For car enthusiasts shopping for a hot hatch, one of the most exciting choices on the market today is Hyundai’s i30N. This fledgling performance model has earned praise for its sharp handling and punchy turbocharged engine. But the i30N comes in two distinct body styles – the traditional upright hatchback, and the sleeker, coupe-esque fastback model. If you’re trying to decide between the i30N hatch and fastback, this guide will cover the key differences and help you choose the better match for your needs and preferences.
Hatchback: The Classic Hot Hatch Formula
The standard i30N hatchback follows the classic hot hatch formula, with an upright tailgate and chunky, rally car-inspired styling. As a traditional hatchback, this body style prioritizes maximum versatility and practicality:
- Roomy cargo space – the hatchback layout means abundant room for gear, whether heading out on a road trip or tackling a home improvement project.
- Rear wiper – the upright glass hatch allows for a full width rear wiper and defroster, important features for maintaining visibility in wet weather.
- Easy access – the tall opening makes loading cargo a breeze.
- Youthful styling – the blocky proportions give the hatchback a fun, sporty look that will appeal to younger buyers.
On the road, the hatchback’s taller roofline doesn’t impede headroom for rear passengers. The chassis tuning delivers agile handling backed up by a lowered sport suspension and electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Power comes from a 2.0L turbocharged engine making 275 hp, enabling a 0-60 mph time of less than 6 seconds when paired with the available 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.
- Maximum cargo space and versatility
- Traditional hot hatch style stands out
- Rear wiper for better wet weather visibility
- Easier rear seat access
- Styling not as sleek as the fastback
- Tall proportions reduce high speed stability slightly
- May look too “boy racer” for some buyers
Fastback: A More Mature Performance Profile
The i30N fastback ditches the upright hatch shape for a fashionable fastback body style. With its curvy rear glass and tapered roofline, the fastback has a more mature performance aesthetic than the standard hatch:
- Distinctive style – the fastback roofline stands out from typical boxy hot hatches.
- Sleek proportions – the stretched profile has less frontal area for better high speed aerodynamics.
- Large cargo hold – despite the raked tailgate, cargo room is only minimally reduced from the hatchback.
- Upscale appeal – the fastback styling reads as more refined and grown up.
On the road, the lower center of gravity resulting from the swoopy roof contributes to sharper handling reflexes. Power and transmission options are identical to the hatchback. Exclusive to the fastback however is an available variable exhaust system to enhance the engine note.
- Eye-catching coupe-inspired styling
- Lower, wider stance improves high speed stability
- Optional variable exhaust system
- More mature performance aesthetic
- Reduced rear visibility and no rear wiper
- Tighter rear seat headroom
- Slightly less overall interior room
Exterior Styling Comparison
The most obvious distinction between the two i30N models is their radically different silhouettes and rear ends. To help visualize the exterior design differences, here is a detailed overview of the hatch versus fastback body styling and proportions:
Forward of the A-pillar, the two variants share the same aggressive front fascia with a prominent center grille, large lower intakes, and squinting LED headlights. Iconic elements like the N division red accent lines on the bumpers are also carried over between the hatch and fastback. The only minor styling difference is the lower gap between the hood and grille on the fastback.
In side view, the fastback is distinguishable by its stretched, coupe-like greenhouse that flows gracefully into the rear deck. The hatchback’s side view reveals a more upright side glass and chunkier overall proportions. Both ride on 18- or 19-inch wheels shod in low-profile performance tires.
Here is where the two body styles really diverge. The hatchback features a short overhang and a tall liftgate for maximum cargo capacity. Attached to the top of the hatch is a prominent roof spoiler. The fastback meanwhile extends the roofline down to meet the tailgate seamlessly, culminating in a short overhanging lip spoiler. The fastback trades away a bit of practicality for a much sleeker rear appearance.
Wheelbase and Length
Despite their differing shapes, the two models share the same 104.3 inch wheelbase. At 171.9 inches long the fastback is only 0.8 inches longer than the hatchback, a nearly imperceptible difference. The widths and heights are also identical between the two variants.
Moving inside, drivers will find similar performance-focused interiors between the hatchback and fastback models. Close inspection however does reveal some slight discrepancies in the cabin ergonomics:
Both come standard with N-branded sport bucket seats up front that deliver superb lateral support while cornering. Due to its lower roofline though, the fastback’s rear seat headroom is reduced by about an inch compared to the hatchback. This slightly hampers access to the backseats as well.
Measured by volume, the hatchback offers 23.3 cubic feet of capacity with the rear seats upright, compared to 19.9 cubes in the fastback. Fold the rear seats down and the difference becomes 61.7 cubic feet for the hatchback versus 56.5 cubic feet in the fastback. So while the fastback’s cargo hold is still generous, the hatchback clearly provides greater overall utility.
The other functional compromise resulting from the fastback’s sleeker shape is reduced rear visibility. The steeply raked rear glass and lack of a hatch allow minimal over-the-shoulder visibility. The fastback also notably lacks a rear wiper and defroster, which combine with the truncated view to hamper rear vision in inclement weather.
Performance and Handling
As high-performance variants of the i30, both N models possess similarly engaging driving dynamics sharpened by their turbocharged power and sports car suspensions. But a few key mechanical differences impact how each body style performs:
The hatchback’s taller, boxier profile incurs more aerodynamic drag at higher speeds. This slight inefficiency saps power that would otherwise reach the wheels. The fastback’s tapered roofline cuts through the air cleaner to boost high speed stability and fuel efficiency.
Center of Gravity
By siting more mass lower in the chassis, the fastback’s swooping roofline also lowers the center of gravity compared to the hatchback. The resulting reduction in body roll gives the fastback a nimbler feel through quick changes of direction.
To counteract the pitch and dive induced by its taller stance, the i30N hatchback employs stiffer suspension bushings than the fastback. This maintains composure when braking and accelerating vigorously. The fastback’s lower center of gravity avoids the need for overly stiff bushings, allowing a more supple suspension tune.
Engine and Transmission
Importantly, the engines and transmissions are identical between the two body styles. Both can be had with either a 6-speed manual gearbox, or Hyundai’s 8-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The turbocharged 2.0 liter inline-4 generates 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque in either the hatchback or fastback.
Direct Comparison of the i30N Hatch and Fastback
Now that we’ve covered the key attributes of the i30N hatchback and fastback separately, we can directly compare the two models across important categories for shoppers. This head-to-head overview will help crystallize the relative strengths and weaknesses between the body styles.
Styling and Exterior Design
For buyers who prioritize a car’s aesthetic appeal, styling often weighs heavily in choosing between the hatch and fastback variants. The hatchback embodies the quintessential hot hatch look, with its wide squat stance, large greenhouse, and exaggerated rear spoiler. Meanwhile the fastback cuts a lower, longer, more elegant profile reminiscent of a sports coupe. Ultimately styling preference will be subjective, but the fastback certainly stands out as the more unique shape that trades some functionality for fashion.
Practicality and Versatility
When it comes to practical considerations like passenger room and cargo capacity, the hatchback has a clear edge over the fastback. The upright hatch design pays dividends in superior rear seat access and the ability to easily load bulky cargo. While the fastback isn’t cramped, its rear seat headroom and upward visibility suffer due to the tapered roof. If you regularly need to carry passengers and large objects, the hatchback is the more utilitarian choice.
High Speed Dynamics
At a glance, the hatchback’s taller stance would seem to confer greater high speed stability. But because the fastback cheats the wind better and sites its mass lower, it actually displays better composure at highway speeds. Less lift and a lower center of gravity help the fastback feel planted through sweeping bends taken at speed. The hatchback’s softer suspension does help absorb bumps when traveling fast on imperfect roads.
Agility and Handling
Around town and on curvy back roads, the fastback again outshines the hatchback dynamically. The fastback’s lower center of gravity reduces body roll through quick transitions, giving it a nimbler feel. And since the fastback isn’t saddled with the hatchback’s stiff suspension bushings intended to mitigate pitch and dive, it simply handles corners with more reflexes and fluency.
With identical turbocharged engines and transmissions available in both body styles, acceleration and powertrain performance are too close to call between the hatchback and fastback. In a straight line or on the highway, either model will deliver the same exhilarating punch.
Under hard braking, the slightly lighter fastback again has a marginal advantage over the hatchback. Less mass to scrub off speed means the fastback’s four-wheel discs can deliver slightly shorter stopping distances. This quells the hatchback’s tendency towards more front brake bias due to its weight distribution.
According to EPA estimates, the fastback nudges out the hatchback when it comes to fuel economy. The fastback is rated for 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. The hatchback returns slightly lower figures of 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The fastback’s sleeker aerodynamics likely help it achieve an extra 1-2 mpg in real world driving.
Technology and Connectivity
Being essentially two trims of the same model, the hatch and fastback share all of the same onboard tech and infotainment features. Both come equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Available upgrades consist of a premium Harman Kardon audio system, heads-up display, wireless device charging, and Hyundai’s Blue Link connected services.
Hyundai packs its latest active safety technology into both i30N models. That means forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, driver attention warning, and blind spot collision avoidance all come standard. The only safety advantage held by the hatchback is marginally better outward visibility thanks to its taller glass and rear wiper.
One area where the fastback holds an advantage is in personalization. Exclusive to the fastback are two options packages with features not offered on the base hatchback. The Performance Package adds an electronic limited-slip differential, variable exhaust system, and larger brake discs. And the Premium Package brings leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, and a sunroof. The hatchback however can be equipped with an optional Performance Package of its own.
Cost and Value
With a starting price of $33,000, the i30N hatchback undercuts the fastback by about $900. However, that difference vanishes once you add the Performance Package that’s optional on the hatchback but included by default on the fastback. Where the fastback pulls ahead is in resale value, with better projected retention thanks to its unique style. Going the fastback route means you’ll recoup more money down the road.
Recommendations for Choosing Between the Two
Now that we’ve conducted an in-depth comparison, it’s time to synthesize our findings into recommendations for choosing between the i30N hatchback and fastback. Here’s quick guidance based on buyer priorities:
- If you want maximum cargo versatility, choose the hatchback.
- If high speed stability is important, get the fastback.
- If you drive curvy roads routinely, pick the fastback.
- If you need room for passengers, opt for the hatchback.
- If stand-out style is paramount, get the fastback.
- If you drive economically, the fastback offers slightly better efficiency.
- If you want the latest tech, either works since features are identical.
- For the best value, the hatchback slightly undercuts the fastback on price.
At the end of the day, choosing between the i30N hatch and fastback comes down largely to personal preference in styling and priorities around practicality versus performance. For most buyers, we suggest picking the body style that speaks to you aesthetically, then ensuring it has the interior room, features, and driving dynamics you require. You really can’t go wrong with either of these fun, potent hot hatches.
The Bottom Line
Hyundai certainly threw petrolheads an exciting curveball by introducing the swoopy i30N fastback alongside the traditional hot hatch variant. For shoppers attracted to the i30N’s raucous performance in a practical package, deciding between the hatchback and fastback ultimately boils down to your own tastes and needs.
The hatch follows the prototypical hot hatch formula – blunt, functional styling wrapped around a potent turbo engine and dialed-in chassis. The fastback may forfeit some practicality, but offers a more refined, head-turning aesthetic backed up by sharper high speed handling. There’s no unambiguously correct choice, as both models deliver an intoxicating mix of power and practicality.
While the hatchback excels at versatility for gear-hauling duty or road trips, the fastback impresses with its visual drama and athletic, coupe-like driving experience. Unless you absolutely require maximum interior room, the choice between these two exciting flavors of the i30N comes down to whether you are seduced by the classic hot hatch look or the exotic fastback silhouette. Either way, you’ll get a tremendously quick and agile performer that epitomizes the hot hatch ethos.