IF you haven’t heard of N Performance, Hyundai’s go fast arm, then you’ve likely been living under a rock. Hyundai N takes existing models and transforms them into something truly special. This is no different with the Fastback N, except it doesn’t have a base model.
You’ll be familiar with the i30, Hyundai’s ultra successful hatch. You might also know of the hot hatch version said model, known as the i30 N. It’s what put the N brand on the map here in Australia, and around the world (along with the Veloster N).
The ground breaking performance hatch is, in an odd way, the basis for that which we are driving here, the Fastback N, a surrogate if you like, upon which Hyundai’s N team did their own thing.
Offered in a range of colours, including the spectacular Performance Blue, the Fastback N is identical to the hatch, from the front doors to the nose. It retains the same wheels and same 4-pot N-badged brake calipers.
It’s only from the rear doors to the tail-end of the car do you see any significant changes. Hyundai have added an extra 12cm to the rear end which in turn added an additional 55-litres of boot storage, and 12kg of weight to the chassis.
The coupe-like design of the Fastback N has hints of AMG’s CLA45, without the continuous downward sloping of the boot, thanks to the lovely little piano-black duck tail spoiler. But there’s also a touch of BMW styling there too.
That’s thanks to the influence of Hyundai’s head of R&D and former BMW M top gun, Albert Biermann. Personally, we’d have preferred the Fastback offer three doors and have stolen the LED pattern from the hatchback’s tail lights, but to each their own.
Underneath the hood, the Fastback shares the same power plant as the hatch, with a slightly higher top speed, with the 2.0-litre inline-4 fed by a twin-scroll turbo, and generating 202kW of power at the front wheels, with 353Nm of torque.
From these power figures, Hyundai claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.1 seconds. A tenth of a second faster than the hatch. No matter the top speed, or sprint time though, the one thing the Fastback N does well, is make you smile.
From the moment you press the start button and the engine comes to life, you can’t help but end up with a grin, as exhaust burbles it’s way to idle revs. Despite, or in spite of the burble, it makes a great daily driver in Normal driving mode.
The 6-speed manual transmission, which is the only option available in N cars at present (an auto is on the way), is capable and user friendly. The throw is fairly short and Hyundai have introduced a ‘Rev’ button on the steering wheel, which enables rev-matching.
A brilliant little feature for those not proficient with the heel-toe technique, it allows you to focus your attention on other things, like going full beans into a corner. Toggle the drive mode button on the steering wheel though and your headed for Sport mode.
It’s like you have a whole new car. The valved exhaust opens up a bit more and the engine growls through the rev-range before you get some pops and bangs on overrun. It’s ideal for making your daily commute or errand-running a little more interesting.
But let’s face it, this is an N performance model, we’re here for the N Mode. That’s the little chequered flag button on the steering wheel, and the car’s signature driving mode. But there are in fact two N modes available, a normal one, and a custom version.
In what we’ll refer to as normal N mode, the settings firm up everything from the damper controls, to steering input, limited-slip settings and the exhaust note. It’s all awesome, and drops the i30 Fastback N into full beast mode.
But the brilliant minds at Hyundai have included that second customisable N mode, which completely swept us off our feet, and eliminated the need for all the other driving modes. You see, it truly is fully customisable.
You could have the softest suspension, paired with the lightest steering wheel input, but still have the exhaust on the most obnoxious setting. The car also remembers your previous settings after switching it off so you don’t have to customise it again.
It’s absolutely brilliant. We honesty believe the only reason the i30 Fastback N has a normal mode, and starts up in it, is so your neighbours won’t hate you every time you fire it up in the driveway.
The Fastback drives beautifully. The ride is firm like you’d expect in a sports coupe, and there’s minimal body roll. It holds tight corners really well too. It does suffer from severe axle tramping in lower gears on a wide open throttle though.
The 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli’s P-Zero rubber makes for good ride comfort, and the electronic steering is responsive. It almost makes it too easy to throw it around corners.
Inside the cabin, you’ll find a black headlining, leather steering wheel, cloth seats (heated up front), an 8-inch infotainment system equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, and sports pedals.
It also features a red plastic trim around the vents and shifter, which are the only things, aside from red stitching on the wheel and seats, that sets it apart from the hatch version. Without the Luxury Pack add-on, it feels a little loaded with hard plastics.
That adds an additional $3,000 on top of the base price, but goes some way to restoring the luxury of its European competitors. The pack gives you key-less entry, synthetic suede and leather seats, auto-folding mirrors, and electronic adjustment to the front seats.
It also adds driver’s seat memory, a wireless charging pad and an array of other extras. It’s a small price to pay for a lot of things that almost feel essential in this day and age. With the Luxury Pack added, you can also opt-in a dual-panel panoramic sunroof.
The Fastback body shape hasn’t been ANCAP safety tested yet, but the hatch received five stars. And on that front, you’ll get seven airbags, a reverse camera, autonomous emergency braking, and lane-keep assist.
For those with a family, there are three ISOFIX anchor points. Unfortunately, the Fastback doesn’t have blind spot monitoring which is a standard feature in most modern cars, but hopefully the 2021 model, which should see a bit of an overhaul, improves on this.
The biggest factor that separates the Fastback N from the hatch variant of the sporty i30 is the slanting rear window and coupe styling. That back glass reduces visibility though, but you do get a bigger boot and wider boot opening, as we mentioned already.
It’s a sensational driver’s car in its own right. It competes with the likes of the Honda Civic Type R ($51,990 plus on roads), the Renault Megane R.S. (from $45,990 plus on roads) and the Volkswagen Golf R and GTI.
Pricing for the 2020 Hyundai i30 Fastback N starts at $42,910 (excluding on roads), with the Luxury Pack equipped version starting at $45,910, again, plus on road costs. It comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Our 2020 Hyundai i30 Fastback N was supplied by Hyundai Australia. To find out more, contact your local Hyundai dealer. Pictures courtesy of J_Hui Design/Photography.