The easy second album
Hyundai’s i30N hot hatch was a surprise star, and now there’s a coupe version. A prototype drive bodes well… By James Taylor
DO NOT ADJUST your set: this is a camouflaged prototype, not a production car. At least, not yet. It’s the Hyundai i30 Fastback N, an upcoming coupéfied version of the i30N hatch.
From a standing start, Hyundai’s N performance division is quickly becoming a key player in the hot hatch world. That’s thanks mostly to the surprising excellence of its first car, the i30N. We’ve run one as a long-term test car over the last few months (see page 134 for its final report), and its big character, big
performance and decent usability have impressed. This will be the second N car to be sold in the UK (and the third one in total – a Veloster N has been created for the USA, but it’s not destined for these shores). More will follow, including plans for an N-branded halo car to showcase future tech and Hyundai’s motorsport links.
HYUNDAI i30 FAST BACK N
But the Fastback is next. It’s due for a proper reveal at the Paris motor show in October but it’s not too difficult to hazard a guess at what it looks like under the camo stickers. Roofline aside, structure and powertrain are unchanged from the i30N hatch: same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot, available with 271bhp in top Performance spec, along with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and the same six-speed manual ’box. In keeping with the N’s petrolhead ethos, there’s no auto.
What is new on the dynamic front is some carefully wrought suspension refinement, which will also be rolled out to the i30N hatch as part of its 2019 model year update. The front spring rates have been made softer, the goal being reduced understeer. Normally that would mean more body roll, but cleverly the i30N’s electronic adaptive dampers compensate, pre-loading according to steering input.
We’re testing the Fastback prototype at the undulating Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire, a challenge for any chassis – especially when it’s pelting with rain. Rubbish weather is actually perfect for this test, though, bringing the car’s limits lower and giving a good picture of how it will behave if you push too hard at higher speeds. First impressions are very positive indeed.
Front-end grip is prodigious, to the point that you can actually add lock mid-corner where most cars would be washing out. The rear tyres, too, are planted – not playful, perhaps, but encouragingly stable.
Suspension tuning feels a step on from already ace i30N hatch
H A T E
Body less practical than hatch – will it look glamorous enough?
V E R D I C T
Early signs are good: comfier but even more fun than the hatch
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Also among the suspension updates are longer bump stops, designed to better telegraph the onset of understeer, and in the streaming water they seem to be doing their job well. Feedback feels more faithful than on our long-term i30N, and the steering itself feels a little lighter, too.
That’s a welcome change – I can’t be the only one who finds the current i30N’s heavyweight power steering overdone for the road.
Another impressive facet of this prototype is the way it puts its power down, the locking diff pulling the car out of corners without the steering getting corrupted as much as the hatchback’s.
On first impressions, the Fastback has all the character of the i30N hatch together with easier-going yet more accurate handling. The question is whether it will look glamorous enough without camo to justify its likely price and weight increase over the hatch.