New kid on the block - We drive the Hyundai i30N
• Hyundai's i30N launched in the first quarter of 2020
• It's powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 202kW and 353Nm
• Only a five-door version is available in South Africa priced at R679 000
There's a new contender on the local hot hatch scene. You may have heard of it. It's from South Korea but has made stops in Germany, specifically the famous Nürburgring race circuit where carmakers hone their performance car models.
From the outset the new Hyundai i30N is a car brimming with the ingredients for those that love driving. It follows a similar formula to many of its rivals. A 2.0-litre turbocharged sits up front with drive sent to the front wheels via a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox.
The i30N even has a manual handbrake.
So why is the first proper performance car from Hyundai making such a splash? Under the guidance of former BMW M boss Albert Biermann, it needs to.
Biermann spent over 30 years working on racing cars and road cars for the Bavarian company and oversaw arguably some of the best high-performance roads cars ever produced.
The 62-year-old German is now in charge of Hyundai's N division.
In South Africa, the i30N is only available in five-door configuration and costs R679 000. The other important numbers you need to know are 202kW and 353Nm (378Nm on overboost for 18 seconds), which most performance car enthusiasts will know is lower than the Honda Civic Type R and the recently launched Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy.
But that's only half of what this car is about. The i30N allows you find your rhythm with ease, not feeling too overbearing or nasty. Sure, there's torque steer but nothing you can't handle.
It has a lovely crackle emanating from the active exhaust that also gets channeled into the cabin and a rev-limiter bar that lights up when you mash the throttle.
The rev-matching system works with the gearbox like Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba at their best. The steering, exhaust note and suspension can all be altered via the large touchscreen on the fascia.
There is a drive mode button that offers normal, sport and eco variations and a race button located on the steering wheel.
Despite having a brief period with the little blue number, I rang its neck up and down some of my favourite roads in the Cape and was deeply impressed by its stability in high-speed corners, offering stupendous grip.
The highlights are the six-speed manual, oodles of torque and the overall experience. It doesn't have the most accurate steering in the segment and suffers from a shoddy ride on uneven surfaces.
But those aren't deal breakers for me, this first attempt by the N division is entertaining and that's something Biermann will be proud of.