LOOK­ING GOOD

Hyundai’s pol­ished i30 sheds its bar­gain tag

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DUFF

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.”

VER­DICT

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?

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