Most carmakers like to slip in a little ‘surprise and delight’ in new models – think Jaguar’s throbbing red starter button, Mini’s colour-changing interior lighting, even twinkling stars in the roof-lining of the Vauxhall Adam.

Few produce a car that is a total head-to-toe treat, but that is what Hyundai has done with the i30 N.

The Korean manufacturer famed for its five-year warranty and wide range of sensible, cut-price, frugal models has had a rush of blood to the head and produced an all-out barnstormer.

Do not make the mistake for a second of thinking this is just another i30 fitted with some bigger wheels, aggressive front and rear bumpers, gloss black roof spoiler and twin exhausts.

Those are the visible bits, but the real effort in turning the car into a serious hot hatchback, capable of competing directly against some well-established, seriously engineered competition, remains unseen.

At the heart of Hyundai’s beast lives a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, with a raft of performance features from an electronic limited slip differential and electronically-controlled suspension, to rev matching and launch control.

The entry-level 247 horsepower version lines up against the Volkswagen Golf GTI, while the  275 horsepower i30 N Performance version driven here, competes against the likes of the Honda Civic Type R and Renault Mégane RS.

Leading the team behind the i30 N is ex-BMW M division chief Albert Biermann, who played a key role in creating cars for driving enthusiasts such as the mighty M3.

Like the M3, the i30 N with its precise short shift, six-speed manual gearbox, is perfectly at home on a day-to-day commute with a pair of comfortable sports seats with sculpted lumbar support and extendable seat cushions, to provide stability for the driver and front passenger. There are loads of luxury touches too like heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

Once settled behind the wheel, the instrumentation and switchgear give clues to what lies beneath. On the left side of the steering wheel, a blue switch lets you select three standard drive modes: normal, sport and eco.

Select normal, or eco, and you are all set for a quiet and relaxed ride, perfect for nipping to the shops or for longer journeys. Select sport mode and it gets much more interesting, as the dampers adjust electronically from commuting mode to tauter settings.

On the right of the steering wheel, another blue switch lets you select the ‘chequered flag’ N-mode, or a custom setting. You can also push a rev-match button to blip the revs when shifting from a higher to a lower gear.

Performance information is displayed on the instrument cluster and an eight-inch centre screen, including a G-Force meter for live tracking of performance. The red zone of the variable LED rev counter changes according to driving performance and engine oil temperature.

The sports exhaust growls under hard acceleration and spits back from the tailpipes when you back off. Engine and exhaust notes are also enhanced by an electronic sound generator at the base of the windscreen, which feeds in extra sound to the cabin.

The rack-mounted motor-driven power steering is direct and precise, delivering lots of feel and the lowered body is rigid with an extra rear stiffness bar fitted in the boot. In combination with the electronic controlled suspension this reduces roll and enhances cornering speed.

But the true extent of this car’s performance is best saved for track days when the limits can be explored in safety.

The colour choice is deliberately small – performance blue, polar white, micron grey, phantom black or engine red – so there is no mistaking the car on the road.

And why is it called the N? It was created in Hyundai’s Namyang research and development centre and honed at the Nürburgring race circuit which is home of Hyundai’s test centre.

Auto facts

Model: Hyundai i30 N Performance

Price: £28,026

Insurance group: 28E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 36.2mpg

Top speed: 155mph

Length: 433.5cm/170.2in

Width: 179.5cm/70.5in

Luggage capacity: 381 litres/13.5 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11 gallons/50 litres

CO2 emissions: 178 g/km

Warranty: Five years/unlimited mileage