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2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N Review

When I was growing up I was a big fan of the 1994 Mazda 323 Astina. It was the car that pioneered the combination of a sleek coupe body with four doors and it looked fantastic. Those frameless windows and slim headlights, the low nose and liftback rear, and the single taillight bar that stretches the width of the rear, all fused so nicely together to create one of the best looking small cars of the 90s.

And it’s certainly a deja vu looking at the 2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, the sleeker version of the i30 N hatch. Like the Astina, the Fastback has a swooping coupe-esque roofline and more sedan-like body. It’s 28mm lower than the hatch and the rear tapers off to a neatly incorporated lid spoiler. Unlike the Mazda however, the windows are not frameless.

The liftback look may not be to everyone’s cup of tea, here at the ForceGT office opinions are split 50:50, but I’m a big fan, naturally.

Four-door coupes weren’t completely dead since the Mazda. Mercedes kicked off the trend among premium brands with the CLS, followed by Audi with the A7 and BMW with the 6 Series Gran Coupe. But the i30 Fastback N is the first in the mainstream arena since the Astina. Thanks for bringing back affordable four-door coupes, Hyundai!

Priced from $41,990 plus on-road coststhe i30 Fastback N commands a $1,500 premium over its hatch sibling, with its closest rival being the sedan-only Subaru WRX. The same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in what is known as its ‘Performance’ guise in other markets comes as standard, as it does in the hatch. It delivers 202kW at 6,000rpm and 353Nm between 1,450-4,700rpm, aided by an overboost function that raises peak torque to as much as 378Nm for up to 18 seconds at full-throttle.

Welcomingly, the lower height and reduced rear turbulence of the Fastback N’s coupe body sees a seven per cent reduction in drag over the hatch, allowing it to shave one-tenth of a second off the hatch’s 0-100km/h time, taking it to 6.1 seconds.

Like the hatch, power is sent exclusively to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. There’s no automatic, for now, though a dual-clutch self-shifter has been on the cards for some time and is expected to land in early 2020.

Different from the hatch, however, is a new chassis and suspension tune aimed at softening the on-road ride more to make it easier to live with. That said, this new suspension setup is planned to go into the hatch for the 2020 model year, so it’s only a point of difference for now.

Standard driving tech for the Fastback N mimics that of the hatch and includes launch control, auto rev-matching for the manual gearbox, adaptive dampers, an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, an active exhaust system, and customisable drive modes. Active safety tech such as AEB, driver attention alert, and lane-keep assist are also all standard.

An intuitive and high clarity 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are also standard, as are those brilliantly supportive and comfortable sports seats with embossed N logos, a sports steering wheel with drive mode selection buttons, metal sports pedals, and handy race car-like upshift indication lights atop the instrument cluster.

Further equipment can be added with the option of the Luxury Pack, which adds parking sensors, courtesy lights, automatic wipers, power-adjustable front seats with suede/leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, privacy glass, a wireless phone charging pad, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and keyless entry and push-button start – all for a very reasonable $3,000. Fork out another $2,000 and you can add a panoramic sunroof as well.

We all at ForceGT are absolute fans of the i30 N hatch since its launch, having impressed by its characterful and punchy engine, engaging driving dynamics and everyday usability. It’s a properly good first attempt at a high performance car by the Korean car maker.

But what are its fortunes with a different body shape and retuned suspension?

The Fastback may look more grown up next to the hatch, but its engine certainly isn’t as it’s still a complete hoot. With peak torque on tap from just 1,450rpm, the blown four is incredibly linear and tractable, delivering savage pull with every squeeze of the right pedal in first gear through to fourth. It sounds properly deep and throaty, too. And on downshifts you still get all the snaps, crackles and snorts like in the hatch. There simply isn’t a dull moment wringing this thing out.

The six-speed manual further encourages you to really drive the thing. The sharp, snappy shifter is both precise and fun to work through the cogs, which are well spaced to harvest the best from the engine. The clutch feel is naturally progressive and perfectly-weighted, while auto rev-matching on downshifts (which can be turned off) makes inexperienced manual drivers look like pro, and I’m glad it was fitted as the pedal placement isn’t quite tailored to heel and toeing.

You might think the softened suspension would improve ride quality at the expense of handling. No, because a new front anti-roll bar is also fitted to offset any adverse body roll. The result is a flat cornering stance that isn’t as easily unsettled by mid corner bumps as before. Turn in remains sharp and the improved composure means you can have a better dialogue with the chassis and feel more of the road surface. It’s just brilliantly well tuned.

The N custom menu allows a multitude of settings to satisfy even the most fussy of drivers, but I find Sport setting for the suspension suits a twisty back road blast the best, as Sport+ mode is overly firm for anywhere other than on a track. I’d also put the steering in Sport for the best balance in feel and weightage, and have the exhaust and differential in Sport+ for total driving engagement.

Set everything back to Normal – leaving exhaust in the loudest Sport+ mode if you so desire – and the i30 N would happily crawl city streets and suburban roads without the bone-jarring ride that you’d normally get in hot hatches. In fact, it’s almost as comfortable as a regular i30 SR, despite rolling on lower profile Pirelli P-Zero tyres. Combined with that slick manual gearbox and light clutch pedal, it’s actually a very easy car to live with every day.

Speaking of everyday usability, the Fastback’s coupe shape inherently affords less headroom for rear passengers compare to the hatch, with the sloping roof line also impeding slightly on rear ingress and egress. For the sleeker looks of a coupe, it’s a minor compromise if you’d ask me, as the rear pews are still nearly as practical and usable as the hatch’s.

You do get more boot space though, as its 436 litre volume is larger than the 381 litres you get in the hatch. However, due to the sloping roofline, it doesn’t offer as high a space to fit taller items in. As with the hatch, there’s a strut brace in the boot which manages to get right in the way when you have the seats folded down.

After a week of mixed driving, the san stop/start equipped Korean coupe returned 8.9L/100km, a very respectable figure for a performance car despite being 0.9L/100km adrift of Hyundai’s claim.

Verdict

Design & Comfort

8.5/10

Performance & Handling

8.5/10

Quality

8.0/10

Economy

7.5/10

Equipment & Features

8.0/10

OUR SCORE

4.1/5

Our Score: 4.1/5

+ Plus

  • Exclusive looks
  • Packed with engagement
  • Brilliant ride/handling balance
  • Good value

Minus

  • May look too grown up for some
  • Generic cabin design
  • Tight rear headroom

Overall

The Hyundai i30 Fastback N has lost none of the i30 N hatch’s fireworks as far as driving and performance is concerned. It’s still a cracking drive that is every bit as good as the hatch. And to me, the coupe shape is just better looking, not to mention less boy racer-ish. If you’re over the hot hatch thing, the Fastback N may just be the perfect car for you.

2019 Hyundai i30 Fastback N Pricing and Specification

Price (Excl. on-road costs)From: $41,990

As tested: $41,990

Warranty5 years/unlimited Kilometres
Warranty Customer Assistance1 year Roadside
Country of OriginSouth Korea; Built in Czech Republic
Service Intervals12 months/10,000km
Engine2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder petrol:

202kW @ 6,000rpm, 353Nm @ 1,450-4,700rpm
On Overboost: 378Nm @ 1,750-4,200rpm

Transmission6-speed manual
DrivetrainFront-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg)140.2
0-100km/h (seconds):6.1
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km)Claimed: 8.0 / Tested: 8.9
RON Rating95
Fuel Capacity (L)50
Body4-door coupe, 5 seats
SafetyANCAP not tested, 7 airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, VSC, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, ISOFIX
Optional (not fitted): Blind Spot Warning, front parking sensors
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm4,455/1,795/1,419/2,650
Kerb Weight (kg)1,441
Boot Space (L)436
Entertainment8-inch colour touchscreen, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+, Bluetooth, USB, AUX, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, iPod, 6-speaker stereo

Competitors:

Subaru WRX, Renault Megane R.S, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Peugeot 308 GTI, Ford Focus ST

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