Hyundai i30 SR

Ap­pe­tiser leaves us want­ing to taste the main course

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

EN­GINE 1591cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo / POWER 150kW @ 6000rpm / TORQUE 265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm / WEIGHT 1390kg / 0-100KM/H 7.2sec (est) / PRICE $27,000 (est) SOME peo­ple might be shocked to hear that Hyundai out­sold both Ford and Holden in Aus­tralia last year.

Some en­thu­si­asts might be equally sur­prised to learn that be­fore Santa starts sleigh-ing this year, the South Korean brand will have launched both a twin-turbo V6 rear-drive sedan and a 202kW hot hatch­back.

Con­sider this third-gen­er­a­tion i30 as an early taste of the year ahead. More than that, though, in flag­ship (for now) SR form this lat­est five-door hatch swaps out the revvy atmo 2.0-litre for a 1.6-litre tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gine with healthy 150kW and 265Nm out­puts. A decade ago, the Mk5 Golf GTI de­vel­oped 147kW/280Nm.

It’s the en­gine from the medi­ocre Veloster Turbo teamed with chas­sis parts from the im­pres­sive Elantra

SR. Other dif­fer­ences lie in the de­tail. Where the Elantra is tar­geted at

North Amer­ica with low-grade cabin fur­nish­ings, the i30’s aims for Europe.

Tor­sional body rigid­ity im­proves by 17.5 per cent com­pared with the sec­ond-gen i30, thanks to a lift in high-ten­sile steel from 29.5 to 53 per cent. The i30 SR fi­nally scores mul­ti­link in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion (IRS) and ei­ther six-speed man­ual or seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sions – like the Elantra SR.

On a pre­sen­ta­tion at Hyundai’s head­quar­ters in Seoul, the com­pany chose two words to sum up what it be­lieves is the great­est leap for­ward for the new i30 – driv­ing dy­nam­ics.

“The re­view­ers gave high scores to the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion i30 over­all, but vary­ing scores for its ride and han­dling qual­ity,” it con­fessed.

Hyundai claims im­proved steer­ing and sus­pen­sion ge­om­e­try will de­liver the goods, and in its na­tive ter­ri­tory that ap­pears to be the case. The elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal steer­ing is tight on the cen­tre po­si­tion, decently sharp just off it and con­sis­tently weighted as lock is wound on.

Aus­tralia will score lo­cal sus­pen­sion and – for the first time – elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol (ESC) tweaks, but even on Hankook Ven­tus S1evo2 rub­ber, front-end re­sponse is al­ready pointy, with spring and damper rates that are com­fort­able yet con­trolled; you could even say so­phis­ti­cated.

Only the ESC feels off – some­times lit­er­ally as it can be slow to re­act to body move­ment, yet is too abrupt in cut­ting power on corner exit.

It gels with a forced four-pot that doesn’t sound in­spir­ing, but is cer­tainly gutsy and mates with a slick auto that only stum­bles around town as the twin clutches slip oddly on quick down­shifts.

Where the i30 SR re­ally ex­cels, though, is be­ing an Elantra SR with taste. From the re­strained­chic ex­te­rior to the sweep­ing new dash­board, Hyundai Aus­tralia will fi­nally of­fer a $30K warm hatch that doesn’t feel like a $20K spe­cial.

It isn’t quite shock and awe, but the i30 SR is sur­pris­ingly good in­deed.

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