Hyundai’s polished i30 sheds its bargain tag
FIRST impressions count and, on the new Hyundai i30, these are hugely positive. This is the best Hyundai on sale in Australia, both in how it drives and what you get for the money.
The car addresses most of the reasons people may have overlooked it for a Toyota Corolla or Mazda3 in the past.
The body is bigger and better-looking, the on-road behaviour has improved and there’s now more to touch and play with on all variants without any major price movements, at least on the recommended retail price.
And therein lies the challenge. For a car that has built its success on sharp driveaway deals, trying to charge a bit more is a gamble.
The current auto is selling for $21,990 drive-away with a $1000 gift card, while the new model will have a drive-away price of $24,990 for the base auto.
Toyota has the Corolla Ascent at $22,990 drive-away and Holden, which was burnt when it tried to ask too much for its Astra, is now charging $24,990 drive-away. Subaru’s Impreza is $25,190 and Mazda’s 3 starts at $26,430.
To pull off the drive-away price hike, Hyundai had to get the formula right and move the car from one bought on value to one that sells on its own merits.
The previous i30 proved the company could compete on equal terms rather than on value alone but it failed to sell as well when the discounts dried up.
This model steps up again and will be a genuine contender for the best small car title. Automatic versions of all but the base car pick up driving aids including autonomous emergency braking that operates beyond legal road speeds, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic warning and blind spot and lane departure alerts. Some rivals have the tech as standard or as an option on all models, though. Hyundai says a $1500 option will arrive in a few months.
The range starts with the $20,950 (RRP) Active with a 2.0-litre engine and six-speed manual gearbox or $23,250 with a six-speed auto. It picks up an eight-inch infotainment display with satnav, digital audio and Android/Apple mirroring, along with cruise control, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitor and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The line-up then splits into luxury and performance branches. The Elite and Premium focus on interior updates and, in common with the Active, use a less sophisticated rear suspension set-up, a cheap and effective fitment in most small cars.
The biggest visible benefit is keeping the cargo area’s floor low, which enables Hyundai to fit a full-size spare. A 1.6-litre turbo diesel is the only engine choice with this pair (it’s an option on the Active), matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch
automatic. Elite versions start at $28,950 and add dual-zone aircon, digital driver’s display, leather-accented upholstery, electronic parking brake, 17inch alloys, wireless charging for compatible smartphones, keyless entry/start and adjustable floor in the cargo area.
The $33,950 Premium increases the feel-good factor with heated and ventilated front seats, powered driver’s seat, sunroof, LED headlamps and front parking sensors.
The SR ($25,950, or $28,950 with dual-clutch auto) and auto-only SR Premium ($33,950) are the picks for those who prefer a faster-paced approach.
Both versions use a 1.6-litre turbo with manual or dualclutch transmissions and are fitted with independent rear suspension for improved roadholding. The downside is a space-saver spare to preserve cargo room, though owners can opt for a full-size job.
Standard gear on the SR includes 18-inch alloys, betterbolstered front seats, alloy pedals, red highlights on the fascia and upholstery stitching, twin exhausts and LED taillamps. The SR Premium adds similar kit to that on the Premium.
ON THE ROAD
Experience has shown South Korean cars aren’t ideally set up for our roads, which is why Hyundai and Kia tune their cars to suit our environment.
The last i30 was a benign thing to drive; this one is as entertaining as anything you can find in the class.
Even models with the basic suspension didn’t have an issue traversing some gnarly roads around Albury and only the occasional secondary bounce as the car settled over a big obstacle — like a drop from bridge to road — betrayed any lack of sophistication. Around town no one will tell. Tyres that are fitted to aid efficiency rather than grip will typically give up before the suspension or chassis starts to complain.
The diesel variants are expected to account for only a handful of i30 sales and are the least satisfying of the new i30 crop. The diesel is thrifty, with the lazy torque expected from an oilburner, but it lacks the fun factor that can be had with the petrol-powered cars.
Those who prioritise driving enjoyment should gravitate to the SR. It is quick, composed and capable of being flicked through tight turns without unsettling the car or occupants.
Hyundai head office quotes a 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds for the SR and by the seat of the pants it feels as if it could go quicker.
The local outfit also tuned the steering and electronic stability control. Respectively, the results can be felt and not felt.
Feedback through the wheel increases as the steering angle is wound on. The intent is to minimise thumps when driving around town or on a freeway but to engage some feel on winding roads.
The stability control intervenes later than it does on the regular models and, senior product planner Andrew Tuitahi says, it will permit light wheelspin on corner exit.
“The new i30’s chassis addresses many of the weaknesses we identified in tuning the previous generation Elantra and i30,” he says.
“The multi-link rear suspension gives us a whole new level of control which helps take our development work on the car a step further.”
A quick taste and we’re salivating at the prospect of a full test. The abiding question: will buyers pay extra for the more polished drive?