Wednesday, June 19

Pulse-racing sports car that comes from a surprising brand

MOST often it’s the rare high-end Europeans which attract the staff car park attention.

Causing a stir this time was Hyundai. Yep, not kidding.

The brand which has become one of Australia’s most popular for quality A to B transport also has the ability to set hearts aflutter. Not so long ago the only way to increase pulse rates around a Hyundai was to lift something heavy from the boot.Sleek and sensual lines have been applied to Hyundai’s most savage hot hatch – the vehicle which claimed our Car of the Year award in 2018.

The i30 N hatch arrived last year and now the Fastback derivative has arrived, making it even better.

Drive-away pricing is just over $46,000, $1500 more than the hatch, while a luxury version with a few extras will set you back about $49,200.VALUE

Among criticisms of the initial i30 N release was a bland cabin. The Fastback isn’t poles apart, the core design remains i30, but these variants have red stitching on a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear knob and armrest, along with red bezels for the air vents and a change from blue to black buttons for the drive mode switches.

Carry-over equipment includes an eight-inch touchscreen with satnav and live traffic updates, as well as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, digital radio, leather trim (suede on luxury models), dual zone aircon and a reversing camera.

Backed by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, which also covers occasional track use, servicing costs $897 for the first three years.SAFETY

Remembering this is a sports car bought by people who love to drive, part of the reason Hyundai was able to keep the price low was going without some of the latest safety kit.

The Fastback does come with autonomous emergency braking which can automatically apply the anchors if a frontal collision is detected, as well as lane keeping assistance, drowsy driver attention warning, tyre pressure warning, along with parking sensors front and back.DRIVING

It’s quick and insanely fun. Marginally faster than the hatch courtesy of improved aerodynamics, it’s the same 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine which pumps up to 202kW/378Nm to the front wheels.

Managing all that power is a super-smart electronically controlled limited-slip diff and beautifully weighted six-speed manual transmission. Rev-matching is available in the fastest of drive modes (you can also opt for comfort, economy or sport settings) which makes even the mundane driver sound like Daniel Ricciardo.

The exhaust provides a constant sporty accompaniment to spirited driving with bangs and crackles, while big brakes ensures its stops with ferocity.

Adaptive suspension has been tweaked to make it slightly softer on the road, which makes the Fastback even more loveable for its dual personality traits. A trip to the shops can be mellow or madness, depending on your mood and driving mode choice.

Pirelli rubber offers some of the best grip you’ll find and collectively it sets the segment benchmark for driver engagement at this price point.

Arguably more attractive than the hatch, the other benefit of a liftback is an enlarged boot. It gains 50 more litres than the hatch at 436, which expands to 1337 with the rear seat dropped.COMFORT

Hyundai’s Australian-based team slightly softened the Fastback’s suspension compared to the hatch…it’s still pretty firm and poor surfaces expose it’s sporty intentions. But, you can’t have everything.

Those in the back will find a slight reduction in rear headroom and compromised rear vision. Adults will still find comfort in either row and one six-foot 10-inch passenger had no issue up front.

Common sense prevails across the cabin with dual cup holders in the console and the fold-down rear armrest, along with bottle holders in the doors and good spaces for phones in front of the shifter.HEAD SAYS

Hyundai may not have been a racing stalwart buy you’d never know with the N variants. Bang for buck is outrageous.

HEART SAYS

From the moment I turn the key the love story adds another chapter. That chequered flag button on the steering wheel is my new weakness…you had me at hello.ALTERNATIVES

MERCEDES-AMG CLA45 FROM $93,430

Key four-door-cum-coupe rivals come from the Europeans, with one of them the go-fast version of the CLA. This is a ridgy-didge AWD performance car with serious brand kudos and a price tag to match, powered by a 2.0-litre 280kW/475Nm 4cyl turbo.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI $48,990 D/A

The original Jekell and Hyde hot hatch, which combines daily functionality and comfort with raucous ability. Also comes with a five-year warranty, has better safety features, but has less power courtesy of a 2.0-litre 180kW/370Nm turbo 4cyl. Not available in Fastback styling.