AT A GLANCE

The Advertiser - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - PAUL GOVER CHIEF REPORTER

THE next Hyundai i30 is go­ing to be good. I’m not Nostradamus but it’s easy to make a con­fi­dent pre­dic­tion when you’ve al­ready driven the fu­ture.

In this case, the fu­ture of the i30 is wrapped inside the lat­est Hyundai Elantra.

For­get about the dif­fer­ent names, be­cause the Elantra and i30 are es­sen­tially the same car. The dif­fer­ence is the Elantra is a four-door sedan and the i30 is a five-door hatch.

So I can say with ab­so­lute cer­tainty the more ma­ture feel of the lat­est Elantra, to­gether with its qui­eter cabin and more up­mar­ket fi­nal fin­ish­ing, will be mir­rored in the i30.

I’d also ex­pect the qual­ity han­dling and ride of the Elantra to carry over to the i30.

I’m not sold on the sedan’s cuts-and-creases styling but it is de­signed for con­ser­va­tive cus­tomers in the likes of the US and China.

The i30 should be more mod­ern and Euro­pean, since that’s the pri­mary cus­tomer base. We won’t know un­til it is pre­viewed at a ma­jor mo­tor show, most likely in Europe, in the lat­ter part of the year.

There’s another query about the com­pact con­tenders from the South Korean maker: why is the Elantra here al­ready when the i30 is still months away?

For the an­swer, look at the pop­u­lar­ity of four-doors in coun­tries other than Aus­tralia. The buy­ing ra­tio is about 80-20 glob­ally in favour of the sedan — here the num­bers flip to 80-20 for the hatch.

So the Elantra sedan comes first and pro­vides one of the best con­tenders in the class, with a start­ing price from $21,490 for the base Ac­tive spec. The test Elite is up a bit at $26,490 but the in­crease is easy to jus­tify with its leather seats, LED light pack­age, 17-inch al­loys, dual-zone auto air­con, push-but­ton start and even il­lu­mi­nated van­ity mir­rors (miss­ing from the Ac­tive).

The me­chan­i­cal pack­age is the same for the range, with the front-drive 2.0-litre petrol four mak­ing 112kW/192Nm. The Elite comes only as a six-speed auto, which makes life eas­ier but slightly slower — the six-speed man­ual in the Ac­tive clocks 8.8 sec­onds from rest to 100km/h but the Elite does a leisurely 9.9.

The Elite is frac­tion­ally heav­ier on fuel at 7.2L/100km but that’s still fine for the class. The best thing about the new Elantra is its feel. It is not tinny or rat­tly, feels taut at all times, and the things you can see and touch are a cut above the i30 and many of its op­po­nents.

Hyundai knows the first im­pres­sion in the show­room is su­per-im­por­tant to­day (that’s what gets lots of Audi cus­tomers inside the first minute) and that means soft­touch plas­tics on the Elantra’s top sur­faces, a dash that is clean with tight tol­er­ances, and con­trols with a sub­stan­tial feel.

The same ap­proach pays off from the open­ing min­utes at the wheel, as the car feels com­pli­ant in the sus­pen­sion with well­sorted damp­ing, good brakes and plenty of cor­ner­ing grip.

It’s no sports car. I can’t wait for the more youth­ful i30 and even an SR model with a turbo en­gine.

Easy to park and with a use­ful boot, the Elantra also has pretty good rear vi­sion — many hatches are more pinched in the tail than sedans.

It’s a lit­tle strange, though, that Hyundai does not give a tow rat­ing for the Elantra.

There are huge num­bers of new fam­ily-first utes in Aus­tralia but some peo­ple still have a baby pop-up camper or a box trailer for week­end runs to the tip.

There is no ANCAP safety rat­ing yet but, even with its rear-view cam­era and solid suite of airbags, it is un­likely to score five stars in Aus­tralia with­out such ac­tive safety gear as auto safety brak­ing.

For me, the worst thing about the Elantra is the in­fo­tain­ment setup. The dis­play is big enough and clear enough, the sound is all right although the ra­dio re­cep­tion could be bet­ter.

Blue­tooth con­nec­tion, how­ever, is aw­ful and could even be a deal-breaker for some peo­ple. It’s more blu-toot than Blue­tooth, with clar­ity (a mis­nomer) that’s eas­ily the worst in my re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence.

Hyundai needs to get se­ri­ous about the prob­lem and en­sure it’s not re­peated in com­ing mod­els, par­tic­u­larly the new Veloster and i30.

VER­DICT

Con­nec­tiv­ity, I guess, is a lit­tle thing in the big pic­ture. Look­ing ahead, it’s likely to be an even eas­ier pass for the i30.

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