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Brand New Hyundai i30

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Tony O'Kane | Apr 17, 2009 | 18 Comments

I CAN HEAR the comments for this review being tapped out right now: “You lot have already reviewed the Hyundai i30 CRDi auto, why on earth are you revisiting it?”

Easy answer. It’s been over a year since the slushbox-equipped i30 diesel was released to the Australian market and we wanted to see if it was still travelling as well, one year on.

We've also seen some additions to the segment since its release and figured it was time to see how the little oiler was faring in a market that is getting tougher by the day.

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We were also more than a little interested to review one with a few more clicks on the odometer. (If a car can cope with the unique brand of abuse that automotive journalists regularly dish out to press fleet vehicles, it can cope with anything.)

And lastly, this time round, we planned to give the i30 more time on urban pavement (our last tester saw mostly highway duty). City streets and suburban roads are arguably where the majority of i30s will spend much of their lives.

We already know it's ok out dodging wombats, but how good is it if you have to spend a week in the saddle in the rough-and-tumble of urban driving?

So then, let’s introduce our candidate for this roadtest, eh?

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Our loaner was a 2009 MY i30 CRDi SLX auto in Moonlight Blue and, as we said back in June 2008, the i30 is a pretty handsome unit. Not retina-searingly hot, mind you, but neatly if a little conservatively styled, and - yes - more attractive than some of its competitors.

Two years on from when the i30 first went on sale, it’s still one of the better shapes in the small car segment. We get the feeling this is a bod that’ll age well.

Our tester had just under 3500km on the odometer, which, by press car standards, puts it close to halfway through its term of duty. Judging by the gravel rash along the rocker panels, the worn shoulders on the tyres and some shallow scoring on the brake discs, those were 3500 hard, punishing kilometres.

 

Inner, As Well As Outer, Beauty

But by gosh, you wouldn’t be able to tell from the driver’s seat. The i30, despite the obvious signs of vehicular abuse, felt rock solid.

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Cruising down Melbourne’s occasionally pockmarked suburban roads, the cabin is pleasingly quiet. There was the occasional rattle from the rear plastics, however it wasn’t a constant thing (unlike the dash 'creak' that has featured in every Volkswagen Golf V we’ve driven).

The passenger space is well-insulated from the noise of the i30’s turbodiesel donk, and even at highway speeds it’s a surprisingly serene environment. There is some wind noise from the wing mirrors above 100km/h, but it’s not enough to be intrusive.

Off the highway and back into the suburban grind, the i30 shines. For a small car, it feels surprisingly roomy. The seats are comfortable and supportive and unless the front seat passengers are basketball players, rear legroom is more than adequate.

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Ergonomics is another strong suit for the i30. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, the front seat squab is manually adjustable and boasts extra lumbar support, the centre stack is angled ever-so-slightly towards the driver and there’s storage bins aplenty. Power windows are standard across the i30 range too.

Being the SLX model, our tester also came with steering wheel-mounted controls for the audio and cruise control, climate control, alloy-look trim on the dash and steering wheel, cupholders in the rear armrest and a trip computer.

One complaint we had was with the stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, which felt lumpy around the spokes and made holding the rim at nine-and-three almost painful during long drives. Solution? Grab the wheel elsewhere.

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Another potential pitfall of the i30’s cabin is the sizable blind spot generated by those thick C-pillars. There’s a small window just aft of the rear doors, however they’re placed too high to be of any practical use to the driver. The big wing mirrors offset this disadvantage a little, but i30 owners will need to pay a little more attention to their surroundings.

The quality of finish on the i30 is worlds apart from its spiritual forebear, the humble Excel. Most cabin plastics have an upmarket feel (we totally dig the rubbery-finish trim on the door panels), the chrome door handles and vertically-slatted air vents look classy and the dash itself is soft to the touch - thus winning big points from Mike, our resident dashboard-fetishist.

This is probably one of the most functional interiors we’ve recently had the pleasure of experiencing.

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There are four cup holders, storage bins in every door (the front ones able to accommodate large drink bottles), a chilled glovebox, iPod integration, auxillary inputs for the stereo, a sunglasses pocket, double-decker centre console box, a cargo net and luggage tie-downs in the boot, flat-folding 60/40 split rear seats and two under-floor storage bins next to the spare wheel.


It’s an impressive list, but keep in mind that the chilled glovebox isn’t exactly what you’d call “Arctic” and the front seats need to be brought forward in order to fold the rear seatback completely flat. Minor quibbles though.

The i30’s interior plastics also seem to be remarkably resistant to damage. There was the usual scuffing around the driver’s footwell, but the trim hides scratches rather well.

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The boot carpet had a couple of nicks, but they appeared to be inflicted by someone tossing a hedge trimmer (or a mace, whatever) into the i30’s load compartment.

Hyundai has sensibly opted to trim the side panels of the hatch area in the same soft-ish carpet material as the boot floor too, which means dents from sliding prams/hedge trimmers won’t leave a lasting mark.

 

On The Road

So, what of the drive? Last year we praised the i30 for its honest, no-nonsense diesel-slurping powertrain. It is good to see that time (and the heavy right feet of countless journos) has not diminished its abilities.

The 1.6 litre turbodiesel four-banger pulls cleanly from idle and while power is an unremarkable 85kW at 4000rpm, the 1.6 CRDi’s 255Nm from 1900rpm more than compensates.

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Wafting from stoplight to suburban stoplight is an effortless affair, and the diesel’s torque is more than up to the task of keeping the i30 ahead of the pack if asked the question.

The suspension too is worthy of comment. You need to bear in mind the price point and the segment where the i30 CRDi is competing.

With MacPherson struts, coils and stabiliser up front, and independent multilink with coils and stabiliser at the rear, it’s not especially sophisticated. But for the money you get a good mix between compliance and firmness, and although it leans more towards the comfort side of the spectrum, that’s fine by us.

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This ain’t no sportscar after all, and the suspension tune is perfect for dealing with undulating urban pavement, tram tracks, expansion gaps and the occasional pothole.

That being said, the i30 doesn’t exactly fall flat on its face when asked to hustle up a twisty road. It can be persuaded to move pretty quickly, but produces nice, safe understeer when pushed a bit too hard.

One thing that got on our goat was the i30’s steering feel. It almost feels as if there’s some kind of detent holding the steering wheel to dead centre, and it feels a tad unnatural when motoring about town.

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Feedback through the tiller is also pretty low, and we attribute both of these traits to the Hyundai’s electrically-assisted steering rack. Give us an hydraulic rack any day.

Safety-wise, the i30 delivers in spades. Spade-fulls of acronyms, that is. ESP, TCS and ABS are standard kit across the i30 range with the latter bringing EBD with it. Don’t speak safety-ese? That’s Electronic Stability Program, Traction Control System, Anti-lock Braking System and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution to you.

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Driver and front passenger airbags are standard too, and the SLX model we tested also comes with front side and full-length curtain airbags. Another nice touch is the anti-whiplash headrests on the front seats.

Final Thoughts

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the Hyundai i30 is truly a world-class car. It gives you everything you need along with a few things you didn’t think you needed, and the whole package is screwed together tight.

It looks good, it drives well and although we didn’t warm to the electrically-assisted steering, odds are John Q Commuter won’t even notice it. It’s a solid car, and the one in our keeping had clearly held together well despite a hard life at the hands of numerous motoring scribes.

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This is a car that will go the distance and keep asking for more. Swap the badge, and the i30 gives you nearly all of what’s on offer from the established European marques. But, at $28,390 for the SLX diesel auto, it’s a whole bunch cheaper (so what's a badge worth?).

Hyundai deserves to continue to do well with this little oiler. We still like it a lot, we think you will too.

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