Does fun come with a capital N? Itís time to find out Our car of the moment drops its bags at MOTOR HQ
OCCASIONALLY IN THIS job you can drive a car without driving it at all. No, Iím not referring to some prototype autonomous system, rather circumstances dictate that you can get behind the wheel of a new model, yet be little wiser about what itís actually like to drive.
Personally, the Hyundai i30 N is the perfect example. Iíve actually driven it twice: once on a go-kart track during WRC Rally Australia last year and then again at Winton during this yearís Bang For Your Bucks testing. So if you asked me what an i30 N is like to drive I could give you an answer in a very specific set of circumstances, but if you wanted to know what itís like to drive on the road, Iím afraid I wouldnít be much help.
In six monthsí time, however, hopefully Iíll be able to tell you all that and more, as Hyundaiís new hottie has joined the MOTOR garage for an extended stay. For now, letís cover the basics. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which produces 202kW at 6000rpm and 353Nm from 1750-4200rpm, with 378Nm available from 1750-4200rpm on overboost for 18 seconds at a time. Itís perfectly square (86.0mm by 86.0mm), runs a 9.5:1 compression ratio and requires 95RON fuel.
A six-speed manual is the only gearbox for now, though Hyundai is working on a dual-clutch, and power is fed to the front wheels through an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip diff Ė no brake-activated faux-LSD nonsense here! Suspension is MacPherson Strut front and multilink rear with adaptive dampers all íround and the wheels are 19 by 8.0inch wearing 235/35 Pirelli P Zeros developed specifically for the i30 N (hence the ĎHNí code on the sidewalls).
The steering is electrically assisted and stopping power comes courtesy of ventilated discs (345mm front, 314mm rear) with single-piston calipers at both ends, which Hyundai claims are sufficient to repeatedly haul the 1429kg i30 N up on track. Overseas, a Ďbaseí i30 N exists sans diff (along with smaller wheels, brakes, less power and no overboost) but after much deliberation Hyundai Oz decided to just offer the one mechanical specification with varying levels of interior kit.
ĎMyí i30 N is as base as they come, its vivid Engine Red paint job (the best colour to my eyes) one of three solid colours, the others being Polar White and the Performance Blue hero colour. Opt for grey, slate or black and youíll need an extra $495. The $3000 Luxury Pack brings plenty of extra goodies, including heated 12-way power adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel, park assist, keyless entry and go, wireless phone charging, auto-fold mirrors, rear privacy glass and more. Add another $2000 and youíll score a panoramic glass sunroof. Will we miss this stuff? Time will tell.
Happily, all the juicy mechanical bits are present and correct and itís these bits weíre most interested in putting to the test over the next six months on road and track. Thereís a lot to unpack, as the i30 Nís tremendous configurability Ė there are multiple settings for its engine response, rev matching, LSD, exhaust, suspension, steering and ESC Ė means there is a total of 1944 different combinations that can be saved to its ĎN Modeí button. To spend one minute in each youíd need to drive for more than 32 hours, which is one way to pass the time on a trip from Melbourne to Cairns. Thatís not on the agenda, but plenty of other things are.
Does fun come with a capital N? Itís time to find out
OUR DOUBLE Performance Car of the Year and Bang For Your Bucks champion has found its way into the MOTOR garage for the next six issues. During this time, we will establish whether or not the phenomenal driving experience the Honda Civic Type R offers, can be reconciled with some other, shall we say less than salubrious facets. In particular, a very busily styled, very unpopular exterior, and an interior thatís also a bit hit and miss.
But for me personally, I will be trying to open my mind to the idea of owning a Honda at all. Iím not a Honda guy; my favourite all-time Honda is the S2000, a car that sits out on its own in Hondaís performance car history. A screaming, north-south atmo four in the front sending power via a blissful six-speed manual and limited slip differential to the rear wheels Ė nothing like it has worn a Honda badge since. As for other Honda performance royalty, I appreciate the original NSX but donít lust after one, same for the DC2 Integra Type R and EK Civic Type R.
I only mention all this because I know a lot of readers feel the same way. And so here I am, self-professed non-Honda person, with the keys to a front-drive hot hatch with a big, fat, red Honda badge on the front of it.
Donít get me wrong, Iím very, very happy about this. Thatís largely because when it comes to driving very fast, itís hard to talk about the Civic Type R without sounding like youíre an exaggerating lunatic.
But there are true things about this car and the way it drives. The controls are a total delight to use, at any speed, and some of the best feeling of any new performance model. The handling, helped by the independent rear end and spot-on adaptive dampers, is sublime. The turbocharged 2.0litre engine is punchy, reasonably responsive and strong, with an exhilarating, frenetic buzz about its upper revs. A Torsen limited slip differential is fairly effective at getting the not insignificant 228kW/400Nm to the ground, with minimal torque steer. And while itíll get smoked by, say, a Ford Focus RS with its launch control and all-wheel drive to 100km/h, the smart money will see that at the end of 400m, the Type R is going faster.
Itís also a lot faster mid-corner. In fact, we struggle to think of another modern performance car, anywhere, that does so much with such relatively modest rubber, the Type R extracting every last ounce of purchase from its 245/30 ZR20 Continental SportContact 6 tyres. The speed you can carry into corners in the Type R is eye-opening.
This partly explains its blistering 7:43.8sec Nurburgring Nordschleife laptime, the fastest of any front-drive car ever, and one which knocks off a whole generation of legendary machines. Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, 996 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, E46 BMW M3 CSL Ė all the hero cars of MOTOR yesteryear Ė the Civic Type R would outpace around the íRing. Gives you confused feelings, doesnít it?
Of course, despite that staggeringly talented chassis, giant-killing laptime potential and delightful controls, perfection eludes the Type R. In just one week of driving it, I have outwardly shouted profanities at its horribly unintuitive, almost deliberately difficult infotainment and trip computer interfaces. I strongly resent that, for controlling the audio volume, there is a weird, tactile-less touchpad thing on the infotainment screen. The volume knob did not need reinvention. Nor did hiding some of the most common HVAC controls in a sub-menu of the centrescreen. I can only hope that with time, these are things Iíll get used to.
While Iím moaning about this otherwise awesome car, I need to address the fluoro pink elephant quivering behind the lampshade in the corner of the room. Normally at MOTOR, we donít rate a carís styling; we rate how it drives, take the most flattering photos possible of it and leave how it looks up to you. But as this is a long-term test and the Type Rís styling has proven such a conversation starter, I feel I can give my opinion.
Iím still making up my mind. I think it looks tough from very specific angles, but stray beyond them and it can look very overstyled or just plain wrong. Sometimes at a glance it looks like a Pokemon on all fours, about to attack; at others, like its cheeks are all squashed up in an open-face helmet. Weíll explore the Type Rís styling more in a future update, but I do think it has some redeeming details. I quite like the NACA duct on the bonnet. I donít even mind the rear wing.
Over the next six issues, weíll see whether the Type Rís most off-putting attributes can be tolerated for the epic drive on offer. And if an openly nonHonda guy can fall in love with one very talented ugly duckling.