The 2021 Hyundai i30 N packs more punch with the Performance Package and the VW Golf GTI might be in trouble

The 2021 Hyundai i30 N is the facelifted version of the high-performance hatchback that the Korean company introduced back in 2017. The mid-cycle refresh doesn’t bring radical changes, but it does improve the car’s exterior design and adds new technology inside the cabin. The 2021 i30 N also comes with a more powerful Performance Package. But is it finally good enough to take on the popular Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST? Does it have what it takes to go against the new-for-2021 BMW 128ti? Let’s find out in the review below.

Exterior

  • Revised LED lights
  • Reshaped front bumper
  • New rear diffuser
  • Bigger exhaust pipes
  • New, lighter wheels
  • Exclusive color
  • Looks sportier than the competition
2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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Like any facelift out there, the upgraded i30 N looks almost identical to the outgoing model, with minor modifications front and rear.

In the front, only the headlamps and the vents stand as different. The lights retain the old size and shape, but now feature V-shaped daytime running lights for a more dynamic look. The main grille is wider now, especially in the center, with the corners extending further toward the sides. The upper corners are also smoother, which makes the grille look flatter too. The chrome surround is gone and while the honeycomb-style mesh is still, the opening behind it seems larger, which means extra cooling power.

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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The lower center vent is a bit wider now, while the side openings are flatter and more aggressive. But the big change here is the honeycomb-style pattern that has been adopted instead of the old horizontal slats. The side vents no longer include daytime running lights, but they now incorporate air curtains.

The profile remains unchanged, but the i30 N now rides on different 18-inch wheels as standard. Opt for the Performance Package model and they are replaced by 19-inch rollers in a five-spoke design and a Satin Grey finish. These wheels are new and almost 32 pounds lighter than the old optional wheels. The Performance Package also replaces the standard Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires with Pirelli P-Zero rubber.

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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Rear fascia upgrades are similar to those in the front. But only on the hatchback model, as the Fastback N version carries over unchanged.

On the hatchback, you’ll find revised taillights with V-shaped LED patterns and a new bumper. The latter incorporates the lower red lights, previously mounted on each side of the tailgate, and a pair of fake side vents. The diffuser is a bit larger now, while the black panel in which it is integrated extends upward to include the license place recess. The exhaust pipes are notably larger than before.

The Hyundai i30 N is available in seven exterior colors, including Performance Blue, which is exclusive to N cars. The other options include Polar White, Engine Red, Sunset Red, Shadow Grey, Dark Knight, and Phantom Black.

Interior

  • Largely the same
  • Analog instrument cluster
  • Shift time indicator
  • Blue stitching
  • Heated front seats option
  • Optional lightweight seats
  • Optional 10.25-inch display
2021 Hyundai i30 N Interior
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While the exterior boasts some notable changes, the interior remains the same in terms of layout and design. The i30 N still features an analogue instrument cluster with a small display in the center, but that’s only because Hyundai wants the car to retain that race-inspired look and feel. Although analogue, the cluster features an active variable LED red zone and a shift time indicator, which shows you the best time to switch gears.

But there are a few new things to look for, like metal pedals and Performance Blue stitching, as well as matching seatbelts. The interior remains all-black and it’s wrapped in either full cloth or artificial suede, while the seats are dressed in leather. You can also order a heated steering wheel and heated front seats for the very first time.

2021 Hyundai i30 N Interior
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The N Light seats, a pair of high-performance front seats, are also a novelty. These optional seats are almost five pounds lighter than the regular seats and feature more pronounced bolsters for enhanced lateral support. They’re wrapped in premium leather and Alcantara and feature Performance Blue stitching and an illuminated "N" logos on the integrated headrests.

The Performance Driving Data System is still fitted on the i30 N, so you’ll still be able to monitor your track skills. But it now features updated graphics for even more ease of use. It displays driving data, including information on horsepower, torque, and turbo boost and it also includes a lap and acceleration timer.

2021 Hyundai i30 N Interior
- image 937688

Another new feature is the optional 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It is also available with the latest version of Bluelink, the company’s latest connected car services. Services include Connected Routing, Last Mile Navigation, live parking information, and a new user profile feature.

Drivetrain and Performance

  • 2.0-liter turbo-four
  • 247 horsepower
  • 260 pound-feet of torque
  • Performance Pack with 276 horses and 289 pound-feet
  • Competitive power
  • New automatic transmission
  • 0 to 62 mph in as low as 5.9 seconds
  • Top speed at 155 mph
2021 Hyundai i30 N Drivetrain
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The i30 N continues with the same turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and that’s excellent news, even though output hasn’t changed much. This engine is part of the Theta family, which debuted back in 2004 in the Sonata. The turbocharged version was introduced in 2009 in the Genesis Coupe, but it was further upgraded for the company’s N-badged models. This specific version is shared by the i30 N, i30 Fastback N, and Veloster N.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N more powerful than its predecessor?

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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Yes and no. No because the mill carries over with the same specs in standard trim, so it cranks out an identical 247 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. However, the Performance Package now adds slightly more oomph than before.

While the previous model came with 271 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the new Performance Package update is rated at 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque.

That’s an extra five horses and an additional 39 pound-feet of twist. This also means that the Performance Package now adds 29 horsepower and 28 pound-feet of torque versus the previous 24 horses and no torque at all.

2021 Hyundai i30 N specifications
2021 Hyundai i30 N 2021 Hyundai i30 N with Performance Package
Engine 2.0 T-GDi 2.0 T-GDi
Transmission 6MT 6MT or N DCT
Power 247 HP 276 HP
Max Torque 260 LB-FT 289 LB-FT
2021 Hyundai i30 N
- image 941331

The biggest news here comes from the transmission department. Previously offered with a six-speed manual, the i30 N can now be fitted with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. A wet-type transmission cooled with oil, it features a manual mode through which you can change gears using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel or the gear stick.

Three gearbox modes are available. There’s N Grin Shift, which releases maximum power of the engine and transmission for 20 seconds. This feature enables you to hit 62 mph in the quickest time. Then there’s N Power Shift, a mode that activates when the car accelerates with more than 90 percent of throttle. It controls reduction in torque by using upshifts to deliver maximum power to the wheels. Finally, there’s N Track Sense Shift, which automatically recognizes when the road conditions are optimal for dynamic driving, like a race track, and activates automatically to privde optimal performance.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N quicker than its predecessor?

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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As power remained unchanged, the i30 N is just as quick as it predecessor, needing 6.4 seconds to hit 60 mph. The same goes for the model fitted with the Performance Package, rated at the same 6.1 clicks. However, the new eight-speed automatic helps the hot-hatch charge faster toward 62 mph. Hyundai says the Performance Package version hits 62 mph in 5.9 seconds, two tenths quicker than the manual model. There’s no figure for the standard i30 N, but it should be a tenth-second quicker at 6.3 clicks.

Top speed remains locked at 155 mph for the i30 N, just like the old model, regardless of transmission or optional packages.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N more powerful than its rivals?

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
- image 937678

The Hyundai i30 N competes with a couple of very popular hot-hatchbacks: the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Ford Focus ST. It also sees competition from the BMW 128ti, which BMW introduced in 2020. And the i30 N has enough power to go against all three.

At 247 horsepower, the base i30 N is five horses more potent than the Golf GTI, but it falls behind the 128ti and Focus ST by 14 and 29 horsepower, respectively. When it comes to torque, is the least powerful at 260 pound-feet, but not by much. The 128ti packs 295 pound-feet, the Golf GTI comes with 273 pound-feet, while the Focus ST boasts 310 pound-feet. This means the i30 N comes with a deficit of 35, 13, and 50 pound-feet respectively.

While the i30 N is powerful enough to give its rivals a run for their money, the Performance Package model is serious threat to the Volkswagen-Ford supremacy. Rated at 276 horsepower, it’s just as powerful as the Focus ST and delivers a solid 34 horsepower over the Golf GTI. Compared to the BMW 128ti, it boasts an extra 15 horsepower. Moving over to torque, the Performance Package boasts 289 pound-feet, which is 16 more than the Golf GTI but 21 below the Focus ST. The BMW 128ti delivers an extra six pound-feet.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N quicker than its rivals?

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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Thanks to the newly added automatic transmission, the i30 N is among the quickest of the bunch. The faster version, the Performance Package automatic, hits 62 mph in 5.9 seconds. That’s two tenths quicker than the BMW 128ti and four tenths faster than the Volkswagen Golf GTI. On the other hand, the i30 N is two tenths slower than the Focus ST, which reaches 62 mph in 5.3 clicks. Top speed is identical for all cars compared here at 155 mph.

How much does the 2021 Hyundai i30 N cost?

2021 Hyundai i30 N
- image 941332

Pricing information is not yet available, but the facelifted i30 N shouldn’t be notably more expensive than its predecessor. Sadly, the i30 N still won’t be available in the U.S., where your only shot at an N-badged Hyundai is the Veloster. In Europe, the hatchback model will start from around €34,000, while the Fastback will come in at around €34,500.

When is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N hitting dealerships?

2021 Hyundai i30 N
- image 941333

The high-performance hatchback and fastback models will become available in Europe starting early 2021.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N better than the Volkswagen Golf GTI?

2021 Volksagen Golf GTI,GTD, and GTE - What You Need to Know Exterior
- image 888831

The Golf GTI is the car to beat in this niche. It has been around for decades and even though it’s not the most powerful hot-hatchback, it’s loaded with state-of-the-art tech and it comes with a premium interior. The latest GTI features the familiar 2.0-liter turbo-four, now rated at 242 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. It needs 6.3 seconds to hit 62 mph and it’s available with either a manual or an automatic gearbox. The German hatchback will keep charging until it reaches a top speed of 155 mph. Unlike the i30 N, the Golf GTI is available in the U.S., starting from $28,595. In Europe, the GTI comes in at around €37,600 before options.

Read our full review of the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N better than the Ford Focus ST?

2019 Ford Focus ST Exterior
- image 823441

The Focus ST is yet another popular hot-hatch. Redesigned in 2019, the latest Focus ST ditched the old 2.0-liter four-cylinder in favor of a 2.3-liter EcoBoost unit. Shared with the entry-level Mustang, the 2.3 turbo-four cranks out 276 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. This rating puts the Focus ST on par with the i30 N Performance Package in terms of power and at the top of the segment when it comes to torque. It’s also much quicker to 62 mph, needing only 5.7 seconds to get there. The Focus ST is no longer offered in the U.S., so Europe is your best choice if you want one. The Focus ST is the most affordable choice, priced from around €30,700 in Europe.

Read our full story on the Ford Focus ST

Is the 2021 Hyundai i30 N better than the BMW 128ti?

The 2021 BMW 128ti Is a Detuned M135i Aimed at the VW Golf GTI Exterior
- image 939137

Introduced in 2020, the 128ti is BMW’s first attempt in this market in a very long time. Some sort of spiritual successor to the BMW 3 Series Compact of the 1990s and early 2000s, the 128ti marks the revival of the "ti" badge, used by BMW on a handful of performance-oriented models in the 1960s and 1970s. Design-wise, it’s very similar to the M135i, but it features a detuned engine and it’s not available with an all-wheel-drive system. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine generates 261 horsepower, placing the 128ti right between the standard i30 N and the Performance Package model in terms of output. But the Bimmer delivers superior torque at 295 pound-feet of twist. The 128ti hits 62 mph in 6.1 seconds, toward a top speed of 155 mph. Pricing starts from around €41,600 in Europe, which makes it the most expensive of the bunch.

Read our full review of the BMW 128ti.

Conclusion

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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With some 25,000 units sold from 2017 to 2020, the Hyundai i30 N is not a big hit. Volkswagen, for instance, sold more than 50,000 Golf GTIs in the U.S. alone in the last three year. But while it might not be able to compete on volume with the Golf GTI and Focus ST, the i30 N is solid proof that Hyundai has the budget and expertise to develop a high-performance hatchback. If you want something else, a hot-hatch that doesn’t look as mundane as the Golf GTI and Focus ST, the i30 N is a good option. It’s also a solid option if you want a lower-volume performance car that you won’t see too often on public roads. It looks sportier than its rivals and it will help you stand out. It’s also a bit more affordable than the Golf GTI and BMW 128ti.

  • Leave it
    • Not the most powerful in its niche
    • A bit more expensive than the Focus ST
    • Still a low-volume car
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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