2019 Hundai i30 N Fastback.
2019 Hundai i30 N Fastback.

ROAD TEST REVIEW: Hyundai’s stunning performance car

A DISTANT murmur through the brake pedal rumbles as we arrive at Adelaide airport in Hyundai's i30 Fastback N.

The sole symptom of a trying day on road and track is remarkable considering the torture test it endured at the hands of unsympathetic motoring media.

Confident in the car's abilities, Hyundai let us loose at the nation's newest racetrack in Tailem Bend, South Australia.

While press launches are often stage-managed affairs involving a couple of frustrating tours behind a pace car driver, the Fastback's debut involved unlimited laps at limitless speed, including dozens of hard stops from the interesting side of 200km/h.

It's rare for a driver to grow tired of track day shenanigans before their car does, but the i30 Fastback N is a particularly rare animal.

The Fastback is even more impressive than the hatch version.
The Fastback is even more impressive than the hatch version.

Based on a hatchback aimed squarely at Volkswagen's timeless Golf GTI, the Fastback has few natural predators.

The brand pitches it as a cut-price alternative to the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 - a "four-door coupe" that outsells its hatchback cousin - though the i30 lies closer in price and purpose to Honda's Civic Type R.

On sale from $41,990 plus on-road costs ($1500 more than the hatch), the Fastback brings improved aerodynamics and a bigger liftback boot offset by a slight reduction in rear headroom and compromised rear vision.

Otherwise, the pair are separated by a series of tweaks to be included in a running update for the five-door later this year.

The introduction of an automatic transmission is sure to be popular.
The introduction of an automatic transmission is sure to be popular.

The cabin is brighter, benefiting from red stitching to a (thankfully) round steering wheel, along with red bezels for the air vents and a change from blue to black buttons for the wheel's drive mode switches.

An eight-inch screen with satnav, Apple CarPlay, digital radio and a reversing camera remains unchanged, as do safety features including autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assistance.

The same goes for the 2.0-litre turbo, which still sends up to 202kW/378Nm to the front wheels through a clever electronically controlled limited-slip diff and beautifully weighted six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching assistance.

Tweaks under the slinky new skin involve softer springs and shocks to match a new anti-roll bar and rear camber links. The adaptive suspension package is intended to make the sedan a better bet on road and track.

The i30 N Fastback is a track weapon.
The i30 N Fastback is a track weapon.

Previously the i30 N was criticised for being jiggly on broken tarmac and reluctant to entertain keen drivers with tail-happy dynamics. The Fastback attempts a remedy.

Time on the road reveals the car remains alert and engaging in the bends, if a little abrupt in its responses to dodgy road surfaces.

The ride remains bouncy at times, it feels heavier than some rivals (the Fastback is a little heftier than the hatch, though the longer tail allows more even weight distribution) and road noise at highway speed exceeds that of a Golf.

Moving to the circuit, the Hyundai's famously robust constitution - one backed by a racetrack warranty - is reinforced by a playful character that rewards enthusiasts.

Myriad settings for the engine, exhaust, steering, suspension, stability control and other aspects allow you to tailor the car to driving conditions.

The Fastback’s interior has been upgraded.
The Fastback’s interior has been upgraded.

The Fastback feels better suited to a day at the track relative to the original hatch and retains its balance on a hot day on the circuit.

Get it right and the Fastback revels in being tossed broadside toward an apex, its rump rotating in a playful dance which keeps you coming back for more.

Hatch watch

The next chapter promises to be even better. Hatchback versions of the i30 N will receive the Fastback's improved interior and suspension tweaks later this year. Those changes could fall into line with the much-needed addition of an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to rival VW's, along with other missing elements such as active cruise control and pedestrian detection. Expensive performance accessories are in the pipeline but don't expect Hyundai to serve up a less expensive non-turbo Fastback any time soon.

Verdict 4.5/5

The original Hyundai i30 N was a surprise hit. Improving on a good thing, the Fastback addresses some of the original's weak points while bringing a touch of glam.

Hyundai i30 N Fastback vitals

Price: $41,990 plus on-roads

Warranty/servicing: 5 years, unlimited km; $897 for 3 years

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 202kW/378Nm

Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, front collision warning, lane keeping assist

Thirst: 8.0L/100km

Spare: Space-saver

Boot: 436L

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