There’s plenty of hardcore purpose about much that the i30 N does on the road. If anything, there’s often too much of it, which may be a failing you’re willing to forgive of a company so keen to convince the world that it has made a really serious performance car for the first time.

It’s just a shame that so much of the car’s grungy attitude is of little advantage to it and that the ride and handling simply don’t hang together better in a more coherent, communicative and really rewarding driving experience.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Suspension is a touch noisy but functional over the transmission bumps in Normal mode. Just drive around them if you’re in Sport or N modes

The surprisingly cloying weight in the steering rack is the thing that strikes you first about it: there’s loads of it, even in the Normal drive mode the car defaults to, and yet not quite the level of contact patch feedback that such weight usually gives you access to.

It may be, of course, that Hyundai doesn’t want to expose us to all of the forces going through that front axle, with an electronic locking differential dialling up and down its torque transmission settings. And yet it doesn’t quite seem to protect us from the consequence of that process, either; because while the steering rim as often feels leaden and inert as it does connected and honest, its weight can fluctuate quickly and starkly when you’re giving the chassis a close dynamic examination.

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Not as starkly, though, as the i30 N’s ride changes as you switch from Normal through Sport and – if only to fully satisfy your amazement – eventually into the preposterously firm N suspension mode.

In Normal mode, there is useful progressiveness and predictability to the i30 N’s handling; plenty of grip and very respectable body control, combined with a ride that still feels fairly supple; and decent cornering balance that can be tapped into, should you choose, to more deeply immerse yourself in the driving experience.

In Sport mode, the steering weights up a bit; the ride deteriorates for the sake of tighter body control on smooth surfaces but less of it on a typical UK road; and the car’s useful balance of grip and sense of progressiveness both deteriorate with it, for the sake of greater high-speed stability.

In N mode, meanwhile, you’re saddled with a ride that’s unbearably vice-like to be tolerated for more than 10 seconds or so even on averagely surfaced UK tarmac, and that would make the car very hard to drive even on a very smooth circuit to all but a professional racer.

Thusly, the configurability of the i30 N’s driving experience fails to amount to much, as you quickly learn that the car is at its best, both on road and track, before you start dialling up the settings.

At its best, the i30 N handles quite well, if a little untidily and with a hint of unpredictability at times, although it’s always involving. But at it’s worst, it’s the closest thing you’ll find to truly undriveable in a new mainstream series-production car.

The i30 N isn’t the only performance car on the market with a drive mode that’s too aggressive for the Alpine hill test route – but there aren’t many with two modes that feel that way.

Set up in Normal, the car grips hard but also communicates the margins of its grip well enough.

There are times, when the front axle is loaded up, that the steering almost freezes with unhelpful weight but it’s not a frequent occurrence. The fully switchable stability control, meanwhile, allows you to move the car’s rear around a little bit.

Enter Sport mode and the handling adjustability pretty much disappears, though, and the damping becomes restless and overbearing.

In N mode, the point at which grip becomes slip under the front wheels is almost impossible to predict, the steering becomes very physical indeed, and you avoid even small kerbs for fear of making the whole car skip clear of the road surface.

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