did I expect it to be close? Oh yes!
The launch control program ensures there is only some scrabbling from the front wheels when getting off the line.
These systems work, because play with the i30 N without the traction control on and you can light those nice and expensive N specific Pirelli P-Zero tyres up at will. But back to the test and the numbers.
The industry standard 0 to 100 km/h time comes up in 5.51 seconds (5.88 GTI). The drag mile standard quarter mile comes in at 13.84 seconds (14.06 GTI) and by this point the speed for both is 145 km/h, meaning that the Golf GTI is starting to claw its way back.
By the one kilometre mark, the GTI is now slightly ahead at 212 km/h to 209 km/h, while both stop at around 250 km/h on their electronic speed limiters.
Golf GTI or i30 N?
The Hyundai i30 N retails for a suggested price of R765 000, which is a bit more expensive than a GTI at R733 200. But the Hyundai comes with all its bells and whistles included in the price, whereas you can dig over R50 000 deep into the options list to get the VW up to spec.
The i30 N comes with a longer warranty of seven-years/200 000 km compared to the three-year/120 000 km warranty on the Golf GTI. But its service plan falls a bit short of that of the GTI: five-year/90 000 km at five years or 75 000 km.
There is not a lot to choose between them and this is not a car vs car shootout. But the rules of the motoring world dictate that anything vaguely resembling a hot hatch gets compared to the GTI, the segment King.
And long live the King, because the badge appeal of the VW Golf GTI remains the biggest difference between them. But like I said earlier, this i30 N would get my money because it is simply the more engaging and fun car to drive.
Road test data
|Odometer||1 086 km|
|Test temperature||20 Degrees|
|Power||206 kW @ 5 500 – 6 000 rpm|
|Torque||392 Nm @ 2 100 – 4 700 rpm|
|Licensing mass||1 455 kg|
|Power to weight||142 kW/ton|
|Power to capacity||103 kW/litre|
|0-100 km/h||5.51 seconds|
|1/4 Mile time||13.84 seconds|
|1/4 Speed||165.58 km/h|
|1/2 Mile time||21.72 seconds|
|1/2 Speed||222.15 km/h|
|1km time||22.61 seconds|
|1km speed||199.08 km/h|
|Top speed (Claimed)||250 km/h|
|60-100 km/h||2.88 seconds|
|80-120 km/h||3.71 seconds|
|100-200 km/h||11.02 seconds|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION DATA|
|Claimed fuel economy||8.9 litres / 100 km|
|Test average||10.2 litres / 100 km|
|Tank size||50 litres|
|Range claimed||562 km|
|Range test||490 km|
|CO2 emissions||191 g/km|
|Make||Pirelli P Zero|
|Price at test||R765 000|
|Warranty||7-Year/200 000 km|
|Service plan||5-Year/75 000 km|