I am lucky enough to be of an age that when I learnt to drive in the UK a manual gearbox was the primary option. Sure there were auto boxes but on the whole, they were clunky, un-reliable and slower to change than by hand. On top of that, the car I learnt in (I won’t say the brand or model because it’s embarrassing), was as aerodynamic as a brick and drove about as fast. What it did have though, was a boot, or as I called it, ‘a place to stash away the jumper cables and repair tools.’
Of course, the world has turned and auto’s (DCTs, DSGs, PDKs, Tiptronics, even CVTs) are the norm and in fairness, they are arguably better than manual boxes. But that hasn’t stopped Hyundai’s ‘N’ performance division from releasing a manual i30s hatch and now they’ve added a boot version too. Hyundai NZ threw me the keys to review it and just like that my youth came flooding back.
Hyundai has fittingly called it a Fastback and I have to say that this sport sedan’s profile looks great. Up front, it’s still got all the fine features of the hatch, Hyundai grille complete with N badge (for which there’s around 28 dotted around the vehicle), LED headlights and DRL’s, lower front spoiler with a racing red edge and side vents that actually work.
Profile-wise, the Shadow Gray fastback I had been given to review, sat on 19-inch N-specific alloys that partially covered the bright red N-callipers, gloss black door mirrors, a large sunroof and that all-important sloping tail end. While the rear itself came with a ‘boot lid’ spoiler, LED tail lights, a triangular stop light and twin pipes that are attached to a throaty sports exhaust system.
The Fastback is an extra 100mm in length than its hatchback sibling and this equates to 55L of additional luggage space (which is apparently about 2,000 times as big as a Marshmallow) when you raise up the liftback. In total it’s 450L of room to play with, which if I recall my youth, is a lot of space for a lot of (in this case unnecessary) tools.
For those that have ventured inside the i30N hatch, you’ll be instantly familiar with the layout, in fact, it’s virtually the same, just a few of the switchgear bits are ‘dulled’ in particular the ‘checkered flag’ on the steering wheel isn’t standout blue any more – but rest assured you’ll find it easy enough – and often.
The checkered flag puts the fastback into ‘N’ mode, which opens up the exhaust and tightens up everything else – suspension, throttle and steering… The car comes alive and so do you. It’s fun and playful, yet angry and spiteful, in fact, it’s the whole reason you bought this car, isn’t it? In truth, it’s the drive mode I spent most of my time in – there are five others but meh.
The infotainment screen is touch controlled and again there’s an N specific tab that shows you G-Force, Boost, Torque and Power, it even has a lap timer – How’s my driving? (0800 DONTCARE). Then there’s the manual box. It feels mechanical. The gate is short and the gears are precise. Moving up the box to sixth is simple with each step defined and in N-mode, shifting down has the engine automatically rev-match so those years you’ve spent learning to Heel/Toe are unrequired.
When not tearing up the neighbourhood or trying to goad people into racing you at lights, after all, it seems a shame to not let the 2L turbo-powered engine (202kW/378Nm with overboost) stretch its legs every now and again, the Hyundai NZ i30N Fastback doubles as a family sedan. There’s plenty of head and kneeroom in the rear seats to not squash the kids and although the ride is sporty firm, the furniture is comfy enough, the turning circle is a little on the wide side though.
80s music up loud and gearstick in hand, I enjoyed my time with the i30N Fastback. It’s a quick and responsive ride with room to do family chores when required. I miss the fun and involvement that came with a manual car and I miss my big hair too – sigh.
Pics supplied by Taken Media