RB: Do you reckon the GTI still rules the hot hatch roost, then?
MT: Now there’s an opener… The GTI is unique, not in the clichéd sense, but because nothing else has really replicated its formula, the i30 N included. You’d be mad to launch a new hot hatch with the GTI’s low power figure, but its appeal has always been in its all-round usability.
RB: I’ve always had a soft spot for the GTI. Still, the arrival of a new hot hatch is rare, so it’s been great to have a few months to really get to grips with the i30 N. It isn’t as well-rounded as the GTI, granted, but that very reason sometimes means it’s more exciting.
MT: What’s best about the i30 N is its chassis. It’s clear where the development budget has gone, which is the right place to spend it on a hot hatch. It feels a bit like the previous Honda Civic Type R to that end: fast and focused, but with a bit of explaining to do as a daily driver.
RB: The chassis is probably one of the biggest criticisms the car’s received, in terms of its overly harsh ride. And when I jumped back in the i30 N having spent some time in the GTI, I can’t argue there was a stark difference. The many speed bumps in my suburban road were felt quite a lot more. But, actually, once you’re accustomed to it, it’s a very usable daily car.
MT: I wonder if in part that harsher ride also comes from its heavier weight. You really notice the extra weight in the i30 N, and that’s why its extra power is needed. When you’re up to speed, the GTI feels the faster car because it’s more agile. At our handling day last year, the GTI only gave away 0.3sec to the i30 N over a lap at Castle Combe – a fast track where power tends to have more of an advantage. Which shows just how quick the GTI is when you look beyond the headline figures.
RB: Most people love to pigeonhole cars, typically by performance, and in performance and headline figures terms the GTI ranks bottom. It gives away loads of power. Yet the power it has is so usable. It just feels like the right amount for a car of its size and weight.
MT: I know you’ve wished for a bit more low-end torque in the i30 N, but for me, that was a real strength of the car. It’s a very strong engine, very tractable, and feels a performance level up from the GTI.
RB: The torque in the GTI is definitely more linear than the i30 N. While I’d like a little more shove at a roundabout in the Hyundai, the mid-rev-range acceleration is actually more surprising and exciting for that very reason. Getting it up to motorway speeds from a slip road is real fun, especially with that distinctive exhaust note, which is much punchy than the GTI’s.