Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • A choice of three engines in the i30 
  • Plus the i30 N hot hatchback
  • Regular car refined; i30 N thrilling

You’ve got a choice of three engines in the regular Hyundai i30 range – two petrols and one diesel – along with a pair of gearboxes: a six-speed manual and a twin-clutch DCT automatic. There’s also the i30 N hot hatch, powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol and producing 275hp.

T-GDi petrol engines

Let’s start with the larger engine. It’s a 1.5-litre and makes 160hp, plus it has a 48-volt starter/generator mild hybrid system. Essentially it recovers energy under braking, which is then stored and used under acceleration. This reduces the stress on the engine, resulting in lower emissions and higher MPG. This engine is only available in sporty N Line trim.

It’s quick enough for any situation an i30 owner could possibly throw at it. Peak power is delivered between 2,500rpm and 3,000rpm, so it doesn’t love being revved. The 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds for the manual, and 8.8 seconds for the auto.

Elsewhere in the engine lineup, there’s another mild hybrid, in the form of a 1.0-litre with 120hp and 171Nm of torque. The 0-62mph time is 11.2seconds for both manual and auto versions. Thanks to a clever turbocharging system it’s responsive and quite fun at low speeds. At 70mph on a hilly motorway you have to drop a gear to accelerate, but if you’re doing a lot of motorway mileage then the diesel would be better-suited to your type of driving anyway. This cheaper engine, despite its diminutive size, is enough for most people.

CRDi diesel engine 

Your sole diesel option is a 1.6-litre with 134hp/280Nm, which is claimed to achieve 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds (or 10.2 with the DCT automatic gearbox) with a top speed of 124mph.

Like the petrols it’s smooth, punchy and is ideally suited to motorway driving as you’d expect. There’s less fun to be had on a country lane because of the way the torque is delivered low down the rev range, but it still has the same slick manual gearshift, although it does feel heavier than the agile petrol models. It seems the petrol engines suit the i30’s more grown-up character better.

Gearbox options explained

There’s a new iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission) manual here. It’s a really sweet shifting ‘box with meaty feedback, giving you confidence in slotting the gears home in the correct place. Pleasingly short throw, too. Clever as well. It can decouple from the engine to run in neutral to improve MPG. This works well and is barely noticeable.

However, like with quite a few Hyundais, the biting point is oddly high, making it easy to stall initially.

We find the twin-clutch DCT automatic to be perfectly serviceable too, though at times a touch frustrating when pulling away from a standstill in a hurry. It occasionally takes a fraction of a second longer than required to transfer the engine’s performance to the wheels. With a little forward planning, you can drive to accommodate this issue, however that’s not really the point of choosing an automatic gearbox, which is all about smoother progression than with a manual transmission.

Performance focused Hyundai i30 N

Sitting at the pinnacle of the i30 range is the i30 N – the brand’s first real attempt at the hot hatch market. 

There’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet producing 250hp in normal guise – a version discontinued in 2019 – and 275hp with what used to be called the Performance Pack, which also features uprated brakes, adaptive dampers and i30 N-specific tyres. As you’d expect there’s a difference in 0-62mph times, with the more powerful car setting the pace at 6.1 seconds, the less powerful one at 6.4 seconds.

Although a little way behind some of the more powerful hot hatches – the VW Golf R, Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R – the Hyundai is brawnier than those it competes with on price, such as the Golf GTI and Skoda Octavia vRS.

We reckon it’s a really fine balance between outright shove and engine responsiveness. Hyundai says it could have tuned the motor to put out more horsepower but that would have resulted in a less enjoyable engine to use. Regardless of that, the i30 N’s motor is a punchy unit that produces a fabulous noise from its twin tailpipes.

What is the i30 like to drive?

  • The i30’s handling is safe and controlled
  • But the i30 N is genuinely excellent
  • Good steering feedback and good ride

The way the Hyundai i30 handles is impressive. It’s not in any way sporty, but more importantly it feels very solid and safe on the road. It inspires confidence in the driver. This is partially thanks to the rear suspension set-up, which is a multi-link design that is relatively unusual in a car with such a low entry price point, allowing the firm’s chassis engineers to dial in a very predictable and driver-friendly back axle. It means that while it isn’t an exciting drive, the i30 is among the safest-feeling compact family hatchbacks.

The steering is good too, if not quite great. There isn’t anything approaching sporty response or feedback, but for most drivers it’ll prove more than adequate. Crucially, it feels nicely weighted – though less so on diesel models which feel slightly heavier.

Parking won’t pose too much of an issue thanks to a decent turning circle and good visibility. 

N Line spec cars are notably harder thanks to harsher suspension and larger wheels. Hyundai reckons the N Line is the link between the slightly dull i30s and rip snorting i30Ns. There’s no denying the N Line is a halfway house – but we’re left wondering who that pleases.

The N Line is definitely sweeter to drive than the regular i30s. The engine is keener, there’s more feedback through the steering wheel, and the handling is a touch heavier and quicker. But the ride is rock hard. If people are willing to put up with such a hard ride, they may as well go for the full-fat i30N.

How does the i30 N drive?

The i30 N is fun to drive, serving up taut body control and well-weighted steering – all of which is changeable depending on the drive mode you’re in. Its agility makes it easy to thread together a series of bends.

As with the previous-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI, the steering feels a little bit slow off centre, but there is a distinct difference between the two N models.

The discontinued 250hp version manages to balance the comfort of the Volkswagen while being more entertaining. You get a comfortable and supple ride, but there’s ample grip without it lacking in entertainment.  In short, this Korean firm may arguably have stolen the all-round usable hot hatch crown.

Opt for the 275hp i30 N , however, and you have something a little more focused. The 250hp model uses something called torque vectoring, which can help you negotiate tight bends by braking one of the inside wheels. It’s a good system, but it’s not as sophisticated or subtle in its delivery as the Performance version, which uses a limited-slip differential to meter out power.

The VW Golf GTI Performance, Honda Civic Type R and Peugeot 308 GTi use similar tech and, despite them all offering a bit more front-end traction, the differential on the i30 N Performance feels much more subtle, so you hardly feel it working. It’s certainly not as dominating an experience as in the Peugeot 308 GTi – which in turn feels more exciting – but all-in-all, the i30 N Performance is one of the better all-round hot hatchbacks that you can use every single day.