Given the UK’s obsession with hatchbacks, it was a shock when the final technology of small, quick, four-doors hit the market. It appeared vehicles just like the earlier S3 saloon had been niches inside niches, however seemingly the enterprise case could possibly be made. And now there’s extra of them than ever: the Audi has returned, Mercedes-AMG sells each A-Class saloon and CLA fashions and BMW has entered the fray with the M235i Gran Coupe. When Hyundai can justify bringing again the i30 N Fastback, its sort-of saloon model of its first scorching hatch, there’s clearly one thing within the small saloon section.
In truth, look a bit nearer and what seems a brand new fad makes much more sense. In 2004, an Audi S4 was somewhat over 4.5m lengthy, about 1.8m large and 1.4m excessive; it was four-wheel drive, hit 62mph in 5 seconds or so and had a high velocity of 155mph. The S3 saloon right here is 4,504mm lengthy, 1,816mm large and 1,415mm excessive; it is really sooner from relaxation than the previous V8 bruiser, reaching 62mph in 4.8 seconds. Because the S4 has develop into larger, faster, and costlier, so the S3 has developed to occupy the void. The newer automotive even seems to be good worth by comparability; an S4’s asking value in 2004 was £37,200, which is greater than £58k in at this time’s cash…
To the take a look at at hand. With barely extra mature remits than their typical scorching hatch siblings – there certainly will not be many S3 saloons in Python Yellow – so the design of Audi and Hyundai could be thought-about in another way. And the place the i30 N possibly works higher as an everyday 5 door, with the ducktail wanting a bit unusual on the pinched rump, the S3’s super-subtle strategy fits a saloon. What was arguably plain as a hatchback proves refined and properly reserved with a boot, even with a fussier entrance finish than earlier than and, nonetheless, 100 per cent extra exhaust pipes than it actually wants.
Each cliché and preconception there could be about these two vehicles is realised inside. The Audi is cool and clear, the touchscreen infinitely higher than these in associated vehicles and the expertise improved markedly for – you guessed it – having bodily air flow controls. Maybe high quality is not sensationally good, however the aura is spot on for a small Audi: up to date, uncluttered and extremely satisfying. A effectively sorted driving place is a welcome bonus – VW, SEAT and Skoda, take notice.
The Hyundai is noticeably much less plush by comparability, as would possibly moderately be anticipated. However there are nonetheless some particulars that grate even permitting for that; the handbrake seems to be prefer it belongs in an Accent from 2002, not a brand new £35k automotive. The touchscreen could be fiddly, particularly when configuring drive settings, and some buttons, notably across the gearlever, really feel plasticky. They don’t seem to be dealbreakers, although are value noting; this automotive launched in 2017 at £27,995, keep in mind, a value level the place these irks aren’t so bothersome. With the DCT, the Sportback begins at £35k, and the Hyundai turns into a special proposition in consequence. You solely want have a look at the recognition of seemingly each Audi on sale to know the significance of an excellent inside.
However that is PH, and we cabin atmosphere is barely so essential. The script goes out of the window on the street; the automotive with the contrived, overbaked and stiff-riding sporty mode is the Hyundai, for instance. The Audi does modest and mellow in addition to something, free from gratuitous steering heft or pointless damping pressure, the elective sports activities suspension value each penny given how unsettled the passive hatch was. The S3 even does a manipulated engine sound reasonably effectively, with only a trace of five-cylinder warble beneath load.
Even when cranked as much as Dynamic, there is a diploma of subtlety in regards to the Audi. The trip retains some pliancy, and the steering is uncorrupted by ‘sporty’ quantities of help. It is reliable from the off, responsive to each enter and in a position to maintain its composure in all however essentially the most testing conditions. With the dual-clutch transmission out of its sometimes sleepy customary setting plus this engine’s expansive torque, the S3 can in a short time be… effectively, travelling in a short time. With out the driving force keyed into a lot suggestions, sure, however once more, that appears much less of a difficulty when contemplating a small saloon slightly than a devoted scorching hatch. There’s sufficient within the expertise to understand – the velocity, the willingness to show and the trip, for instance – if little to be completely enamoured by. Crucially, by advantage of the enhancements to the steering and (elective) damping, this feels a greater S3 to drive than earlier than – and that wasn’t essentially the case with the hatchback.
If the Audi is straight away and impressively agreeable, the Hyundai takes time to point out off its finest. The place the S3’s drive modes subtly modify this and ever so barely tweak that, the i30’s strategy is blunter: Eco is lethargic, N mode little in need of torturous given the punishing trip, fiercely heavy steering and hair set off throttle. They do what’s stated on the tin, at the least… A bit of configuring sees it proper; you will by no means need greater than the usual steering or damping and a powertrain one down from the utmost retains the vitality with out the hyperactive responses.
It must be famous, nonetheless, that even at its optimum, the Hyundai is not instantly leagues forward of the Audi. The arrogance the all-wheel drive offers in all probability makes it sooner; every little thing from the entrance axle behaviour to the throttle response making you extra sure about steering right here, accelerating there, and attending to level B from level A faster than anticipated. The i30, with extra lag and steering that feels much less pure – all the time heavier however no extra feelsome – takes a bit extra time to get in a rhythm with.
However boy is it enjoyable whenever you do. It is every little thing the Audi is not, and doubtless won’t ever be: uncooked, raucous leisure, somewhat uncouth and the higher for it. Maybe this facelift has smoothed off a number of tough edges, the trip just a bit extra supple and the engine not fairly so boomy, although the N expertise stays a boisterous one. Which, in its personal means, is nice, because the automotive makes a complete heap extra sense pushed quick. Because the diff locks tighten and wrench the automotive from a bend, so the steering involves life and relays one thing about it; mild shifts and wonderful aluminium paddles make revs a lot extra thrilling than within the S, whereas the brakes chew with a nicer really feel beneath your proper foot (or left, for these feeling fancy) and so forth. The Hyundai driver will not be travelling any faster – in actual fact the Audi could effectively edge forward, such is its capacity to simply draw efficiency from nowhere – however they are going to keep in mind the expertise a complete lot extra vividly. Even when a part of that reminiscence can be a barely coarse engine and a chassis that also needs for some sophistication.
An i30 N some other means would not actually be an i30 N, although. Its maker has repeatedly made a advantage of the marginally old-school strategy, from respectable worth and a easy choices record to a rowdy exhaust and a little bit of waywardness. It makes for an immensely likeable scorching hatch, however in remaining so trustworthy to the usual automotive’s components, it is exhausting to know fairly what the Fastback affords that is not there with the strange i30 N. It is nonetheless a hatchback, fact be instructed. However what do we all know? Hyundai has introduced it again, now with the DCT choice as effectively, and it is higher than ever for many who need it.
From a sports activities saloon perspective, the S3 higher fulfils the temporary. It too is pretty just like the hatch, however its character traits are made to look extra interesting within the grown-up physique. The Hyundai seems like an i30 N squirming to get shot of a bizarre boot, whereas the Audi is sort of a barely smaller S4: good, fashionable, succesful, and nearly entertaining sufficient to warrant its flagship billing. In any color apart from Python Yellow, no person would discover it, but the S3 can be sooner than virtually every little thing. It drives like a Golf R, but seems to be higher and has an inside that really works. Simply think about what it could be like with 5 cylinders and a Drift Mode…
SPECIFICATION | 2021 HYUNDAI I30 N DCT FASTBACK
Engine: 1,998cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Energy (hp): 280@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 289@2,100-4,700rpm
0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
Prime velocity: 155mph
Value: £35,695 (value as customary; value as examined £36,280 comprised of Shadow Gray paint for £585)
AUDI S3 SALOON VORSPRUNG | SPECIFICATION
Engine: 1,984cc, turbocharged inline 4
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch S-tronic auto, all-wheel drive
Energy (hp): 310@5,450-6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,000-5,450rpm
0-62mph: 4.8 secs
Prime velocity: 155mph (restricted)
Weight: 1,505kg (DIN unladen)
MPG: 35.3 (WLTP mixed)
CO2: 181/km (WLTP)
Value: £45,945 (value as customary; value as examined £47,320, comprised of Python Yellow metallic for £575, 19-inch ‘5-Y-arm construction’ wheel for £250 and Dinamica upholstery for £550)