2012 Hyundai i30 First Drive Review

Tony O'Kane | 16 Comments



When it arrived in Australian showrooms in October 2007, the first-generation i30 was a landmark car for Hyundai.

It boasted high levels of refinement, quality and driveability, and, for many Aussie motorists, the i30 radically changed their perception of the brand.

Korean cars could suddenly compete on more than just cheap pricing.

Fast forward nearly five years and the i30 has lost its lustre. Its competitors in the small hatch segment have significantly raised the bar, and we didn’t rate the first-gen i30 highly in our recent small car comparo.

But that now doesn’t matter - a new Hyundai i30 has arrived. This new car comes with massively increased levels of quality, value for money and comfort.

Like its predecessor, it may be a portent of things to come from Korea’s largest carmaker.


Soft-touch surfaces abound inside the new i30, and the presentation is far more impressive than the old i30.

The design is more cohesive - long strips of silver-painted trim define the centre-stack’s boundaries, and the full-colour touchscreen display is seamlessly integrated into the dashboard.

Both touchscreen and the HVAC controls are mounted high, improving ease-of-use and also freeing up storage space at the base.

Basic ergonomics are also improved by the placement of the driver’s window and mirror-controls higher up on the door.

The swoopy curves and organic forms of Hyundai’s current 'family' styling have been applied to the new i30’s interior. Aesthetically, it’s far easier on the eyes than the sober, slabby design of the outgoing model.

It’s more comfortable too. The front seats have ample bolstering on both the squab and backrest, and there’s decent under-thigh support.

On the Elite and Premium, the front headrests are four-way adjustable as well, and the steering column has a good range of rake and reach adjustment.

Even more impressive, though, are the back seats.

There’s plentiful legroom, enough for this 5’8” correspondent to comfortably sit behind a 6’4” driver. Footroom is also generous, but headroom in the i30 Premium is in short supply thanks to the intrusion of the sunroof.

The seat cushions there are sculpted for improved support. The result is the i30 now has one of the best rear benches in the segment.

You’d be reluctant to squeeze into the centre seat for any great length of time, but for two adults there’s lots to like about the i30’s rear seat accommodation.

The range-topping i30 Premium gets rear seat air vents in the back of the centre console too (up until now the Volkswagen Golf was the only small car to offer this feature).

We'd prefer to see this feature standard across the range.

But, speaking of standard features, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed with the i30’s equipment list.

All models get cruise control, rear parking sensors, foglamps, Bluetooth integration (both phone and audio), iPod connectivity, a USB input and a touchscreen multifunction display (five inches for the Active, seven inches for the Elite and Premium).

Seven airbags are also standard across the range.

2012 hyundai i30 australia 03 premium 14

The $29,990 flagship i30 Premium boasts a panoramic glass roof, leather upholstery, heated and powered front seats, HID headlamps and electronic parking brake.

For value for money however, it is the mid-grade Elite that most impresses.

Available from $24,590, it is very well kitted- out for the asking price. You get sat-nav, keyless entry and ignition, live SUNA traffic updates, a reversing camera, 16-inch alloys, dusk-sensing headlamps, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, auto up/down on all windows and a full-size alloy spare.

That’s more gadgets-per-dollar than any of its competitors.

Boot space is plentiful, although on the Active and Elite the low boot floor means there’s quite a tall loading lip.

There’s 378 litres with the 60-40 split back seats in place, and 1316 litres with them folded. Another handy feature are the two shopping bag hooks moulded into the side trim, not to mention the 12-volt power outlet on the driver’s side.

On The Road

While the new i30 has a class-leading feature list and a high level of cabin comfort, it’s only an average performer out on the road.

Its petrol engine has been downsized from a 2.0 litre to the same 1.8 litre that powers the Elantra, and while its 110kW/178Nm outputs sound healthy enough, it really needs more than 4000rpm on the dial to make swift progress.

It’s not helped either by the clutch’s vague friction point and the standard six-speed manual’s slightly notchy shifter action. We'd recommend spending the extra $2000 for the six-speed automatic.

To its credit however, it's both quiet and smooth around town and at lower speeds.

A better choice for everyday driving is the 1.6 litre turbodiesel paired with the automatic. Although it doesn’t feel any faster than the petrol, it is more responsive and relaxed.

The extra midrange torque offered by the diesel makes for effortless driving, and is very well-mated with the six-speed automatic.

Like the petrol, the diesel is also fairly quiet and refined from inside the car.

The suspension tune has improved markedly. The old car pitched and rolled heavily when asked to change direction, but the new i30 feels a lot more controlled.

There’s still a strong tendency towards understeer though, and in our opinion it could use grippier tyres.

2012 hyundai i30 australia 01 active 03

Thanks to locally-developed and Australia-specific damper valving, the ride is biased more towards comfort than enthusiastic cornering.

And, aside from some slight jitteriness over small corrugations, the i30 provides a smooth ride.

The Premium has a slightly sharper ride than the Elite, but that’s to be expected given its larger 17-inch wheels.

The new model is more composed on the road than its predecessor. We're a bit surprised by this, given the new car is fitted with a cheaper, less-sophisticated torsion beam rear axle, rather than the multi-link setup used by the old i30.

Another new feature for 2012 is the FlexSteer variable steering. It allows the driver to cycle between three steering modes (Comfort, Normal, Sport), via a steering wheel-mounted button, which changes the level of assistance from the electric power steering (EPS) system.

You can feel a change in steering effort when hopping between each FlexSteer setting, but whether in the firmer Sport mode or lighter Comfort mode there’s still not much feedback through the wheel.

That said, this is definitely one of Hyundai’s better EPS systems. Assistance is smooth and seamless throughout the wheel’s range of movement, and it has good on-centre feel.

TMR First Drive Verdict

Much like it did with the first generation i30, Hyundai has managed to surprise us with the new i30.

This is a very complete, capable and appealing small car.

It’s still quite far from the top of its segment for dynamic prowess and driving enjoyment, but the advances that have been made in comfort, quality, space and equipment mean the i30 is bound to endear itself to very, very many Australian motorists.

We’re a little disappointed that Hyundai hasn’t taken this opportunity to fit a direct-injection petrol engine to its new-generation small hatch, and the move to a torsion beam axle seems like a retrograde step.

However, we’re optimistic that a direct-injection GDI powerplant will find its way underhood as part of a mid-cycle update.

So, not quite top marks for the Hyundai i30, but a very good effort overall. Stay tuned for our full review.



  • 2012 i30 Active - 1.8 petrol manual - $20,990
  • 2012 i30 Active - 1.8 petrol automatic - $22,990
  • 2012 i30 Elite - 1.8 petrol manual - $24,590
  • 2012 i30 Elite - 1.8 petrol automatic - $26,590
  • 2012 i30 Premium - 1.8 petrol automatic - $29,990


  • 2012 i30 Active - 1.6 diesel manual - $23,590
  • 2012 i30 Active - 1.6 diesel automatic - $25,590
  • 2012 i30 Elite - 1.6 diesel manual - $27,190
  • 2012 i30 Elite - 1.6 diesel automatic - $29,190
  • 2012 i30 Premium 1.6 diesel automatic - $32,590

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

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Filed under: Featured, Hyundai, review, petrol, diesel, 2012, i30, Hyundai i30, hatch, automatic, Manual, fwd, small, family, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 6m, 6a, 2012 hyundai i30, 2012 i30, available

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  • Roger says,
    3 years ago
    Its interesting comparing this to the Focus. The current advertised (not Ford) drive away on a TDI Trend is 23,990. That is significantly cheaper than the i30 Active, but with a vastly superior drivetrain.The torsion beam axle I daresay will mean it wont handle anywhere near the benchmark Focus either. I think they have lost their competitive advantage, but all credit to Hyundai, styling inside and out is excellent. That may win the technically ignorant market.....similar to Holden Cruze I suppose.
    • Balthazaaaaargh says,
      3 years ago
      Yeah fair point, the Civic Type R (with its torsion beam setup) is a crap handler... ..
      • Tim O'Brien says,
        3 years ago
        1 like
        Yo, I disagree funsters. There's nothing inherently wrong or inferior with a torsion beam rear end.

        It's been the staple of Euro rockets for decades and of the superb, but fast disappearing long-travel suspensions, that once typified French cars generally.

        Can't say there's much to complain about with the handling of the current Megane RS 250 Sport, nor the Civic Type R - it feels absolutely beautifully balanced around a mountain road.

        A poor back-end is a poor back-end, regardless of whether it's torsion bar or five-link or whatever.


        • Roger says,
          3 years ago
          I thought they get really upset on rough roads though, and that is a big isue here, even if not in Europe?
    • Callous says,
      3 years ago
      Still outdoes the ford on warranty ,standard equoipment and looks. The drivetrain diffence won't bother 95% of the market. So they still have their advantage. Focus is a confusion of unresolved lines . Awful in other words. Considering how long it's been on sale there aren't that many around. Not here anyway.
      • BH says,
        3 years ago
        1 like
        have to agree with Callous... the Focus is half finished. Rear end is not right. Fiesta is a better looking car.
        • Roger says,
          3 years ago
          As a car though the Focus is in another league. I guess if you know what is under the glitz you can make a better decision. The core of a car is the chassis and drivetrain, thats where money goes. I noticed the Hyundais did not do well in Wheels SUV mega test. They are popular, but I predict over time they will not hold up. It will be interesting to see. They had a place when they were cheap, but they cannot compete with the Europeans and Japanese yet they charge more. Still, the more people that buy these, the cheaper I can get a decent car for. Its all good.
          • alan says,
            3 years ago
            You're dead right about the drive train mate. Sluggish, bad for lane changing, dying when climbing hills (have to manually switch to 3rd) and mine was replaced at 30 000kms and leaked ever since at 65, 75, 90 and 120 kms. I have a 2009 Auto Hyundai SLX, B A D. No sir thank you.
  • tafa says,
    3 years ago
    geez Roger, all that techo stuff is irrelevant if you cant make a car that people acutally want to buy. "the focus is in another league", well I drove both and I would say that about the i30. Outstanding car and delivers exactly what is needed by the average driver who doesn't really care or even know what understeer is? By the way the i30's engine was much sweeter than the velosters direct injection engine in my opinion.
  • MotorMouth says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    Hyundai's designers just get better and better - this thing looks absolutely amazing. If only their engineers were capable of similar feats.
  • Jonno says,
    3 years ago
    i30's panoramic sunroof & standard sat nav are the pinnacles of what I want as a buyer for a small car. All the others can only provide at best a powered sunroof &/or sat nav as an option or absolutely nothing in the small car category. Ford's techno gadgets & mechanical widgets in the Focus doesn't tickle the serious car buyer (Roger) - we want the stuff that Euro cars have but without their high prices and with typical Asian car reliability, long new car warranty & 91 RON suitability. Now, is that so difficult to do?
  • Ivan says,
    3 years ago
    I drove this car as a rental and it shook at the lights, the brakes are very soft. The quality was light a gay dancer designed it everything all over the place. You can get a french puppy renault or citron better still a golf for the same price. Guys come you think this is any good compare and open your eyes!biggrin
    • Ash says,
      3 years ago
      I have never been a huge Hyundai fan, but after being in a serious accident in my Ford Firesta Zetec, and the airbags not deploying I decided to at least go and have a look at other brands. I took the Hyundai 130 Elite Turbo Diesel for a spin, and was signing papers not long afterwards for my new purchase. This care is amazing and now backed with capped price servicing for the first 3 years (at $219 per service, unlimited km's) and a 5 year warranty. You cant go wrong. As for Mazda's - The service is horrible and they haven't changed the model's of their cars for years now - Hyundai just keeps getting better and better - BEST value for money by far!!!
      • alan says,
        3 years ago
        You sir, will feel sorry for the money you spent. While Hyundai have improved on quality overall and gadgets, that people don't need anyway, their drivetrain is ridiculously bad.
        • Stefan Kleinherenbrink says,
          3 years ago
          Sounds like you just had a lemon Alan?
      • Amber says,
        2 years ago
        I have never been a huge Hyundai fan, but after being in a serious accident in my Ford Firesta Zetec, and the airbags not deploying I decided to at least go and have a look at other brands. I took the Hyundai 130 Elite Turbo Diesel for a spin, and was signing papers not long afterwards for my new purchase. This care is amazing and now backed with capped price servicing for the first 3 years (at $219 per service, unlimited km's) and a 5 year warranty. You cant go wrong. As for Mazda's - The service is horrible and they haven't changed the model's of their cars for years now - Hyundai just keeps getting better and better - BEST value for money by far!!!

        Does the turbo diesel have alot of guts? im looking to buy this car! the same one as yours? How does it go up hill?? Does it take off quick?

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