Evolution of a species
The i30’s familiar panels conceal the makings of a livelier hatch
THERE is more evolution than revolution in the latest Hyundai i30. For some cars and companies that would be a bad thing but not for Hyundai and its small-car headliner.
The i30 has been a Carsguide favourite from the kick-off and the third generation makes a good car even better, particularly in refinement and driving enjoyment. It’s also conspicuously, and measurably, bigger inside.
Hyundai has even managed to drop the starting price by $500 while adding, among other equipment, satnav, alloy wheels, digital radio and eightinch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
The basic four-cylinder engine has also grown from 1.8 to 2.0 litres, with an extra 13kW. A turbocharged 1.6-litre propels the livelier models.
But the $22,990 drive-away bottom line for the manual — and $24,990 for the auto — is deceptive. For many months last year, the basic i30 auto was selling for $19,990 drive-away.
The pricing helped it become the overall No.3 with Australian car buyers.
There is nothing radical about the styling of the new i30 but beneath the panels you’ll find a completely new mechanical platform. Apart from the engine updates, it brings all manner of benefits, chiefly sharper handling and improved ride.
Later this year it will be enhanced even further when Hyundai lands its i30N performance model, with a 202kW engine, limited-slip differential and much sharper suspension tuning.
Hyundai says when it began work on the new i30, it was aiming primarily at the Volkswagen Golf even though it’s more likely to be shopped against the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla in Australia. The brand has a five-year warranty but it’s still not a semi-premium European badge.
Last year’s launch of the Elantra stablemate — with a quieter cabin, a bit more urge and extra equipment — gave a foretaste of the i30 as the former is effectively the fourdoor sedan twin to the five-door hatch.
The first drive in a basic i30 showed the South Korean maker had hit its targets, helped by an Australian suspension team that went through more than two dozen sets of shock absorbers before deciding on the right combination for our roads and drivers.
ON THE ROAD
The SR Premium is a long way beyond a basic i30 but it’s the one if you have more to spend and expect more from your small car. For me it’s a genuine alternative to a Mazda3 Astina.
When the SR auto arrives for The Tick test, the first thing to note is that at $33,950 before on-roads, it’s $400 dearer than
before, with 1.6-litre turbo (150kW/265Nm) and sevenspeed dual-clutch auto.
Independent rear suspension in the SR and other upscale models has been a talking point. I find the beam axle in the basic i30 is fine and the IRS only really helps if you’re a keen driver on a testing road. Frankly, very few people could tell the difference without hitting a racetrack.
The SR also gets 18-inch alloys. Its five stars from ANCAP come courtesy of active safety gear including auto safety braking, radar cruise control, rear traffic alert and blind spot detection.
A lively drive, the SR delivers crisp response from the engine and a sweet shift from the gearbox. It’s a car that turns sweetly into corners but still rides with compliance over all but the worst roads.
It’s not as sporty as a Golf GTI but the coming N-car will explore that territory.
The cabin of the new i30 seems roomier and I can feel the extra legroom in the back. Boot space also gets a slight boost, though if you really want a big boot there is the Elantra.
Hyundai says the i30 can tow up to 1300kg and the SR can sprint to 100km/h in a tidy 7.5 seconds. On test, I ease just slightly under the claimed thirst of 7.5L/100km.
The sources of most enjoyment are the quiet cabin, suspension that makes driving easy on any road and the response from the SR’s turbo.
I don’t love the new i30 but I like it a lot. When the i30 N arrives at the end of the year, there is scope to like it much more. For now, the i30 SR continues the Hyundai success story and it gets The Tick.