New Hyundai i30N vs Honda Civic Type R Comparison

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Hyundai has gone all out to make its first hot hatch a corker. But standing in the way of the Hyundai i30N is the brilliant Honda Civic Type R

*** Note : £1 = $1.35 (correct at time of post)

The contenders

Honda Civic Type R 2.0 VTEC Turbo

  • List price £30,995
  • Target Price £30,995

Recently confirmed as the best hot hatch in town, so it’s going to be a tough car to beat.

Hyundai i30N 2.0 T-GDi Performance

  • List price £27,995
  • Target Price £27,995

Hyundai’s first hot hatch is down on power but could still win if it’s more fun to drive.

Hyundai i30N and Honda Civic Type R

‘N’. Right now, it stands for nothing. You see, the ‘N’ in i30N denotes Hyundai’s new sporting sub-brand, which has no heritage. But by entering the motorsport arena, Hyundai is attempting to create some, while fizzing up its arguably staid image in the process. It has even hired a talented engineer – a chap called Albert Biermann, who spent years creating fabulous cars for BMW’s M division – to sprinkle some fairy dust onto its inaugural N-badged hot hatchback.

The i30N has to beat the most effervescent hot hatch of all: the 316bhp Honda Civic Type R. That car squeaked ahead of the 345bhp Ford Focus RS in a recent group test, proving that pure power alone isn’t everything. Which is why this top-spec i30N Performance, despite having ‘just’ 271bhp from its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, has every chance of prevailing if it ends up being a blast to drive. More than anything else, it’s about the fun factor.

Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Pure pace may not be the be-all and end-all here, but performance is still a big factor. And it comes as no surprise to find that the lighter, punchier Civic has the upper hand.

The i30N doesn’t leave you feeling short-changed; it has pin-sharp accelerator response and enough guts to dip under six seconds in the 0-60mph sprint. That’s not bad at all, especially when you factor in the standard sports exhaust’s peal of fruity pops and warbles.

The Civic is even quicker, though. True, initial accelerator response is lazier and it struggles to put its power down off the line without a flurry of wheelspin, but it pulls energetically from around 2000rpm and absolutely flies beyond 4000rpm. Flat out or accelerating in the gears, the Civic is more often than not the trailblazer – albeit without much aural fanfare. Lacking the i30N’s engineered tailpipe theatrics, the Civic sounds simply purposeful.

Mind you, the Civic’s clutch and gearbox have been engineered to perfection. The stubby gearlever operates with joyous precision and it’s easy to judge the clutch’s defined biting point. By normal standards, the i30N’s controls feel good, but they lack that same exactness. On a circuit, the Civic’s brakes retain their confident feel, while the i30N’s are harder to modulate. Both are solid and progressive on the road, though.

The i30N is an easy and enjoyable car to thread quickly along an undulating B-road, displaying fine composure and stability – as long as its standard adaptive dampers are in Comfort mode. Its ride is reasonably compliant in that mode, too, but the sportier settings are too firm for bumpy UK roads, making the car feel jiggly and uncomfortable.

The Civic’s adaptive set-up offers more options. Not only is it more compliant and comfortable generally, but the Civic’s poise is on another level when you switch to Sport or +R mode. Our only quibble is that the steering is too heavy beyond the Comfort setting, but that doesn’t detract from its fluency, or your confidence as you fling the car into corners.

The i30N’s steering is perhaps its weakest link. It’s gratifying that you can alter its weighting independently of other settings such as accelerator response and suspension stiffness (you can’t in the Civic), but the way it builds weight, combined with the speed of the steering just off the straight ahead, creates enough inconsistency that you trust it less.

Both cars’ front wheels are driven through limited-slip differentials, helping them to claw out of corners with less scrabble. Each does an impressive job, although the i30N still tugs the steering wheel more habitually as alternate front wheels struggle to muster grip. The Civic is more stable when accelerating hard out of corners and has phenomenal grip, as demonstrated by the fact that it lapped our test track 1.1sec quicker than the i30N and recorded a higher lateral g figure.

Motorway cruising isn’t a hardship in either car, although refinement is better in the i30N; the Civic generates noticeably more wind and road noise.

Honda Civic Type R interior

Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality

We’ve raved about the Type R’s driving position before, and the low-slung, figure-hugging bucket seats, well-positioned pedals and expansive range of steering wheel adjustment remain top-notch. The i30N is good in this regard too, but you can’t get the seats low enough for our liking. That’s a shame, but at least they’re electrically operated, with memory recall and four-way lumbar adjustment. The Civic’s are manual and don’t let you adjust their lumbar support.

The i30N’s analogue instrument dials are easy to read, but so are the digital speedometer and rev-counter in the Civic. The i30N has wheel-mounted switches to change driving modes; these work better than Civic’s main driving mode button by the gearlever.

You can pick holes in the quality of some of the materials in both cars, but they appear well screwed together. Honda has made more of an effort to make the Civic feel exciting, with faux-carbonfibre trim and red detailing. The i30N looks pretty conventional inside.

Infotainment systems

Honda Civic Type R

The fly in the Type R’s ointment is its shonky infotainment system. Looking at the Ceefax graphics is like travelling back to the 1980s, but it’s the small icons littered throughout the haphazardly arranged menus that make it baffling to operate. And that’s before you encounter the long pauses between pressing a button and something actually happening. You don’t get in-built sat-nav, either, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

Hyundai i30N

Hyundai’s infotainment may not be class-leading, but it’s far better than Honda’s. Not only is it packed with features (sat-nav, smartphone mirroring, wireless phone charging, live weather and traffic reports), but it’s also intuitive and simple to use, with helpful physical shortcut buttons and large on-screen icons. Like the Civic, it has special sporty gizmos, such as a lap timer, g-meter and real-time engine readouts for boost pressure and so on.

Honda Civic Type R rear seats

Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

Both cars have enough room for six-footers in the front and a decent amount of storage dotted around. However, it’s a different story for those in the back. While the Civic has plenty of leg room for a couple of tall passengers, the rear of the i30N is tighter; getting in and out is trickier and knee room is less generous.

The Civic has a bigger boot, too. Whichever car you choose, you get 60/40 split-folding rear seats that drop easily. However, to achieve a flat floor in the i30N, first you need to unscrew a metal brace fitted behind the rear seats.

Honda Civic Type R
  • Official boot capacity 420-1209 litres
  • Suitcase capacity 7

Big boot is a practical shape and the rear seatbacks fold down to leave a flattish floor. Rear leg room is excellent, but head room is tight if you’re tall and there are only two seatbelts. There’s plenty of space up front, though.

Hyundai i30N
  • Official boot capacity 381-1287 litres
  • Suitcase capacity 6

Boot is smaller than Civic’s but well shaped; metal cross-brace can be removed for maximum load space. Rear head room is better than in the Civic; leg room is tight, although you can fit three, just. No issues with space in the front.

Honda Civic Type R rear

Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

Dealers won’t budge on the list price of either car, but the i30N is the cheaper cash buy. Its lower CO2 emissions also make it the cheaper company car – by £1800 over three years if you’re in the 40% tax bracket. If you pay for your own fuel, though, our True MPG testing revealed that the i30N will cost you more at the pumps.

Opt for a three-year PCP finance deal and the Civic will set you back £445 per month, assuming a £3500 deposit and 9000 miles per year. PCP deals on the i30N haven’t been announced yet.

The Civic we’re testing is the entry-level model rather than the plusher, pricier GT. As such, it trails the i30N Performance markedly on kit, missing out on fineries such as front and rear parking sensors, leather seats, power-folding door mirrors and wireless phone charging.

Euro NCAP hasn’t yet tested the i30 for safety, but it gave the Civic only four stars, due to a higher-than-average risk of injuries to children in the rear. Both cars get lots of standard safety features, though, including automatic emergency braking.

Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30N

verdict

Hyundai doesn’t see the i30N as a Civic Type R rival. Yet, having been impressed by the i30N on first acquaintance, and on the premise that you might weigh up this top-spec version against the cheapest Civic Type R, it seemed like a good pairing.

And the i30N definitely impresses, especially for a first effort. Aspects such as the steering need tweaking, but there’s enough finesse in its DNA to make it a hoot to drive. It’s seriously good value for money.

But the Civic is exceptional. The fact that it’s much quicker around a track and more fun to drive on the road would’ve been enough for the win. But factor in the added space and comfort it serves up and you’ll realise it’s also a great all-rounder.

1st – Honda Civic Type R

  • For Mind-blowing corning speed; sweet control weights; in-gear pace; practicality
  • Against Less well equipped; pricier to buy; shonky infotainment system
Specifications: Honda Civic Type R 2.0 VTEC Turbo
  • Engine 4cyl, 1996cc, turbo, petrol
  • List price £30,995
  • Target Price £30,995
  • Power 316bhp @ 6500rpm
  • Torque 295lb ft @ 2500-4500rpm
  • Gearbox 6-spd manual
  • 0-60mph 5.6sec
  • Top speed 169mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 36.7mpg
  • True MPG 35.1mpg
  • CO2 emissions 176g/km
2nd – Hyundai i30N

  • For Responsive engine; exhaust note; awesome B-road ability; price; equipment
  • Against Steering feel could be better; real-world fuel economy; not quite as grippy
Specifications: Hyundai i30N 2.0 T-GDi Performance
  • Engine size 4cyl, 1998cc, turbo, petrol
  • List price £27,995
  • Target Price £27,995
  • Power 271bhp @ 6000rpm
  • Torque 260lb ft @ 1500-4700rpm
  • Gearbox 6-spd manual
  • 0-60mph 5.9sec
  • Top speed 155mph
  • Claimed fuel economy 39.8mpg
  • True MPG 31.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions 163g/km

(whatcar.com, https://goo.gl/RRTSYW)

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