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Driven: 2022 Hyundai i30 Sedan N pushes performance to new heights

Driven: 2022 Hyundai i30 Sedan N pushes performance to new heights

Can a sports sedan have front-wheel drive? Many car enthusiasts do not think so, noting that a real sports sedan should be rear-wheel drive or at least four-wheel drive. Let those detractors drive the new Hyundai i30 Sedan N, though, and we suspect most will agree that it should be considered one of the best sports sedans on the market.

It’s been about 12 months since the car was first unveiled and in most markets outside of Korea it’s known as the Elantra N. In Australia it’s referred to as the i30 Sedan N, but that’s purely for marketing and under the hood. is just like the Elantra N sold abroad. We recently spent a week with one and were very impressed.

An exceptional base

Under the skin of the i30 Sedan N is the carmaker’s K3 platform. This makes it the first N model to use this platform and also offers a longer wheelbase than the i30 N hatch. It is 4,675 mm (184 in) long, 1,825 mm (71.8 in) wide and 1,425 mm (56 in) high, while the wheelbase is 2,720 mm (107 in).

The sedan is powered by Hyundai’s renowned 2.0-liter turbocharged T-GDi four-cylinder, producing 206 kW (276 hp) between 5,500 and 6,000 rpm and 392 Nm (289 lb-ft) of torque from 2,100 to 4,700 rpm. This engine has a compression ratio of 9.5:1 and is the same unit as in the i30 N hatch.

Two transmissions are offered to customers. The first, as seen in our press truck, is a six-speed manual transmission, while the second is an eight-speed wet dual clutch. Both drive the front wheels via an electronically controlled mechanical differential lock. Again, just like the hatchback.

There are some key mechanical components that set the i30 Sedan N apart from the hatch. Most importantly, the inclusion of Hyundai’s new Integrated Drive Axle (IDA) which combines the wheel hub, drive shaft and wheel bearing into a single unit. This setup reduces unsprung weight by 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs) per corner, allows the installation of a 59 percent larger diameter wheel bearing, and is 55 percent stiffer than other N models.

Hyundai has also equipped the i30 Sedan N with a unique set of 19-inch alloy wheels that are stiffer than those of other N models and are wrapped with a custom version of Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S tires, with a width of 245 mm on all four corners .

The best Hyundai interior at this price

All i30 Sedan N models sold in Australia are ‘Premium’ shaped and have an interior packed with fun features. The obvious highlight of the interior is the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch infotainment screen. This screen contains all the customization options for the different riding modes. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also supported.

As mentioned, the riding position is excellent and far superior to the hatch. We especially liked the round steering wheel that not so many other performance cars follow when adopting a flat bottom design. Models equipped with the six-speed manual transmission have a bright red button on the steering wheel to enable or disable the Rev Matching function, while those with the dual-clutch transmission have a red button for N Grin Shift mode (NGS).

One thing the i30 Sedan N lacks compared to the facelifted hatch is the availability of the N sports seats. Available in the US, these seats are slimmer and more aggressive than the stock seats and would be a welcome addition to the Sedan. As it is, the stock seats are good and provide plenty of support for all but the most aggressive of riding. They are also very comfortable.

The second row is surprisingly roomy, but it’s the trunk that is the real piece de résistance of the i30 Sedan N’s appeal. With the rear seats folded, the car can carry 464 liters (16.3 cubic feet) of luggage and the storage space only grows further when the seats are folded down (Hyundai doesn’t list a figure), though the rear strut mount admittedly does take up some space. To put the cargo area in perspective, the i30 N hatch can gobble up 381 liters (13.4 cubic feet).

All i30 Sedan Ns sold in Australia come standard with the Hyundai SmartSense package. That includes Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Forward Collision-Avoidance with City/Urban/Pedestrian functionality, High Beam Assist, Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Lead Vehicle Departure Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist , rear occupant warning and safe exit warning. One thing it does miss is radar cruise control.

Enough with the specs, what about the drive?

I’ve had the chance to drive all of Hyundai’s N models for the past three years and they’ve all been great. From the tiny i20 N with its buzzing engine and tenacious grip to the high-riding Kona N with its comfort and poise, Hyundai’s N division has been on the move since 2018. The i30 Sedan N takes things to a new level.

Slip into the driver’s seat for the first time and you’ll be welcomed by an interior far superior to any other N model. The cabin is largely identical to the ‘regular’ i30 Sedan models and more importantly, you can sit much lower than in the i30 N hatch. With the seat in the perfect position and the steering wheel closed and positioned high, we set out. Or at least tried.

Driven: Hyundai i30 N DCT 2021 is even better than the six-speed gearbox

As mentioned, the press car we tested was equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission. I was initially surprised by the lightness of the clutch and immediately stopped the car. Not only is the clutch light, but it can be a little tricky to feel the engagement point. Still, after one more attempt, I drove away.

I immediately went into N adjustment mode and turned everything up to max, albeit for the controls which are best left in normal mode. The first thing that impressed me was the ride quality.

The i30 Sedan N is equipped with the electronically controlled suspension and models sold in Australia benefit from local suspension tuning in Normal and Sport settings. In the original i30 N hatchback, Normal was pretty much the only suitable option for everyday driving, as Sport was too firm and Sport+ would leave you with a pinched back and desperately in need of a massage. Not so with the Sedan.

The strongest Sport+ suspension in the car is absolutely suitable for everyday driving tasks. The extended wheelbase, revised geometry and other tricks result in a much more comfortable and composed ride than any other N model. No matter how bad the road surface is, the i30 Sedan N feels right at home.

Grip for days

The improved handling, ferocious electronically controlled mechanical differential lock and the aforementioned Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires also mean this is easily the best-handling N model. In fact, it has better handling than any performance car in the segment, including the outgoing FK8-generation Honda Civic Type R, considered by many to be the hot hatch king since launch.

The turn-in feels instant and whether the road is bone dry or a little slippery, the car feels like it has infinite grip. No matter what we tried, we never experienced the slightest hint of understeer, nor were we able to make the tires squeak a little bit. The i30 Sedan N turns so well that you can easily take tight turns at half or even three-quarters of the throttle, allowing the e-LSD to do its job and pull you into the top. It is unbelievable for a vehicle in this price range.

The engine is just as strong as in other N models. For the most part, the 2.0-litre grinder is the same as the hatch, although Hyundai engineers equipped it with a new high-flow air intake that is slightly larger than in other models. Power and torque are excellent, although you have to keep the engine above 3,000rpm to feel a noticeable kick. Drivers who do so are rewarded with a powertrain that roars all the way to the red line. Hyundai claims it will drink just 8.2 l/100 km (28.6 mpg) on ​​the combined cycle, but we averaged 12.6 l/100 km (18.6 mpg). On the highway, it’s easy to reduce fuel consumption to just 6.4 l/100 km (36.7 mpg).

Both the six-speed manual and DCT models have a Launch Control system. This system can be a bit finicky to engage and even when engaged it isn’t particularly effective with the six-speed transmission. You see, while Hyundai says it only takes the car 5.5 seconds to hit 100 km/h with the manual and 5.3 seconds with the DCT, it’s very hard to launch it without a ton of wheel hop in the top. to experience first gear . The only way to get around it is to either hit the accelerator or keep the ESC system in normal mode so it can determine how best to transfer power to the ground. Pin the throttle through first gear in the Sport or ESC Off settings and the wheelhop can get pretty violent.

And the gearbox? It’s great, though not quite as excellent as the Civic Type R’s six-speed transmission, although there are few. It did take a few hours to get used to the clutch and to pull away quickly and smoothly you should feel like you are driving the clutch a bit. Learning curve aside, we have nothing but positive things to say about the transmission.

The shift knob is nicely weighted and the short throws between gears make shifting very enjoyable, as does the system’s notchy feel.

The brakes are also fantastic, as with all N models. Instead of buying brakes from a third party like Brembo, Hyundai has developed them in-house and no matter how hard you push, they never seem to fade. The Sedan also benefits from a Brake Prefill function that increases brake pressure as you accelerate.

The competition needs to catch up

Hyundai has priced its new performance weapon very competitively, starting at AU$49,000 ($33,832) excluding road charges and whether you go with the six-speed manual or the DCT. This makes it AU$4,000 ($2,761) more expensive than an equivalent i30 N hatch and AU$1,000 ($690) more than the Kona N. It also undercuts the likes of the Toyota GR Yaris, Honda Civic Type R, Renault Megane RS and VW Golf R, even if these are hatches rather than sedans. Perhaps its closest rival is the 2023 Subaru WRX, starting at $44,990 ($31,063).

So, how good is the i30 Sedan N? Well, not only is it the best performing sedan at this price, but it’s also one of the best performing cars under AU$100,000 ($69,000), combining exhilarating performance with everyday usability, comfort and versatility. It’s that good.

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Photo credits: Brad Anderson/CarScoops