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RallySport Magazine recently got the chance to drive Hyundai's i30 N in a round of the Whiteline Tarmac Rallysprint Series in Sydney. To say we came away impressed is an understatement. * * * * * If there is a modern definition of a wolf in sheep's clothing, then Hyundai's i30 N is probably it. Aside from big wheels, low profile tyres and a few other sporty trimmings, the car pretty much looks like any other small hatch on the market. That's where the similarities end though, and thanks to an invitation from Philip Rodgers and the N-Performance Australia team, we were given the chance to find out first hand. The North Shore Sporting Car Club's mid-week tarmac rallysprint series has been a booming success for the past couple of years, with upwards of 80 competitors regularly entering rounds of the summer series. Everything from 600 horsepower Mitsubishi Lancer Evos, electric Teslas and Datsun 1600 station wagons were on the entry list when RSM ventured to Sydney Dragway in late November. A scorching, smokey, 40 degree day awaited us for the two daylight and three night runs around the 3.5km track that offered a little bit of everything. Hyundai's N-Performance arm are a sponsor of the series, and brand ambassador Brendan Reeves drove one of four factory-entered cars on the day. Reeves would drive an i30 N Fastback 'time attack' car, while I would be at the wheel of a stock road version of the i30 N hatchback – impressively adorned with matching I30N number plates! Reeves' Targa Tasmania car was also in the field, as well as another standard car for three junior drivers to steer around the course.

A hot, setting sun and the Hyundai i30 N make for a picturesque scene. Photo: Jack Martin

The ambassador then gave me a quick 'how to' on the intricacies of setting up the car's custom driving modes and dash readouts that included: shift timing indicator, 5 drive modes, electronically controlled suspension, launch control, and a rev-matching system. It was all a bit double-Dutch for a relative mechanical nuffy like me, but it sounded good, and as I was soon to find out, very effective.

Driven to the track, raced, and then driven home again. Luke Whitten gets the i30 N ready to rumble.

The low-speed recce run quickly gave an indication of the car's performance. With a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine producing over 200kW, power wasn't going to be a problem, and the six-speed gearbox was matched well. I'm not here to give a performance review of the i30 N (you can read one of those HERE), but let me say that from the driver's seat the car was a joy to drive. Using Reeves' custom settings and big 18" wheels with low profile Pirelli tyres, the car handled like it was on rails, making the tight and twisting tarmac course a pleasure to drive. There was never a time when the car felt ill-at-ease, and as my familiarity and confidence in the i30 N increased, the stage times decreased. My drive in the car was never about setting fast stage times or impressing anyone, but after five runs in the car I felt that I was getting more in-sync with it and that an even longer drive in it was warranted – perhaps over a twisty, mountain road in the Victorian Alps. It's incredibly fun to drive, and you could easily use it as a daily driver, then switch tyres and use it as a track car on the weekend. You also get the feeling it would make a great gravel rally car, with nimble handling and more power than most mere mortals would ever use. Although, as Reeves was quick to point out, controlling the wheel spin on dirt would be your biggest challenge. Hyundai are on a winner with the i30 N, and with a more powerful, more refined version on the radar, one can only wonder how much fun that will be to drive. As it stands now, the i30 N retails for less than $42,000, and based on our driving experience, that really is incredible "bang for your buck".

Peter and Luke Whitten loved their time in the Hyundai i30 N.

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