2012 HYUNDAI I30 REVIEW
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.
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.
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 turned over a new leaf with the new i30.
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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