Is The Hyundai i30N Too Loud?

I know it might seem sacrilege to true petrolheads to question whether a performance-focused car can ever be ‘too loud’, but for those of us who have to drive in the real world, who carry passengers, who need to start the car in a quiet street in the early morning without waking the neighbours, or for whatever other reason don’t want to make too much noise, cars can definitely be too loud.

Aside from its impressive acceleration and handling, the ‘party piece’ for the i30N has always been is trick exhaust system.

While plenty of modern cars have similar systems, Hyundai’s engineers really did nail the aural aspects of the i30N … it’s a great sounding car (provided you have a tinge of petrol head blood running through your veins).

I can still remember the first time I ever came across an i30N. I was walking past the Hyundai dealership in town with my dad after getting a coffee, and the salesman happened to fire up the i30N (an early, prefacelift manual example).

I was hooked on the amazing sound on startup, and the deep burble the exhaust made. I actually wound up going for a test drive there and then, and despite fluffing around for several years – for various reasons – I knew I always wanted one of these amazing machines in part because of the noise.

It’s not the sweet, dulcet tones of something like a an Alfa Romeo busso V6, but the i30N has the ability to make a cracker (literally) soundtrack out of those big twin tailpipes, and in doing so can put a huge smile on your face.

But is the i30N too loud to the point where it is antisocial?

Growing up in Christchurch New Zealand, which was pretty much the ‘boy racer’ capital of New Zealand (although Hamiltonians might take offence to that comment) I’ve listened to more riced up cars drive by with offensively loud, droney sounding exhausts than you’ve had hot dinners. It was a right of passage almost to buy a mediocre – because that’s all you could afford to buy and insure – Japanese eco hatch or sedan and then slap an exhaust on so large you could fit a watermelon up there and make loads of noise with zero actual pace.

In fact, I used to have a V6 Mazda Sentia with some monstrosity of an exhaust slapped on the back (by the previous owner) which made more noise than a KISS concert, and sounded about as good too.

The best part of 20 years and plenty of maturing later, if you’re anything like me you want a car that can sound special and exciting when needed but also be able to do things like pick up the in-laws from the airport when they come for Christmas without embarrassing yourself.

So where does the i30N rate in all this?

If I look at my everyday use of the i30N:

  • Startup is quite loud (to the point where if I start my car while my toddler is awake she will yell out ‘daddy car’) – I wish there was the ability to start in a quiet mode … if I’m missing something in the settings to achieve this please roast me in the comment section. If you are starting your car in an internal garage that adjoins a bedroom, for example, this could be problematic. We live in a townhouse and the baby’s room is above the garage; I’m loathe to start the car in the garage before she wakes up owing to how loud it is.
  • In normal driving, when in Normal and especially Eco modes the i30N really isn’t too loud at all. There are hints of something special and sonorous, but nothing that will piss the neighbours off too much. With the radio and/or AC on, neither you nor the passengers will notice and I doubt anybody on the street will look twice.
  • In sport, and especially in N mode, it is quite loud. In fact, it’s properly loud. The actual exhaust note isn’t offensive like you get on a car that has had a “big bore” slapped on the back, but the crackling and popping can be a bit immature depending on where you are driving (although to a certain extent you can modulate it by not driving like a complete lunatic). It’s not uncommon to see other road users, particularly cyclists or pedestrians waiting to cross the intersection, turning their heads to see where the noise is coming from. Put simply, my wife thinks the car is ‘immature’ and ‘childish’ when the exhaust starts crackling and my mum called me a juvenile boy racer the first time I floored it and then backed off the throttle with her in the car.

So I wouldn’t say that a standard, unmodified i30N is too loud except perhaps at startup when you are wanting to make a quiet getaway in the morning or middle of the night.

If you are 17 years old and sneaking over to your girlfriend’s place in the middle of the night with a view to climb through her window to, ahem, watch Tik Toks together, this might not be the best car to make a quiet getaway before her dad wakes up and chases you out the back door.

Equally, if you are conducting solemn business such as running a funeral parlour or transporting members of the clergy, then you might be better placed with something a bit more subtle – like a supercharged V8 Jaguar.

However, for the average automotive enthusiast who wants a car that can be quiet enough (most of the time) but also loud enough when desired, the i30N strikes a good balance … made even better by just how easy it is to dial up or down the noise factor as desired. For my own use, the only thing I wish is that you could start the car with less noise if wanted, for example by turning the car off in eco mode so that it starts in eco mode the next time.

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